You Are Jealous of My Tribal Tattoos

You know I hate to brag, but I have a shit-ton of tribal tattoos.  You’re trying to think of a time when you’ve felt more jealous of a person than you do right at this moment, but you’re coming up blank.  I know it.

The mid-90s were a magical time to be a young person.  People had finally given up on trying to make John Stamos a pop star, the dot.com bubble had yet to burst, and a new era in tattoos began.  An era when bored white people with no real ideas could spend hours on-end getting tattooed with a variety of black-stripety pointy-whatevers.

Someone would always ask, “Hey, what does your tattoo mean?” and then you would be able to completely appease their curiosity by simply responding with, “It’s tribal.”  No further explanation required!

Occasionally, you would get some joker who would try to antagonize you by asking what tribe you belonged to, but you could just wave them off and move on with your day listening to Pavement (Letters to Cleo) on your Sony Discman (Circuit City no-name knockoff of Sony Discman), knowing that deep down inside, they were just jealous of how motherfuckin’ badass you looked with your black-stripety pointy-whatever tattoo.  What tribe.  Puh-lease – it’s called the tribe of lookin’ cool?  Oooooooh.

I did always kind of enjoy the irony of someone asking me if my tattoos were tribal, and I would roll my eyes at them like, “Uh yeah?  Duh!  What did you think they were?  Tattoos that actually mean something?”

I can tell you this much, though, my lower back tribal tattoos, in particular, did actually mean something.

In 1995 they meant “Maggie drinks free when she wears a bra top and JNCO jeans to the Goldfinger concert”.

In 1996 they meant “Maggie drinks free when she wears a bra top and 70s bellbottoms to the Superdrag and Nada Surf concert”.

In 1997 they meant “Maggie drinks free when she wears a bra top and bootcut jeans to the Our Lady Peace concert”.

In 1998 they meant “Maggie drinks free when she wears a bra top and lowrider corduroy pants to the G. Love and The Special Sauce concert”.

In 2018 they mean “Maggie drinks free really super late at night only on weeknights in select areas of central Pompano Beach with low-lighting”.

And, honestly, I’m trying to think of something that bores me more than tattoos that “mean something”, but nothing is coming to mind.  It’s not necessarily that the concept itself always bores me, so long as your story is simple, no problem.  It’s having to sit through long-playing version of “the meaning of your tattoo” story, which is approximately as interesting as that dream that you told me about that one time.  You know, the one where you’re you – but you’re not you, and you were at my house – but it wasn’t really my house, and then these people showed up – but you didn’t know any of them, and then we all ate hummus – but it wasn’t really hummus!  What an intriguing dream!  Thanks for sharing it.

“This tattoo symbolizes my connection with the ocean because as a child I would often find myself staring into it and really grasping my place in the world…”  DING DING DING!!!  YOU’VE JUST WON THE PRIZE FOR ‘NOBODY CARES’!

You wanna know why I got tattoos?  Because I thought (and still think) they look cool.  I think they look bad-ass.  I suspect this is why most young people get tattoos, but they couch it in “this tattoo means something” because it is supremely uncool to say that you did something cool just so you could look cool.  The cool thing about tattoos is the air about them that says, “I don’t give a fuck.  I’m a fly-by-night guy/gal.  I plan nothing.  I’m a cowboy.  On a steel horse I ride.”

I couldn’t freaking wait to turn 18 so I could get my first tattoo, and even after years of anticipating the big day, when it finally happened, I walked into the tattoo shop, had no idea of what I actually wanted, and just picked something from one of the posters on the wall.  I like that kind of tattoo, the kind that’s done on a whim and not really thought through all that much.  It feels right to me, like it pays respect to tradition.  We’re talking about paying someone to draw something on your skin with a needle.  You’re not getting a kidney transplant.  You’re basically asking to become a human bathroom wall at a dive bar and handing a Sharpie to a well-paid stranger nearby.  You’re not changing the world, you’re just decorating your part of it.

Anne and I used to wake up on any random Saturday afternoon in the mid-90s with a serious tattoo jones and drive to the tattoo shop with ZERO in mind as to what we were going to get, and then one hour later, bam, we’re both in tattoo chairs getting something permanently drawn onto us.  It was the most fun.  Theeeee most fun.  Now that I’m older, when I look at those tattoos that were picked off the wall and done on a whim, it reminds me of how impulsive and fun Anne and I were when we were young.  What a fantastic time. (Please note we are still impulsive and fun.  It’s in our blood contract.)

Now when I get tattoos, as an old person, it’s a months and months long process of research and design and appointments have to made weeks in advance.  And the Googling.  My god, the Googling.  I worry that the tattoo will look stupid, or that it’s played out, or blah blah blah, which is hilarious because all of my old tattoos look stupid and are played out – yet I wouldn’t change them for the world.  I don’t know, there’s just more at stake when you’re old enough to know better.

And I definitely do not believe in cover-ups, not for me anyway.  If you want to cover up that frog making the peace sign that you got on spring break, that’s fine.  But you’re erasing a part of you that was the most fun, that didn’t give a fuck, and probably had a pretty awesome night when you got it.

I like remembering the mistakes of my youth, because that was usually when the most memorable stuff happened.  Every truly great story begins with, “Remember that time we were sooo stupid?”  I can’t think of any great stories that begin with, “Remember that time we were sooo smart?”

Nobody has an epic story of that time they took the S.A.T. and studied an appropriate amount of time beforehand, or a crazy story about how they waited to “really get to know” the guy who ran the Gravitron at the fair before going back to his trailer with him and the Hot Wisconsin Cheese lady to huff white-out until her boyfriend showed up from running the pirate ship ride and beat Gravitron guy with a turkey drumstick until his glass eye fell out RIGHT INTO YOUR HAND.

That last one is just ridiculous.  As if carnies would have access to white-out.

Por Favor No Molestes a Mi Perro

We were leaving Mellow Mushroom a few weeks ago following a particularly successful happy hour, which means I was filled to the brim with discount meatballs and Crown Royal.  (It’s a fantastic happy hour, by the way.  7 days a week, 3:00 to 7:00.  Get the Meatball Trio.)  As we walked outside, a woman was standing on the sidewalk nearby waiting for a table, with the cutest, roundest little fat sausage of a French Bulldog on a leash.  My heart!

Now, even in a sober moment, I would have been swooning over this stubby little character, but being that I am a drunk of the friendly (slutty) variety, and I have much, much love for dogs, I was all over that dog like a flea dip.

I asked if it was okay to pet Frenchie, because I’m not an asshole, and owner lady said, “Of course!”.  So I began petting Frenchie, while secretly plotting how I was going to push owner lady out into traffic and run away with Frenchie (not really) (yes, really) (noooo, kidding!) (not really kidding).  You should have seen this dog.  Trust me – it would have been a justifiable dognapping.  This dog was totally into it, too.  He dog-smiled at me and I turned into well-accessorized goo.  And nobody else saw it happen, but he totally whispered, “You complete me.”

I started my friendly dog interrogation on her, what’s his name, how old is he, is he some kind of toy variety because he looks so much smaller, etc.  The usual questions.  I’ve had the privilege of caring for cute dogs before (R.I.P. Tallulah Joy, best Boston Terrier in the world), I know it can get tiring to answer the same questions over and over, but that’s just the price you have to pay for having a cute dog.  And I gotta tell you, there are worse things in the world than having a cute dog that people want to hang out with.

Beyond letting me pet Frenchie one time, the owner lady was pretty cold and seemed mostly annoyed by me, eventually turning away and pretending I wasn’t there.  How rude!

As I walked away, feeling lowly and rejected, something horrific happened.  I thought the thoughts.  The worst thoughts of all.  The kind of thoughts that force you to take a good, hard look at who you really are and what kind of screwed up entitlement issues you have.  I honestly hesitate to share them with you, because you will be like, “Ohhhhh snap, RAPIST!”

So here it is.

I thought, “Well, why did you bring this cute dog out if you didn’t want people to love on it?  I mean, have you seen your dog, lady?  How can I be expected to look at your dog and control myself?  You and your cute dog are asking for it.”

I know.  Sound familiar?

It really struck me given how many, I don’t know, dozens (hundreds) of times in my life men felt it was perfectly fine to walk up to me and start groping me and interrogating me about my name, where I’m from, because I was dolled up for the night and they felt entitled to help themselves to my body.  Now I was one of those lecherous men.  I was the one making unwelcome advances towards a stranger.

I was a pervert.  A dog pervert.

I guess at least the difference between me perving on that dog, and dewdz perving on me, is that when I got the cold shoulder from owner lady, I walked away and didn’t call her the c-word or anything, you know, the way dewdz do when they walk away, nor did I spin around and shoot or stab her for rejecting my advances, so I guess I’ve got that going for me.

But, seriously, you should have seen this dog!

I’m still lobbying to be called SwagBag, by the way.

I came up in the time of jailbait.  Of Bobbi Brown in the “Cherry Pie” video.  Of Winger’s “Seventeen”.  Of Kelly Bundy.  I worshipped them in all their studded leather bra top, ass-shorts, thigh-high boot-wearin’ glory.  I thought they looked like a million spacebucks.  They were rock ‘n roll.

I spent the entirety of my teenage years being as close to naked as possible without actually being arrest-able.  If the top weren’t either essentially a bra or an off-the-shoulder half-shirt, and the shorts weren’t skintight and racked up my buttcrack like a doorstop, I bet most people wouldn’t have even recognized me.  Even my black leather motorcycle jacket was cropped.  I couldn’t even commit to a regular length jacket in cold weather, that’s how dedicated I was to my craft.  Every day was like an audition for a Warrant video, and it was awesome.  I wish my classmates would have rightly recognized this awesomeness and called me something totally cool like “DangerGirl” or “SwagBag”, instead of what girls actually called me, which was “I’m Gonna Kick That Slut’s Ass” or what guys called me “You Definitely Don’t Have A Dad At Home.”

And I tell ya, except for all the guys who continuously groped me and tried to drag me off into woods and alleyways against my will, it was a fine time to be alive.  My sexuality felt like the most powerful thing in the room, and I reveled in it.  I had never felt anything even remotely close to power in my entire life, so I was having as much fun with it as possible.  Up to that point I had been a social leper growing up, so I loved turning heads for the first time in my life.  Even if it was for superficial reasons, I still loved it.  Who wouldn’t?

Hell, one time when Anne and I were 16, we were walking into a gas station on a Friday night, and a guy literally crashed his car into the ice machine outside of the building, and when he climbed out of the wreckage, he yelled to the attendant, “Sorry, man!  I was looking at those two girls instead of the road!” Anne and I looked at each other like, “Whoooa.”  (I made a mental note of what I was wearing that night and made sure to repeat it as often as possible:  Black halter-top catsuit, black knee-high boots, whore-red lipstick.  Done.)

(Sidebar, I think a lot of the reason that women are discouraged from wearing things that are “too revealing” is because the power of the female body is too threatening to the existing power structure.  Even I’ve gone back and forth on it several times in my life, it’s that much of a mind-fuck.  As Sheena Easton so correctly sang, “Nations go to war over women like you”, because women’s bodies are powerful as fuck.  If the male body were as powerful as the female body, literally every man would walk this Earth naked and nobody would think any less of them for it.)

As the youngest of three girl children, not only did my mother not try to stop me from leaving the house dressed like an extra from Reform School Girls (because by the third kid they just don’t give a shit anymore), but she encouraged it.  Any time I would come out of a Contempo Casuals dressing room dolled up like a Hollywood hooker, she would literally applaud and exclaim, “Ha ha ha ha!  You look AWESOME!  Strut it, kiddo!  You’re only young once!”.  She thought it was an absolute hoot.  She had a real devil-may-care attitude about it that I really appreciated at the time.

As it turns out, I appreciate it even today, because I have a wardrobe that still consists mostly of jailbait-wear.  It’s not a hard habit to break – it’s a habit I refuse to break.  Even when I try to dress reasonably and put on a t-shirt that merely “fits” and doesn’t appear to be three sizes too small and sprayed onto my body, the first thing I think is, “Frump Town!  Looks like a dewd!” and then change into a half-shirt.  I assume that if I’m not wearing something nakedy, that I immediately transform into Burt Lancaster.  I think slutty-looking clothes just look good.

A few months ago, as I walked around Forever 21 and realized that I was old enough to be the mother of literally every young woman who was shopping there, I started to worry that I had turned into that pathetic older woman.  You know, the one who still shops in the juniors section and wears plastic barrettes and doesn’t hear the whispers behind her back.  The one who desperately clings to her youth as it’s inevitably slipping away.  The one who thinks those high school boys are still checking her out when what they’re really thinking is, “Is that Tyler R’s grandma, or Taylor B’s weird older stepmom?”.  The one who doesn’t realize that people are just being cheeky when they say, “Wow, you’re old enough to drink?!”  A brief moment of fear enveloped me…

…riiiight before I realized that I don’t give a fucking shit.

I am old enough and wise enough to accept that jailbait is who I am.  It’s the tiny, tight, spandex fabric I’m made of.  If anybody has a problem with it, they can feel free to avert their eyes, because you can have my slutty-looking clothes the day you pry them off my dead, slutty-looking body.  Hell, not even then!  Please, by all means, bury me in spandex.  With cut-outs.

Also, it helps that anytime I pass by someone and I hear them say, “Isn’t she a little old for that half-shirt?”, I deliberately mis-hear it as, “Isn’t it a little cold for that half-shirt?” and I think, “How nice of them to be concerned about my comfort!”

tl/dr:  Wear what you want, tell the world to fuck off. – Love, SwagBag