I think we all reach a point in our lives – stereotypically near middle age — where we start to ask “big” questions. Why I am I here? What’s it all about? Is there any pie left?
In the face of these questions and the irreversible slog toward the void, different people act in different ways. Some are sanguine; some freak out. Some get religion; others get rid of religion. Some dump their careers and join the Peace Corps, while others dump their spouses and run off with the baby sitter. There are as many expressions of Middle-Age Crazy as there are middle-aged people.
Me? I got a tattoo.
Having recently turned 55, I had most definitely reached middle age (I’ve been crazy for a very long time, and was merely biding my time for the middle-aged part). If I wanted to go middle-age crazy, my list of possibilities was limited. One was buying a sports car. I eliminated that one because I can’t afford the insurance. How about a motorcycle? No – those scare the shit out of me (plus, I wanted crazy, not stupid). The stripper girlfriend was right out, as I am allergic to silicone. That left a tatt as my only viable outlet.
So, after more than a year of soul-searching – and a shaky OK from my wife – I got inked. It was something I had been thinking about for a long time – I’d just been unable to decide what sort of image I’d get. A naked lady was out – not my style, plus inking something pert ‘n’ perky on skin that is already on its way to Sag City is just asking for heartache. There was also the classic “Welcome to Jamaica – Have a Nice Day.” However, that one, placed where it traditionally belongs, would require type so small as to be invisible to anything short of an electron microscope
I finally decided on a Buddhist mantra, tastefully rendered in red and black in traditional Uchen script on my left deltoid. I had formally become a Buddhist abut a year ago, so a mantra wouldn’t make me a total poser. The one I chose – om mani padme hum – is only six syllables — small enough to fit on my delt and still be legible (if you read Tibetan, I mean). Most importantly, it’s by far the most ubiquitous of the mantras, so there was no danger of getting “sweet and sour pork” or “I love cock” etched indelibly into my flesh by accident.
So, about a week ago I went to Spellbound Studios and had Karen Slafter, Austin’s premiere ink-slinger, brand me forever. The procedure itself was a piece of cake, and apart from a few subsequent “what the fuck was I thinking?” moments, I haven’t looked back. The tatt looks great and I could not be happier with it (note to self: work a little harder on the non-attachment thing).
Oh, yeah — what does the mantra mean? The most accepted translation seems to be, “Hail to the jewel in the lotus.” But just to be safe, if I ever find myself in a Tibetan gay bar, I’m keeping my sleeves rolled down.