|Not his actual tattoo|
In March 1993, a month before I turned 21, I got a tattoo with my best friend Michelle. This was back when having a tattoo was a relatively unheard of thing unless you were a biker or a pirate, back when every person didn’t run out on their 18th birthday and get some inspirational quote tattooed on their neck, back when it was still a rebellious act. It was even more so of a rebellious act considering I knew I would have to hide it indefinitely from my Gram. Years earlier, my uncle had gotten a quarter-sized panther head on his calf.
He proudly showed it to my Gram, who responded by grabbing him by the back of his neck and the seat of his pants and throwing him down a flight of stairs.
|Again, not my actual tattoo|
I did not want said fate to happen to me, so I had my tattoo placed on my right shoulder, where I could hide it forever.
I did so successfully in March, April, and May, while I was still in college. When I got home, I made sure I never walked around the house in a towel for fear she would see it. I got through June, July… and most of August.
|Staten Island Mall|
It was an unbearably hot day and Michelle and I were heading out to the Staten Island Mall to soak up the free air conditioning. Gram was going to a wedding (I’m going to assume it wasn’t a family member, because I wasn’t invited. Maybe it was family and they just didn’t like me, those bastards). She was getting dressed while Michelle and I sweated in the kitchen and plotted out our coping skills for dealing with the Staten Island guidos and pitying poor Gram in her purple dress and panty hose.
|Type of people we were trying to avoid|
It was so hot, and I decided to wear a baggy shirt that sometimes slipped off a shoulder. I had my tattoo for a whopping five months, and so I got careless. When Gram asked me to get her corsage out of the fridge, I bent down and my shirt predictably exposed the tattooed shoulder in question.
Now normally, Gram didn’t see so hot. She wore glasses
and didn’t much pay attention to my outfits and often threatened
that one day I would come home and find all of my clothes in the bathtub… on
fire. Sometimes she would switch it up
and say “covered in bleach.” She was
spiteful like that sometimes. She never
did it, but the threat was always there.
|Hypothetical bathtub with my clothes... on fire|
I reached down to get the corsage which of course was on the bottom shelf, nestled between cans of Diet Pepsi and some mozz’. Her usual not-so-great sight suddenly became eagle-eyes.
Michelle, the queen of subtly, threw her hands in the air and proclaimed loudly, “I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything!” and ran to the bathroom where she locked herself in.
Quick thinker that I was, I tried to play it off. “Oh, it’s one of those temporary tattoos, Gram, no biggie.”
Gram was not convinced. In 2.5 seconds, she sprinted out of her chair (she was 63 at the time) and pulled me by my ear to the kitchen sink, grabbed a Brill-o pad, and began scrubbing my tattoo with it and scalding hot water.
Granted, it was healed, so it wasn’t like she was scrubbing a brand new tattoo, but still, having a angry Italian woman scrub your back with Brill-o like it’s burned on sauce at the bottom of a pan HURTS!
|Not recommended for removing tattoos. Excellent tool for forcing a confession out of your granddaughter.|
(all this while, Michelle is still in the bathroom yelling, “I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything!”)
“IT’S! NOT! COMING! OFF!” she yelled, scrubbing harder. At this point, she undoubtedly knew that it was not a temporary tattoo, and was Brill-oing me for the sheer enjoyment of it all.
“Okay, okay! It’s real, it’s real!”
Gram threw the Brill-o in the sink, picked up the nearest dishtowel and began hitting me with it. “You’re an asshole!” she said, “Does your mother know about this?”
I explained that everyone knew about it, everyone except her.
Michelle, assuming the cat was out of the bag, came out of the bathroom.
|Not Michelle's tattoo|
“Do you know about this too?” Gram asked her.
“Yeah, I got one at the same time.” Michelle then proceeded to show Gram her twin dolphins holding up the world.
“Well, then you’re an asshole too.”
She went to the wedding, we went to the mall, and it wasn’t talked about again.
* * * * *
I wish I could say that Gram learned to love and appreciate tattoos, but she did not. I’m planning on getting a memorial tattoo for her in the next few weeks. I know somewhere in Heaven, she’s looking down calling me an asshole right now.
|Up there, she's calling me an asshole|