I have–I was going to say a lot of tattoos, but that’s not true at all. I
have four tattoos. A distlefink on my calf, a foo dog and a peony makes a half
sleeve on my left forearm, an anchor and rose on my right forearm, and a pirate
flag on the back of my neck, most done by the same amazing artist. I waited until I turned thirty before I went and
got myself inked up, and I love them, every one of them. Even though they are
the things that make my mother say stuff like " you
have been and always will be beautiful whatever color your hair and how many
tattoos you might have." My mother is not so much a fan of my tattoos.
For me, though, they are art, done by artists (I
will not call my body a canvas, though, because that is just so twee). They each
of them have some meaning beyond "I like pretty things on my body,"
but mostly, it is because I like pretty things on my body–color and texture and
gorgeousness that I get to carry around forever and which, if I was honest with
myself, I used to think kind of distracted from my body. Not distracted, exactly–enhanced
the loveliness of my body, while detracting from the flaws, all of which, for
me, boiled down to "fat," as they always did.
I know it doesn’t quite work that way–be dazzled
by the flashing lights and pretty colors! Be amazed and bewildered and your
eyes are crossing and everything is shiny and now I am gone, and who was that
strangely svelte stranger? If it really worked, and I were really smart, I
would have totally tattooed a skinny body on top of my real body, and then I
never would have had to try and lose weight, or get surgery or exercise and
then I would start a cottage industry, tattooing peoples’ ideal asses onto
their real asses and there would be a revolution, which would be televised! And
we’d all be beautiful stars.
If it actually worked that way, I would have also
chosen different spots on my body to tattoo; or rather, I wouldn’t have been so
careful about my choices. I was fairly heavy when I got my first tattoo, and I
picked the back of my neck as the logical spot; my neck is not fat, and is not
likely to get fatter. And when I lost weight, the tattoo wouldn’t be affected
by shrinking skin or whatever it was that happens when you lose weight that can
ruin a tattoo. It was a brilliant plan.
I chose all my other tattoo spots for similar
reasons–my forearms and calf were never so fat, and I couldn’t imagine them
changing appreciably in size if I ever did lose weight, and then I stopped
getting tattoos. Not because I ran out of space (I had plenty of surface area),
but because I couldn’t have the tattoos I wanted done. My foo dog, I wanted to
turn into a full sleeve, from my shoulder down to my wrist, and I couldn’t. My
arm was too fat. It would look ugly. Was it going to get less ugly if didn’t do
anything at all?
You see, I was still waiting to lose weight. It is
like I spent the first twenty years of my life in a perpetual state of
anticipation, waiting for my life and everything in it to start, that moment
when I lost the weight and everything turned around for me. Of course, I knew the
magic wasn’t going to happen, and I was pretty sure I was going to be Of Size
until I was dead, so I went out and I bought good clothes and I went on dates
and kissed peoples and lived my life–but in the back of my head, I was always
waiting for the someday, whether or not I was actively working towards it, or
actively backpedaling away from it with a cake in my mouth. I was in perpetual stasis,
whether I believed it or not.
If I was really living my life, I would have said fuck it
and gone ahead and gotten my sleeve done and been happy, instead of spending
all this time waiting and waiting for something I wasn’t sure would ever come.
Despite being kind of dumb, I lucked out, and I’m losing the weight, the way I
always hoped I would. And now I have a different problem, which I considered
before I made the decision to get this surgery, but clearly, I didn’t consider
it carefully enough. Skin. The extra skin. The extra, sexy,
slide-down-your-bones skin that is starting to gracefully drape from my
armpits, from the tops of my thighs. I spend a lot of time rolling the skin of
my forearms around, wondering if that is normal, or if I’m getting all loosey
goosey there, too, and my tattoos are just going to slip right off my body and
dangle like Colorforms.
I could have tattooed my big, round, full, plump arms, and
it would have maybe been a lot of tattoo, but it wouldn’t have been scary,
weird, vaguely terrifying the way this is. I could have paid more attention
when I was doing my research, and really thought about what it meant to have
loose skin, and excess skin, instead of going yes yes, that’s totally a trade
off I’ll take, next!
I thought I had, and yet I have spent so much time thinking
about not just the marathon I’m going to run and the clothes I want to buy and
the places I will fit like the middle seats of airplanes and in small barrels
stowing away on pirate ships, but the beautiful tattoos I want to get, can’t
wait to get. Can’t get, unless I think about plastic surgery. But the idea of
plastic surgery, more and more, and making me cringe. Wasn’t the point to be
healthy? Yes. The point was also to be happy. Will I be happy with the excess
skin? I don’t know. I’m not there, yet. But every pound I lose seems to flip
over another puzzle piece and as I slot them into place, I am seeing my future
more clearly and completely, and it makes everything feel ever more murky, and
so uncertain. Will things ever be easy? Don’t answer that.