15 September, 2019

on questions of dubious merit

You know how "they" say there's no such thing as a stupid question? Generally I ascribe to that and employ patience with my answers. Even if the question seems stupid or obvious to me, it might not to the asker, and responding with contempt or impatience would just make me an asshole. There are exceptions: the student who, having been reminded daily in class of X, asks about X (and inevitably professes shock at the answer). This is because either said student was not paying attention at all, or wants to lay the groundwork for a plausible but I didn't know! I can't do X in the time allotted! defense. (This never works, either in my HS or my college classes.)

But that second kind of question is not born in ignorance. It's born from some ulterior motive. It's not genuine.

Which brings me, roundaboutly, to a question that bugs me more every time someone asks, having noticed my tattoos: did they hurt? 

Listen: tattoos are created by multiple needles--five, seven--piercing your skin and depositing ink underneath it. Of course it hurts.  It's the sort of obvious question that suggests an ulterior motive in the asking.

I never say no, because it's not true and we both know it.

When I say yes, of course, but it's not so bad; or yes, and you get a pretty amazing endorphin high off it; or yes, and it's better or worse depending on location and how far into the session I am--pretty much any version of yes but/and--then I get the cock-eyed dubious stare and-or the hesitant smile. Because I just admitted that yes, I did this thing that hurt, and I did it willingly, and I did it multiple times/for many hours and I paid for the privilege. Which, having thus admitted, I then have to justify, or discount, or downplay, or excuse, or whatever it takes to make myself seem less crazy or more socially acceptable or whatever to this person.

Alternatively (and by default, these days), I offer no excuse: yep, it hurts! More if it's color, or this place here, which hurt more than all the rest combined, here look, yeah, that spot. And! (I add with glee) there's sometimes a lot of blood.

This only deepens the dubious look, as if I can no longer be counted as a rational human being. The usual follow-up then is why and then but what happens if you don't like the design later on? or my personal favorite, What about when you're old?

Because I wanted to, obviously, and just as obviously--tattoos are basically permanent. I can either pay to have the design removed, or I can get it covered up by yet more tattooing. I mean, duh? I am pretty sure I will not be tired of these designs because I thought about them first for a long time and collaborated with my very awesome artist. And when I am old, I will have age spots and wrinkles in my design, and I imagine they will look weathered and cracked like an old painting or the rocks on which some of the designs are actually found, and that will be fine.

Say this, and I will often receive a second dose of the smile, the look, this time more nakedly doubtful and soaked in condescension, as if it's perfectly impossible I won't regret my decision, now or later, and I just don't know it yet.  It's clear their opinion was formed well before the question, which they ask to confirm for themself their own choices/prejudices and to signal to me that I have made choices which they do not agree with nor approve of.

Listen: ask what the designs are, what they mean, how long the sessions take and how many there were--but don't ask if they fucking hurt to signal to yourself your own virtue, or whatever you're doing. I have a high tolerance for multiple needles and many hours contorted in the chair. I have far less for people trying to make me feel bad for choices that are none of their business.