On ink, identity and permanent reminders

Via weheartit

One of the next things on BF’s major to-do list is to get another tattoo. Preferably more. Lots more. I’m not a big fan of the idea; I don’t want him to look like a biker or a skinhead and I would like it not to limit him in his career. (Hey, it’s not my own prejudices I’m worried about! It’s unlikely he’ll ever work a desk job, but you never know. He’s already such a formidable physical presence that tats all over his arms will just be the icing on the cake.)

While I’m not principally opposed to getting inked myself, I just can’t ever imagine what I would want permanently stamped on my body, at no small cost either financially or physically. But lately I’ve been thinking about family and life and tradition and culture and all sorts of heavy things … And one night when I was walking home, I had a revelation: why not get a tattoo of my Chinese name?

The thought lasted all of a second. While I don’t actually know how to write my birth name in the language, this is not good enough reason to give myself a permanent reminder. The name has little meaning to me. It’s the name on my birth certificate, yes  but it’s not the name I go by on a daily basis. If you called it out to me on the street, I would probably not even blink twice.

That being said, it’s the name my parents saw fit to give me, which they took the time to choose carefully for their firstborn daughter. Aside from sheer laziness, I think that’s another big reason why I probably will not ever get around to legally changing it to my English name. And I’d like to make some small effort to recognise that today, although I wouldn’t have said that 10, 5 or even a year ago.

So, here it is: The next time I visit my parents, I’m not leaving until I learn to write my name in Chinese. (Or at the very least, take home a copy of it to stick on my wall. I’m realistic about my abilities.)

7 thoughts on “On ink, identity and permanent reminders

  • Reply youngandthrifty September 30, 2010 at 18:04

    I think that’s what Krystalatwork is doing too! Pretty cool idea. Where would you get it?

    I was always averse to the idea of tattooing something on yourself- the idea of it is so permanent. Though having it somewhere where no one can see except for yourself (and your significant other) is quite alluring.. somewhere that can’t sag 40 years down the road!

    • Reply eemusings September 30, 2010 at 19:13

      I dunno. I’m definitely not going to get it – it was a fleeting thought.

      If I was ever to get a tat of anything..I dunno, wouldn’t want it anywhere easily visible for work purposes. Torso? Shoulder?

  • Reply Fig September 30, 2010 at 23:04

    Yeah this post definitely made me think of Krystalatwork with the chinese name reference.

    I like tattoos, but I’ve never been able to love one enough to commit. Probably never will either.

  • Reply gem October 1, 2010 at 05:20

    I have a tattoo. (I linked to the entry about it as my website link.) It’s on my side where nobody will ever see it and it’s a latin word meaning “I have sinned.” It’s quasi-spiritual, a reminder to keep my ego in check, which only I need to see. The only time people see it is when I’m at the beach or, ironically, having premarital sex, haha. It took a lot of time to decide on it and decide where to put it. And I wouldn’t have gotten it if I wasn’t madly in love with particular tattoo. Which I was and still am. Because those tattoo thingies are permanent and to me, that was part of why I got what I got, because sin is permanent, yadda yada yada.

    I’m curious, what does your BF have? Please don’t tell me tribal anything or I’ll judge him very hardcore, haha.

    • Reply eemusings October 2, 2010 at 16:26

      Depends what you define as tribal…

  • Reply Kara October 1, 2010 at 08:18

    It’s funny, I was given a Chinese name from my grandparents but it’s not legal by any means. They wrote it down in the card they gave my parents when I was born, in Cantonese characters and everything, and I got it tattooed on the lower part of my neck a couple years ago.

    The only thing I don’t like about it is how frequently people ask what it says. I’ll tell them the translation and they’ll just give me a blank stare. I guess it’s just because it’s not your typical “Love, Trust, blah blah blah” Chinese/Japanese characters.

    Tattoos that have to do with your family really have to have a lot of thought put into them.

  • Reply Link love (Powered by mascarpone and early nights) | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander September 16, 2012 at 21:49

    […] I was feeling pretty introspective, also writing that post on having immigrated at a young age and tattoos and heritage (and, er, I’d forgotten all about the resolution at the end of that […]

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