Some years ago when I was still living in Boston, my brother and I would meet up every Sunday to spend time together — he picks me up from my dorm, we go to church, and we have lunch. Afternoon activities were highly dependent on the weather. The temperature outside is directly proportional to the probability of us staying outdoors.
It was summer — one of those rare days when the weather's just right. Boston is the type of city where you can experience four seasons within one day. Whacked, I know, but it's the absolute truth. My brother and I were strolling down the end of Newbury St and we saw a tattoo parlor. I don't recall seeing it before, but hey, it happened to be there during that day. My brother nodded towards the place and said, “You want to check it out?”
A lovely Indian lady was running the store; she was maybe fifty-ish. She had quite a team of talented tattoo artists with their arms boasting of numerous artworks. I was looking at the array of designs and patterns when she made her way towards me. “You have very beautiful skin,” she said. “Would you want some art on it?”
“Oh, no. I'm not really one for pain,” I said a bit too quickly. It was true, too!
She took my hand and led me to another part of the room. There, she pulled out a collection of more designs. “These,” she said. “These are temporary ones. Henna tattoos, that's what they are. And I promise, they won't hurt.” She smiled softly at me.
My brother appeared behind me and looked over my shoulder. “Oh, I've always wanted to get one of those!” he exclaimed. “Come on, come on, let's get them!”
Here's my thing about body art. What's the point of having them when no one's going to see them? I asked the lovely Indian lady to custom-make a pattern that would look good on the back of my hand. My brother, on the other hand, opted to go for the conventional tattoo on his arm where the sleeves of his short fall off.
I was madly pleased with how it turned out. I left the ink to dry for several hours and squeezed enough lemons to rob a little girl off her lemonade stand on it. It was gorgeous. For the next week or so, I was the superstar. Everyone greeted it with praises and “ooohs” and “aaahs.” Even my Chemistry professor loved it — amid me trying to measure some iron fillings to put in a beaker.
One night as I was brushing my teeth, I caught sight of my hand in the mirror. For some reason, it no longer attracted me, it no longer looked good to me. I spit out the rest of the foamy toothpaste and decidedly starting rubbing the back of my hand under running water. It wasn't coming off! I poured some liquid soap on it, some shampoo, rubbing alcohol — anything I can get my hands on. I even tried using laundry detergent! It still wouldn't come off. It faded a bit but it was nothing compared to the redness of my skin. It looked like I shoved my hand in a pre-heated oven and let it bake for half an hour. I was so infuriated! However, I eventually conceded defeat and allowed my tattoo to fade with time. It took another two more weeks before it completely disappeared.
That was when I realized that getting a real tattoo would probably be a big mistake. It hurts — and it's permanent!
I have nothing against commitment. As a matter of fact, I quite believe in it. Commitment is essential in relationships, in raising a family, in establishing a career and forming friendships. However, commitment to certain things frighten me. I hate the idea of getting pinned down and not being able to do anything about it. Though we have technology to thank as tattoos can now be erased, there's a part of you that knows it will always be there though it may not be visible to the naked eye. Getting one is a decision that I have to deal with for the rest of my life. Who am I to know that I would still enjoy having a drawing of a purple fairy on my hip when I'm seventy years old? And how will I deal if my career takes on a path where tattoos are simply unacceptable?
I also have reservations regarding long contracts. The idea of a mortgage, for instance, is pretty intense. Though half the world has one, it doesn't stop me from feeling adversely towards it. I'm hoping that it has got something to do with my age and the place where I am in my life, but to be locked down in a series of payments for thirty years? I mean, that's as good as chaining myself to the lamp post near City Hall. Furthermore, I also shun long term investments — those kinds where you have to trust a financial institution that it wouldn't run off with your money for a certain amount of time. What if I need the money all of a sudden and I can't take it out (without paying a hefty fee)? What if I have to leave the country and settle somewhere else? How do I get my money to follow me without the hassle?
Perhaps it's me having a knee-jerk reaction to settling down. Though technically, I am of a marry-able age and I could very well look into settling down, a big part of me still feels incomplete. I know that I will reach a part of my life where I have to sit down the dining table and pour over a stack of bills (including a mortgage), think about long-term savings plans for my kids and maybe get a loan to finance a small business — this totally blows away the two-year mobile phone contract that I had to carefully scrutinize and think over. Right now though, I'm anything but ready — financially, mentally and emotionally. And I've had to convince myself over and over before that it is pefectly okay to admit that I'm not ready. People walk in various paces. I walk a little slower in this aspect — so bloody what? At least I know I'm a slow walker. I know of some people who deny themselves of this fact and tries to convince themselves that they aren't — only to run into problems that are bigger than life.
At present, I like the idea of knowing that I can up and leave whenever I want and go wherever I want. I still have no idea where I'm headed so I'm allowing myself to make a few mistakes in the hopes that maybe, through the process of elimination, I can find myself a good destination. And perhaps on the way there, I can pick myself up a lifelong companion who wishes to go to the same place.
Commitment isn't a bad thing — neither is settling down. However, it's also important that we are ready and prepared when we decide to do either. Or else, it would be like getting stuck with an ugly tattoo on your favorite body part.