I’ve wanted tattoos for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally felt like I could make good decisions about what I’d permanently put on my body.
At first, I thought maybe I was too old, but when I asked my friends who have lots of tattoos what they thought, they all said that waiting until I was in my 40s was a great idea, because it means I won’t ever have to reckon with an unfortunate decision made during Spring Break in my 20s. That reassurance, coupled with me dedication to not-fuck-giving about what random people think, was all it took for me to go ahead and get some artwork to live on my body.
First, I got Anne’s heartbeat tattooed on my left forearm. She wrote a lovely story about it on her blog, which I encourage you to read (in fact, even though I’m a little biased, I think everything she writes on her blog is pretty great, and worth your time.)
I wanted her heartbeat because I wanted to carry part of her with me wherever I went. I wanted her heartbeat on my left arm because I’m left handed, and I felt that it symbolized her guiding me. I wanted it on the inside of my arm, because I wanted to be able to look at it whenever I thought about her, and I wanted to be able to lay her heartbeat against mine whenever I missed her.
It was quick and easy and before my artist was even finished with it, I was making plans for another. They say you’ll either have a single tattoo, or a whole bunch of them, and I see myself landing squarely in the latter category.
A few months later, I went back to see Kim, my artist, and started work on a fairly large octopus piece on my right forearm. There are a lot of reasons that I wanted an octopus, but they’re personal and I’m keeping them to myself. I will allow this: the octopus is amazing, and the more I learn about it, the more I love it.
It took three sessions, for a total of about six hours, to finish her (I don’t know why, but I know that the octopus I have on my arm is female) and when she was finally finished, I felt like she needed a name.
“What are you going to name her?” Kim asked me as she put a bandage on my arm.
Maybe it was the endorphins talking, because I’m a pretty sciencey, skeptical, get-your-woo-bs-out-my-face-because-SCIENCE! guy, but I said, “I’m not sure, but she’ll tell me when she’s ready.”
A few weeks went by, and I tried out different names for her, but nothing felt right. Maybe naming her was a silly thing to do, like when I named my neato robot vacuum “Dobby”, and then felt terrible when I kicked it in the dark, and it shook side to side like I’d hurt it (it was making sure that he — it. It. Not he, it — was still connected to its charging station).
But one day, I think during Comicon, I was walking with my friend, Joseph Scrimshaw, and he asked me if she had a name.
“Not yet,” I told him, “but I decided that she’ll tell me what it is, when she’s ready to name herself.”
I had no endorphin excuse, this time, but after several weeks, giving her a name had become A Thing.
The words came out of my mouth, and a name popped into my head. It was not a name I ever would have chosen, but it was there, all the same.
“She kind of looks like she should be called ‘Gloria’,” he said.
Gloria was the name that had popped into my head, two seconds earlier.
“Okay, this is weird, but not only is that a name I’d never choose on my own, but it’s the name that popped into my head just before you said it. So I guess her name is Gloria.”
I don’t know what it means, I don’t know why I chose it, I realize that we could have heard or seen or otherwise subconsciously had something happen around us that made that name land on us at the same time, but whatever the rational explanation, the idea that this ink on my arm, which is in the shape of an octopus, assigned a name to itself — to herself — is cool to me, so I accept it.
Today, I went in to see Kim, to get Gloria some touch ups. When I was done, she looked like this:
Eventually, I’m going to get my right arm sleeved. I talked with Kim about some of my ideas today, and we’ll probably get to work on them next month.