Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Meaning Behind My Tattoos, Part #3: Little Mermaid

On my right arm I have a tattoo of the Little Mermaid swimming to Prince Eric after he becomes a statue. It is done in a watercolor/ painting sort of style, back before tattoos like that were all the rage.

Outtake from space babe shoot, you can sort of see the tattoo

It's based on this painting by Greg Hildebrandt:

I had a book of fairy tales with paintings my Greg Hildebrandt to accompany them when I was growing up, well actually I still have it today! The Little Mermaid was always my favorite story, and not because of the perennial 1989 Disney classic by the same name. Oh no, I was being read this  story long before the movie came out (I didn't learn how to read until I was 8), and always had a great fondness for it. Or at least that's how I remember things going down- it's possible that my memory is incorrect and actually rewritten in my mind to make myself seem cooler to myself.

I started this tattoo when I was 20 and completed it when I was 23- it took about 13 hours all told, making it my most elaborate and intensive tattoo- at least hours wise. I chose it as I saw the story of the Little Mermaid, and my love of it, as representative of the transition from childhood to adulthood. And when I was 20 I was having a particularly difficult time with that transition. Looking back with a more mature and feminist perspective, the story of the Little Mermaids transition to adulthood is, of course, highly problematic; she feels trapped by the sea and her father's rules, she sees a human man (a prince even) on a ship and decides she loves him, she pursues him by asking a sea witch to make her human and give her legs, the sea witch tells her that if she is able to make the prince love her without speaking she can be human forever, she accidentally speaks, he turns to stone. I can't remember clearly if that's the end of the original fairy tale version- I believe it is. In the Disney version they all live happily ever after, of course.

However, this remains one of my favorite tattoos. One thing I love about it is that most people can't tell what it is unless I tell them- that used to annoy me but now I like it, since almost everyone can look at my chest and say "Tetris!" or my Twin Peaks coffee cup and say "coffee!" or "Twin Peaks!" It feels more personal this way, and opens up a more extensive conversation with those who ask about it (not that I'm encouraging any of you to ask strangers about their tattoos- I'm usually happy for the attention, but many with tattoos can get annoyed with the constant attention).

Interestingly, the statue of Prince Eric in the tattoo resembles my boyfriend at the time more than it does the painting version. He came with me to some of the sessions and I was never sure if the artist meant to make the statue look like him, if it was subconscious or just coincidental. This boyfriend was my first love, and one might even say my Prince Charming at that young, impressionable, mostly heterosexual time in my life. I definitely thought he was going to be the one I married, and TBH I would still be happy to have married him if that's how things went down. I'm glad they didn't seeing as how it never would have worked and my life would have taken a completely different course. But he was a sweet, giving, intelligent, hilarious person and I hope someone is happy with him now. Especially since I did him so wrong (if you're reading this, anonymous first love of mine, I hope you know how truly sorry I am. I have had to move on in order to live with myself, but I don't think there's any forgiving how I treated you).

This is pretty much not a sexy story, but when I think about the time of my life when I got this tattoo I think about the importance of realizing that young love may be fleeting, the importance of growing up and the importance of knowing how to ask for what you want in a relationship. Things started hot and heavy with my first love; I was his first and he was my second (sexually), and since we both still lived with our parents we used to drive around the industrial parts of Arvada late at night, find an empty and secluded parking lot, and fuck in the back seat of his car. True  and pure teenage/ young adult love, to be sure.

Later on we moved in together and we both lost interest in frequent sex, but him especially. I don't know if he may have been on an asexuality spectrum, but I do know that he was much more interested in making music, making computer games, and in doing drugs than he was in sex. And my impressionable young female self of course interpreted this as him being disinterested in me. I tried not to- I tried to listen to him about it not being about me, he was discovering that he just found other activities more interesting. I thought we were so different from other couples. I had heard about the natural decline of sexual interest that can occur when you move in with someone, but here I was 20 and he was 19 and it was happening all backwards according to what I had been told about gender and sexual interest. I was the one who was supposed to be interested in other things, not him.

My first foray into non monogamy began here. I think I may have written about it a bit on this blog here and there, and I don't want to spend too much time talking about the experience or how it ultimately failed. But to touch on it quickly, I met a friend of his who I thought was hot, asked him if it was OK to have sex with his friend, got his permission, had sex with the friend, he (boyfriend not his friend) freaked out when it actually happened and said he couldn't handle the jealousy, we broke up and I started dating his friend immediately. We still lived together in a collective house and it was a disaster. I was pretty mean to him and said his friend had a better/ bigger penis than him (the bigger part was true, but not the better part), that we were having SUCH GREAT SEX all the time (that was totally true, but no need to rub salt in the wounds), and I kept reinforcing that my ex was a great friend while the new guy was a great lover. I mean yuck, what a horrible creature I was. He dated one of my best friends for a brief period, I think partially because they liked each other but also maybe to get back at me. I didn't really care, nor do I still because really I've never been the jealous type. But at the time I definitely saw my new relationship as sexually superior to theirs, and felt sorry for her.

So instead of a sexy story you get one about how my sexuality, and entitlement to my sexual expression around others, made me the worst human possible. But back to the tattoo: it has become emblematic to me of the processes I go through in order to grow, and how painful and yet ultimately rewarding it can be to learn from past embarrassingly asshole-ish behavior. And I also have no problem having this fine specimen of a young lover forever immortalized in Prince Eric form on my arm- he deserves to be there, and deserves to live forever fondly in my memories.