When I was very very very young, I got myself a tattoo.
How young? Eleven years old.
It's a complicated story. My mom did the good deed of having two sisters from the Epworth Village Children's Home around on some weekends, as a sort of foster parent. Maggie was about fourteen and Sharon was about sixteen.
Sharon had a boyfriend, Mark, who rode a motor bike and listened to Led Zep.
Mark also had a tattoo. And a needle. And a piece of cotton. And a pot of India Ink.
And an extensive collection of tattoo designs for me to choose from, seeing as he'd allowed me to ride his motorbike round the back lawn, and I'd spotted him hiding Sharon's panties beneath the cushion on the lounge sofa.
So I chose one of the tattoo designs.
His extensive collection ran to exactly TWO designs. A skull smoking a cigarette just didn't seem to make any sense to me, since I hated smoking, cos my mom and dad were both horribly inconsiderate smokers. I chose, instead, an utterly irrelevant Chinese Junkman.
So Mark drew the design on my upper left arm with a ballpoint pen, wound the cotton round the needle tip, dipped the needle in the ink, and began the long job of puncturing my skin. I don't recall it being all that sore. But it took about an hour.
Years later, when I was about seventeen, I tried using a scalpel to remove the tattoo. It didn't work. A few years after that, when I was in first year varsity, studying engineering, I tried again, this time using sandpaper AND a scalpel. And it mostly worked. It now looks like I have a blue-ish birthmark on my arm.
But I'm self-conscious about it, and it represents a hard and horrible childhood. So I'm going to be investing in covering it up. Hence the new design. I figure 'Left Arm -- property of Roy Blumenthal' is quite funny on first viewing, and cynically funny on second viewing, and ridiculously silly on all subsequent viewings. If I've gotta have a tattoo, it might as well be something that'll make me smile for a very long time.
And I reckon this design is neat enough to prevent me from reaching for the sandpaper.