Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tattoo


Body art is like memoir. Wearable, life long memoir. Tattoos are visual story tellers. They speak in pictures of what lies beneath the skin. View someones tattoo and you have a window into their soul, even if that soul has morphed or evolved dramatically since the art was inked. At some point that tattoo was their life in a portrait. 

Not all tattoos are beautiful or even G rated. Perhaps that's why I love them. Many are like the scars of the heart, seen by the naked eye. Tattoos are evidence of living. Like intimate history texts, or photographic diaries.  They represent struggles, wars, hopes and dreams or even just drunken nights. It is why I can forgive a skull with a knife through its eye and why I understand the cartoon dancing pig or even the well endowed red hair woman wearing more smile than anything else. Tattoos are evidence. Life happened to these people. Not all of it was pretty. And that's why I think tattoos have value. I agree, they are not for every one, but tattoos are memoir. And here in lies my fascination.

As a writer of memoir people often tell me they don't read my genre. I beg to differ. They do. Everyone reads memoir, they just don't see themselves as readers of personal stories. Perhaps they aren't able to interpret those stories, but they are there to be read.  Anyone who has a relationship with another human is reading memoir. Body language is memoir, conversation is memoir, paintings, photographs, love letters, any letters, any time we show ourselves to another person in any capacity we reveal who we are. And that is memoir. In the broad sense of the word, it is personal narrative.

Memoir is everywhere in our world. Personal narratives are constantly on display. Tattoos if you will, of life and living, in all its brazen glory. If you are a writer like me, you are likely as fascinated by people as you are words. As taken by interpreting memoir as you are creating your own fictional landscapes. 

The power of well written memoir is that the reader is more acutely aware of the intimacy they are sharing. And the better the writing the more mind blowing that intimacy is, and the more profound what we, the reader, are able to take from it. The authors of great memoir give us something fiction cannot.  Real life. But more than that, it is the meaning and purpose of real life through another's eye. Memoir is a walk in another humans' shoes, or perhaps a walk in another humans' soul. 

Like tattoos, memoir is human narrative that will be with us for life. Memoir is the imprint of living which we leave for future generations. May your memoir count. Your tattoo be something you want to live with, and your memoir reading be as wide and varied as life itself.



38 comments:

  1. I am one of those people who claims not to read memoirs, but I am a dedicated people watcher. And I am constantly trying to seek the motivation that drives people to do what they do. Like you say, that is memoir.
    and I love how you say that a tatoo is a window to a soul, even if the soul has changed since the time when the tatoo was inked. I think the only reason I don't even consider a tatoo is because of its permanence.

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  2. I have two tattoos and love them because of their permanence. But I do understand why that is not for everyone. :)

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  3. I love memoir. I love hearing almost anyone sit down and open up about their life.

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  4. I'm glad to find someone else who likes it Shay. some time I think I am the only one and I wonder if there is a point, then I remind myself that there is a powerful point :)

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  5. An interesting post, Tabitha. I've never thought of tattoos that way before. I think memoirs are fascinating, if written well (sometimes they can be dry reading). Someday, maybe I will write my own.

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  6. Interesting take. Loved this line: Memoir is a walk in another humans' shoes, or perhaps a walk in another humans' soul.
    ~ Wendy

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  7. I really enjoyed these thoughts. I think you're right. I also look on writing (and art) that way.

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  8. I really enjoyed these thoughts. I think you're right. I also look on writing (and art) that way.

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  9. Wow, I love this Tabitha! I agree too. I love seeing people's tattoos and always wonder what the tattoo says about the person. I think this post would make a great article.

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  10. I will echo everyone's statements, this is beautiful. People's tattoos always interest me. Mostly because I was never brave enough to get one. It's such a life long choice and nothing in my life seems to be "important" to mark up my body. And I'm not a fan of pain.

    This was beautifully written.

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  11. i agree that a tattoo is a window into that someone's soul...not just cause I use that catch phrase in my blog title "the window to my sol"...and not just cause I have a couple tattoos. you make a great point that a tattoo is a story, a memoir...even those ridiculous drunken nights! ha! lucky for me, I waited past my 30's for my first tattoo. ironically, one of my tattoos is on my back and is of the cherry blossom tree (as your picture above, not as huge). check it out - there's a symbolic story, memoir if you will about it ;)

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  12. I got both of mine on my 30th birthday. I still love them. I'm going to get another that I design myself :) You're right, they are memoirs, precisely that :D

    And I love that picture! What a clever one, I've never seen that before.

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  13. I would never have thought to tie tattoos to a memoir...but I get it, completely. They are both, in some way, a story of your life.

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  14. Thanks for this, Tab, because I never did understand tattoos before. Now I do. is that your back in this post? It's really beautiful (both the back and the art on it). Thanks for writing so beautifully about what memoir is.
    Karen

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  15. Tabitha, I feel like a broken record. Your writing glows!!! I love your topics, your voice, your word rhythm.

    Again, you reminded me of another writer, Silas House of "The Coal Tatoo." Great novel that draws on House's life among Kentucky coal miners. Think you would love it!

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  16. I have a new appreciation for tatoo art. I like how you compare it to memoir. I like reading memoirs because it really did happen, all those coincidences and spiderweb paths are true. If we put them in fiction, people say: ha, that could never happen, or that's way too convenient. Write on! Do you have any tatoos?

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  17. An ex boyfriend of mine had numerous tattoos that he loved.... then got them changes when they no longer held relevance. Makes me think of what has eternal relevance... :O)

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  18. I'm not a tattoo sort of girl, but that one is gorgeous.

    I really appreciate what you have to say about memoir, Tabitha. I think you're absolutely right.

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  19. That is a stunning tattoo, like a living painting.
    Many people with tattoos will tell where they got them and why, so I see how you can connect that to memoir. I was interested recently to read about aboriginal tattoos and how they are genealogical records of families and tribes and history. That's a lot to carry on oneself.

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  20. Makes me want to pick up a memoir today.

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  21. A wonderful reflection. I never thought of tattoos in such a way before. Once again you have opened my eyes. Outside of tribal cultures, I think many people get tattoos because of the art or coolness of it. I have three (the first one when I was 17) and will get more but with new insight.

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  22. Interesting perspective that everyone DOES read memoir!

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  23. What a wonderful post, Tabitha! You put it so beautifully. Memoir IS everywhere, but I never thought about that way. I love this! :-)

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  24. Thanks for the comments gals :)

    Memoir is in the eye of the beholder then, hey.

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  25. So what does your memoir say? ;) I express mine through the written word, whether in journal-writing or in my novels or art or by the way I live my life and how I treat others...

    Wow, your post got me thinking!!!

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  26. Daughter and I were in the car yesterday at the traffic lights, watching the body language of "he fancies her, but she's shyly not sure". I said "I recognize that right foot, left foot lean of his,then left foot over right and a couple of steps back circle... from observing students in high school teaching days" - the far gaze as both of them watch something inconsequential in the distance, before laughingly re-engaging. We giggled to ourselves. Reading people, whether through tatoos,their written memoirs, or body language is always fascinating to me.

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  27. A unique and inspiring take on life. I occasionally read memoire. Like you say, its very intimate. And I enjoy just sitting somewhere and watching people interact with each other. I try to capture what I see in written words, but sometimes that emotional connection just isn't there. People can be so diverse, and sometimes unexplainable.

    Awesome post; and I like the tattoo analogy. I'm a tat lover.

    ........dhole

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  28. This post is amazing. I LOVE tattoos, have yet to get any myself simply because of cost, but they are designed and awaiting their triumphal entry into the world :) I'll never look at a tattoo the same way again.

    ~Jen

    PS: That's a gorgeous one, the tree. Love it!

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  29. That's a striking tattoo. I'll look at memoirs in a different light. Thanks.

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  30. "Anyone who has a relationship with another human is reading memoir."

    I love this, Tabitha. Deep. I'm glad I found your blog! :)

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  31. Welcome Kathryn :)

    Deep. Yes, I can be. Though I have been know to kick around in the shallows of life, just for fun, ya know.

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  32. Hi Tabitha!

    My blog is my "website" on my profile, but here it is anyway: http://www.kathrynsheridankupanoff.com. Thanks for the welcome! :)

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  33. What a great analogy. I've always wished (a little bit) that the tattoo thing had hit when I was younger. Another very thought provoking piece, Tab.

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  34. I like that analogy of writing memoir to tattoos. I love how your mind works!


    PS: I have a fascination with tattoos. I have one tattoo already, but would love a few more.

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  35. Tattoos are awesome, and so is this post. That is all.

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  36. Reading this has meant a lot to me just hearing my exact thoughts and seeing how someone else also thnks the same way. I was very touched reading everything you wrote. I have a couple tattoos and actually have another appointment to get another one done. I was very uncertain about the design I had came up with my artist but I'm glad I've had time to re-design and I finally found what I exactly want. This piece I am getting done, means so much to me & I can't wait to get it done now. My parents aren't fans of tattoos but if they would only really understand what they mean to me I think they would see a different meaning in tattoos and I think it would have an emotional effect on them. Thank you so much for this!

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