Continued from a previous post. Read part 1 here.
After my wife Katie and I decided to get matching tattoos, we spent months pinning designs and discussing placement, and—let’s be honest—fighting over pretty much every detail. It probably had been easier to choose our children’s names. We’re a stubborn and volatile couple, so there was no chance this would be a sweet story; it could only be a struggle of wills. We arrived, exhausted, at a conclusion, but somehow still grateful for one another, and when we finally got to the tattoo parlor, it could only have been anticlimactic.
Our artist, a large bald man named Bear with tattoos all over his arms, neck, and head, told us to walk around for twenty minutes or so while he made the stencils, giving us the opportunity to argue one last time about where to get marked. We had agreed on tree of life designs—mine more Celtic and hers more organic.
The tree invokes diverse mythologies, not least that of Genesis where it represents the source of eternal life in Christ. It also hearkens to an image of growing together from the sermon Katie’s grandfather gave at our wedding. We’d get the design on our inner forearms—my left, her right—so that they’d sort of knot up whenever we held hands, ‘cause we’re sweet like that.
Agreeing to get a tattoo in the first place had been something of a process for me, and it brought me in touch with the conflictual relationship between my theology of the body and my actual emotions about my body and my wife’s. When we actually pulled the trigger, we both learned something about ourselves. She learned she was not nearly so casual as she had thought herself: She reneged on the forearm placement and opted for her back. I learned, to my own surprise, that I existed in space and time.
Maybe that’s dramatic, but that’s how it felt. When I woke up the next morning with a large, black, knotted tree on my arm, I felt a different relationship to the world than I had the previous day, what I knew was embodiment. [Read more…]