Friday, June 21, 2013

My First Tattoo

Don't worry mom, I don't have a tattoo...  (yet?)

I am a Sailor.  Technically, I’m a Naval Officer, but just as Army officers and enlisted are often called soldiers, I take on my sailor community.  I have uniforms and all sorts of things that say I am a Sailor on them.  The Marine Corps issued me a card that told me that I was a Marine.  But it’s not true.  I’m a sailor.

So where’s my tattoo?

Marines and Sailors love their tattoos.  I draw your attention to Exhibit A.

Exhibit A:
Popeye the Sailor Man, the Lord didn't put those anchors on his arms.  That's ink-work.

Give a Marine a couple hundred bucks and 5 hours, and they will get at least one tattoo and maybe get another tattoo filled in with color.  (First tattoo will typically be the Eagle, Globe and Anchor).

Somehow my father made it through the military (Navy and Marine Corps) without any tattoos (that I know of).  So it has to be doable.  There have to be others in this camp.  But on a day like today, when the whole battalion went to a beach and peeled off layers of uniform, I ponder my military experience with out a tattoo.  Am I reinforcing my outsider status by resisting writing on my skin?  If I were a Marine and not a Chaplain, would I feel comfortable saying no?  As it is, I feel that I almost need to reaffirm my resistance every other day.

I have thought about it.  Sometimes around the battalion, we play the "Chaplain's First Tattoo" Game.  Where some of the Marines (EOD Marines are the most imaginative in this regard) come up with a plan for the Chaplain's First Tattoo.  But it ain't gonna happen.

I’m a day-school kid.  No tattoos because the Torah says so. 

There is a good argument that the tattoo injunction is based on a response to tattooing prevalent in idol-worshipping cults of the Ancient Near East.  Seeking “Taamei HaMitzvot” based on such academics seems dangerous to me, but I like engaging in the debate in my head.

I was never in love with the argument that we shouldn’t harm the bodies that God gave us.   (1) I love cake and fried foods.  By all doctors accounts I will continue to destroy my body with HDL, and it will be delicious.  (2) There are some really beautiful tattoos out there.  And some of them will still be meaningful and neat even after muscles deteriorate.

Further pushing against the tattoo injunction is the holocaust.  While many point to that as a reason not to get a tattoo, for me (and the main character at the beginning of Jane Yolen’s “The Devil’s Arithmetic”), it almost seems like a reason to get a tattoo.  To be connected.

But for me, the Torah will suffice.  Pain involved in another significant deterrent.  And when it all comes down to it, I’m pretty sure that my mother would kill me (at the start of a line of others who would do the same).

But, I'm not going to lie.  Sometimes, I think a Navy Officer’s Crest on my chest would be awesome….or a schooner.  A schooner would be awesome.  Very Navy.

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