By Kenneth Rosen
You know that one question, the one that always makes you cringe? For me it isn’t one that I get from my mother: have you been eating? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Have you talked to your sister recently? Or the ones from my father: have you decided on a graduate school? Did you file your taxes? Because you know if you don’t … ; No, none of those. It’s the same question I get from most strangers: What do your tattoos mean?
I remember my first interview for an internship here. I was running late after a night on Congress Street and I certainly smelled and looked it. I wore a short-sleeved polo, khaki pants and sandals. Besides the blatant forearm and bicep tattoos, I have ink on my toes. When I sat down across the table from my interviewer I crossed my legs. He saw the ink, asked what it was, and I came up with three words that didn’t stand for what FTW really meant.
It was a surprise the next day when I received an email telling me I was offered the position. I’m sure it was not because of my whiskey-scented breath, my unkempt look, or the tattoos covering my body. Well, at least I hoped not.
More recently when I was working on a story with a colleague, deadline approaching within the hour and a story of my own to write, I ran downtown.
I’ve been to the courthouse many times: ‘Afternoon, officer,’ grab my wallet, pens, pad and keys then place them in the bin, walk through the metal detector, grab my stuff, say ‘thank you’ to the officer at the other end then leave. It’s one dance where I rarely misstep, even when on deadline.
We needed documents from a gag order that was filed that morning to include in his piece so I ran to the third floor to find it. The county clerk’s office is down a long, bleak hallway with no art and too many sheriffs, reminiscent of my days in high school. When I reached the door I walked in and accidentally let the door slam behind me. The meek and feeble clerk that I approached seemed to cling to the manila envelopes in her hands. She eyed my arms.
“I’m looking for a case file,” I said. “Petry versus SCAD.” I didn’t reek of whiskey.
She pointed me to the public computer where I was able to print the 18 pages I needed (50 cents a page, really?) and was out as quick as I arrived. She didn’t ask what they meant but I’m sure, given the chance, she would have.
After four years since getting my first ink, the one covering my forearm, I’m just now getting used to the stigmas that surround them. And if you asked me today I still wouldn’t have an answer to what they mean. Maybe in another four years I will.Contact Kenneth Rosen.