I animate a web which has been inked across my body.
Opening my eyes I realize my head has fallen forward. My own body fills my view and there is an angle pointing toward my face, toward the center of my forehead. Two black lines come together on my sternum in a slightly curved, elongated pyramid. These lines silently suggest that I lift my head, that I look up, that I recognize the space before me. That I recognize my body, not in isolation, but amidst the crowd. I listen to the mark I have placed on myself as it urges me to acknowledge the harmony of the Black Hole. Here, my body is not simply amidst a crowd, it is part of a vibrating, throbbing, thinking and feeling organism. I accept the help from myself, to work past my fear of others.
Ever since I was a child reading of the illusive Illustrated Man in Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, I imagined tattooing my body. I wanted to swirl with markings as he did. I realized back then that my skin was just another surface to draw on, another surface I could employ, and I mused on the characters I could summon myself to be.
For what felt like forever as a child, I sketched the lines which I desired as a tattoo. I sketched while I waited to turn eighteen, since a minor strangely enough ‘cannot render informed consent for a procedure’, even when this is a procedure concerning themselves. I was forced to plan and play and my ideas morphed. Countless drawings were blacked out in my sketchbooks as one vision trivialized the last, as my style took form, a vine sneaking from page to page, tendrils crawling and blooming and withering. This work and this waiting induced an anxious feeling in my stomach, a sour sickness, but despite my yearning time would not tick faster. In the spring following my eighteenth birthday I finally pushed the first ink into my skin, a petite drawing which had formed over the winter, the cornerstone for a full body design which had not yet revealed itself to me. Just as the process went with all of my drawings, I set out on a journey without an established destination. A wander not a pilgrimage.
This foundation tattoo was inspired by my reading on sacred feminine symbolism, about a time when the vagina was venerated. I discovered a belief system in which the female body was a vessel not just for life but for creativity, a margin between worlds of physical and nonmaterial. I was exhilarated by this history. No one had urged me to be proud of my sexuality, rather the opposite, I was to be ashamed and subordinate. Alongside menstruation had come a secondary right of passage, the constant objectification of my sex. I floundered for the strength to simply deal with the reactions which were aimed at my pubescent body. The bullets were disguised at times as compliments, but they were always uninvited as I simply moved through space in the skin I was given. I began to discern a pattern to the rapid fire though. Flattery followed by assertion followed by offense.
axe wound, beaver, snatch, twat, gash, meat curtain
Words hold power and these words wore me down. I hated my creamy cunt for many years. I believed it was ugly, abnormal and stinky. Despite the male influence over my mentality, I followed through with my vision and placed my own sacred feminine symbol on my own body, a small vessel above my ass. Like pulling a thread through my abdomen, I wanted to pull the strength and beauty of my vagina through to the opposite surface of my skin. Sympathetic magic of sorts, I wanted to create a composition in the round, for myself, to protect and encourage myself.
The pain of the tattooing process was pleasurable. I was stunned by the vibration of the needle which passed far beyond my skin, into my pelvis and spine. I savored the sensation as Rinny held my hand. I wondered if she felt the ripples of this rhythm in my fingertips. I was simply grateful to feel her hand in my own. I indulged in the moment, in the needle’s quivering and its ability to mark me forever. I wanted more. I did not continue my tattoo for thirteen years though.
It took me thirteen years to shed the label that was thrust on my first tattoo and me, the label a bunch of males slapped over my beautiful drawing inspired by my beautiful pussy. Arriving at school on Monday my mind was still throbbing with the beauty of the ritual I had taken part in. My skin did not even make it to the first class though, before an echo was reflected back to me. It announced I now had a tramp stamp. The crowd of cocks had made my tattoo about themselves, about what they could do to me. They stole from me my own choice and it took me thirteen years to take my body back, to not hate it, to continue my vision, to reject their entitlement.
In the spring of my thirty-first year new lines finally encircled me. From my own cornerstone sprang a wave, or a wind, or a smoke, which swirls around my torso, culminating on my sternum, between my breasts, in an inverted ‘V’. I encircled myself with strength, revealing in lines the life force which pulses through me, a reminder of my sacred nature, a reminder that this is my life, my body, no one else’s.
I continue and I will continue, each spring, to draw on my body, to enjoy and employ this surface. I am in a state of metamorphosis, a caterpillar consensually caged and trusting the change. This spring two new lines yawn away from my torso, out onto my shoulders, punctuated with sockets. A witch will ink me with eyespots inspired by my own irises and together we will manifest a new focal point on my body. I join the butterflies and the moths and the lizards with their ocelluses. My skin will look outward in a new way and I will remind those in my proximity, that even when my eyes are closed, even when my head has fallen, I am aware.