When I was 18, and a freshman in undergrad, I went on a roadtrip with my boyfriend and two of our friends. We were all in a very competitive program in college and every semester we had to basically re-audition to stay in the program. We had just gone through this process and passed, but our class had essentially been cut in half. (I bring this up only to explain that I am a talented person.) So anyway, we decided to take a roadtrip to celebrate.
It's 3:00 in the morning and I don't know why now I am choosing to tell this fairly unimportant and boring story.
So the four of us get in the car, and decide to drive to Idaho. To get potatoes. Seriously. That was the misssion. But then after about an hour, we decided that once we got to Idaho, and got our potatoes, we might not be able to find a place to cook them. So then we decided to go to West Virginia, where the other girl we were with had a brother who knew how to make his own beer. Seemed like an ok plan. I don't know why we didn't stick with it, but somehow we ended up in Florida.
Well, no spontaneous trip to Florida is complete without a trip to Louie Lombi's Tattoo Paradise, my friends. Which is where I got my first and only tattoo. I was smart though. I called my father to ask permission first:
Grace: Hi Daddy! Can I get a tattoo?
Grace's Dad: Of course you can, Sweetheart. It's your body. Just one thing though, you'll need to find someone else to pay for college.
Grace: Hm. So, that's actually your way of saying no?
Grace's Dad: Yes. That is my way of saying no. You're 18 years old. You're beautiful, whatever stupid shit your 18 year old self chooses to get tattooed on your body you will regret later. Don't do it.
Grace: You're right. Good thinking, Daddy. I love you. I'll call you when I get home.
Grace's Dad: Love you too, Honey. Bye
Grace: (to her friends) He said it's fine!!!
We then all set out to choose what we were going to get tattoed on our 18 year old selves. The other girl on the trip was, at the time, a vegetarian. She got a carrot tattooed on her ass. She's not a vegetarian anymore.
The other three of us decided to go with the ever poplular chinese characters. We all got them on our right ankles. My boyfriend got one that meant "Actor" (I know, I should have ended it right then and there) The other guy we were with got one that meant "To Seek"
I got one that translated as "Live in the moment" Deep, right? If I had a nickel for every time I rolled my eyes at myself, I'd be fucking loaded.
So I am totally forgetting why I am even telling this story. Oh. Right, because it's nearly 3:30 am and I can't sleep.
So, the tattoo didn't really have much of an effect on my life. After a while, I sort of forgot about it. But whenever I was asked about it, I was sort of proud. Living in the moment is a good thing! And a good mantra! And can anyone think of a better way to really express your carpe diem-ness, than to PERMANENTLY ink it onto your body? Naaaa.
Until my college graduation party. I remember sitting on my mother's kitchen table and chatting with her while she cooked. I was wearing a little sundress, and jauntily kicking my legs back and forth. All of a sudden, my mother grabs my right ankle like she's about to tear it off.
Grace's Mom: WHAT IS THIS?
Grace: It's a tattoo!
Grace's Mom: IS IT PERMANENT?
Grace's Mom: WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU GET IT?
Grace: Freshman year at Louie Lombi's Tattoo Paradise! Do you like it?
Grace's Mom: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Grace: It means "Live in the moment," Mom! Like, Carpe Diem! Isn't that cool?
Grace's Mom: ARE YOU SURE?
Grace: umm... what?
Grace's Mom: SEEING AS YOU DON'T SPEAK CHINESE, DID YOU MAKE SURE THAT'S WHAT IT SAID BEFORE YOU HAD IT PERMANENTLY INKED ON YOUR BODY?
Grace: Ummmmm....er...Of COURSE I did! What do you think I am? A complete idiot? You actually think I would get something TATTOOED on my body in a foreign language without even checking to make sure it said what it was supposed to say? I'm OFFENDED, Mom. That hurts. You have absolutely NO faith in me whatsoever. Thanks A LOT.(stomping off to her room)
On this day, at my college graduation party, I had my first panic attack. I actually had NOT checked to make sure my tattoo said what it was supposed to say. Who DOES that? I realized that I was a complete idiot. I was convinced that my tattoo actually said something like "White girl conforming to non-conformity" or "I'm dating a loser" or "Bad decision maker" or "I lie to my dad"
I felt tricked out of my coolness. And Chinese people everywhere had certainly been laughing at me for years now.
It took me about a month to gather up the courage to do the research, and find out what my tattoo actually meant. Fortunately I found out that my tattoo actually did mean, "Live in the moment"
However, after that day on my mom's kitchen table, my tattoo will always translate to me as "total fucking idiot"