Forgoing a Tattoo

Matthew - Utah
Entered on December 4, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Six years ago I was in a difficult circumstance. I found myself as a new member of the United States Coast Guard. The military was one place I had never dreamed of being when I was a child. I had grown up in small towns in Arizona and Utah and had thought that I would never leave those two states.

But change came, and now I would experience life outside of the Midwest. I was now on a small island in Alaska, surrounded by people from all different walks of life. I soon found that I was a stranger in the world being outside of my comfort zone.

One thing has always been with me no matter where I find myself. My body is a special thing, something that is irreplaceable and has more value than all the money in the world. For this I like to keep it as clean as I can both on the inside and on the outside. The reason for this is that I can only do the things I want to in life if I keep my inside body healthy and I can only receive the respect of myself if I keep my outside body clean.

That is why I was faced with a difficult decision six years ago. My friends in the military wanted to have something to remember our time together by. They wanted something that would show loyalty to the Coast Guard and to the fight for freedom that we were currently engaged in.

For weeks they asked me to get a tattoo, promising that they would be there to support me and that if I didn’t do so I would be different from them and not accepted in their group. I felt a sense of separation. I wanted for once in my life to just fit in with the crowd, to be accepted. I knew that the only things that were standing in my way was some ink, an ink gun, a little time and a week’s worth of pain.

This is when my outer body started to speak up telling me of the fact that it liked itself the way it was. Telling of the possible discoloration and scarring that could take place. Mentioning the sadness of the physical pain that would be a consequence of my decision and the final thing that really struck home was the fact that this would be a permanent thing. When my body gets dirty I can wash it and make it clean, but a tattoo can never wash off. Very different from the natural dirtiness that covers my body from time to time this would be something that could never be washed off.

In the end my outer body won the battle. In forgoing the tattoo I also gave up some friends, the possibility to be in the in-crowd and showing my loyalty to the Coast Guard by stamping something on my body. I gained something else I gained a permanently clean outside body. Though at times things may adhere to it, there is always the possibility of washing the dirtiness away.