A TALE OF TWO TATTOOS
In a continuation of the last column, I wrote I am reiterating the pain of my triplet brother’s death and what it meant to all of us in the family and beyond. So in memorial and the need of me to somehow commemorate this, I did what I felt necessary. I got yet another tattoo! In typewriter font, I got the words, ‘twin no. 3’ etched on the inside of my arm.
The significance of Tattoos goes back many centuries. For me they mean a lot both personally and practically. I love everything about them from the colour to the meaning, and sometimes for the lack of meaning, which in itself is possibly a form of meaning. Tattoos are a form of body modification made by inserting ink or dye. And I have many of them.
The first of my new Tattoos, mentioned above is a hard one to decipher. It’s been a bit of a private taboo in my life, but goodbye to the secrets, hello to honesty. Secrets, I’ve been told, keep you sick. So the story of my birth begins. I was born as a triplet, unexpectedly. I was the hidden one, and ironically, though sadly, my brother died, I was pushed around in an incubator with the name twin no.3. No logic, but it stuck. And left me some baggage. So once I found out my initial label, it stuck strangely in my head. Bizarre. But then there are many a time I have been called Bizarre both behind and in front of my face!
Tattoo no.2 was conceived of within the same week. It came from the lyrics of a song called ‘Fix’, with the words, ‘sing backwards and weep’ (Mark Lanegan). How he shaped me and saved me. Since I was 14, this singer changed my life up until his untimely death last year. This lyric reminds me of a quote by the philosopher Kiergegaard: ‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward’.
That’s why I have chosen the song in this column that hits home for me. The aforementioned ‘Fix’ by Mark Lanegan, about addiction, mental health and who also died last year. The song contains the almost prophetic lyric, ‘Gonna watch from the balcony’ the lyric that lies within the song, ‘Sing backwards And Weep ’ is now also etched in my skin.
In order to survive, in order to move forward, I have to change many things about myself and my behaviours. I would have to start over again. That involves staying clean from illicit drugs, taking my prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and altering parts of my life. And those changes are illustrated by my tattoos. One arm incorporates art health that I love, it shows Miro, Kandinsky, Frida Kahlo. I am an art lover and I paint. That in itself is the meaning behind my right art.
My left arm incorporates my love of my music. One, my beloved guitar that I had to sell during hard times. It was a boundary I swore I would never break, to sell that, but at least this way it will be with me forever.
One of the Tattoos that means the most to me is on my left arm . My dad, who passed away a few years ago, was a boxer in his younger years. So I had a pair of boxing gloves tattooed with a rose growing from them, Rose being the name of my grandmother.
Being Jewish, historically, there can be prejudice towards Jews with tattoos. This was tied up with anything to do with desecration to the body. In the past orthodox Jews even would not bury the body where modification was evident. Things have changed since then and there is a vast difference between Liberal and orthodox sects. I was once asked what my parents thought about my having tattoos. I replied ‘if my family’s biggest problem with me was having tattoos then they would be elated’!
I have always found being tattooed a highly addictive process. But getting the two within a week, is a personal record: ‘Twin no.3’ and ‘Sing backwards And Weep’, as I call the two are both highly significant for me.
Tattoos hurt but sometimes life has to hurt in order to facilitate change. I have been through shame, I have been through blame and I ask anyone to walk in my shoes. And that in essence is the Tale of Two Tattoos.