Sometime in the next few months I’ll be getting a second tattoo, probably of something like this. I’ve been in love with this stylization for a while now, and it seems like diamonds are a current trend popping up on lots of clothing lately. Although word on the street is they’re forever.
Which is a great answer for anyone who asks why I chose a diamond. The real answer is that it looks cool and I’m too poor to get a real one. Also, it looks cool. Pretty much the same reasons I got the jet, which turns seven years old soon.
I decided on the jet a long time before it actually happened. The night after I got it, I lay awake terrified of what I’d done. The one image that kept coming to haunt me was walking down the aisle on my wedding day in a dress, and having no way of hiding it from my mother. She would leap up and push me to the side, dig her nails in my shoulder, and beat me to death with my bouquet.
Because to her, I might as well already be a dead woman walking. To her, getting a tattoo means you are also getting a deadly infections, AIDS, or skin cancer at the very least. She would usually go on these tirades when my dad joked about getting a rose tatted on his arm to cover a big birthmark. The reason she’s never actually forbid me to do it is because she would never expect me to even entertain the thought.
But now that I’ve done more than that, I have to hide it forever. I mean FOREVER. Longer than diamonds. I have never worn a sleeveless shirt in front of her since then. I have never been swimming. I will paint on some industrial strength foundation when I get married so we both live past that day. So far, it hasn’t been that hard. We live in cool climates. It’s kind of exciting. There was the one time she saw it when I wore a shirt with too-short sleeves and was reaching for something. I convinced her my friend had drawn it out with pen. (I think that’s why I chose just an outline in the first place–so I had that one get-out-of-jail free card.) She said she was disappointed in whoever I make friends with, and sent me away to wash it off immediately. Strangely, she didn’t follow up to see if I had done it. That’s my mom.
Forever. I don’t think people understand it when I say that. When I got the jet, it was with one of my best friends. As we walked around Berkeley airing out our new tats, we felt high off going through such a forbidden rite of passage. She had an overbearing, conservative mother too. So I was pretty surprised the next day, when after a fitful night’s sleep, I went to her room to find them talking on the phone like it was no big deal. Apparently, the Catholic guilt had gotten to her. But boy, did it feel good to get it off her chest. That’s when I decided our mothers were not the same at all.
When I went back to China last month, I hung out with my favorite cousin. She’s a year older and we think a lot alike, despite being raised in different countries and spending a total of maybe five months together ever. She also has two tattoos, and has told her parents about them, against her will.
It happened when my dad was visiting them one day. According to her, they were hanging out before dinner when my dad said to no one in particular, “Mimi has a tattoo?” He’s too nosy for his own good. Mimi’s blood ran cold and hoped the commotion around them had distracted anyone from actually hearing.
But of course, my dad repeated it louder, and the secret was out. The only reason she didn’t get flogged was probably because it was of a cross and a testament to her devotion to Jesus. Coincidentally, my friend’s was a cross too. Maybe that’s the loophole.
A few weeks later, my dad returned from China. Apparently the shirt I wore had a collar larger than I thought, and he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, so he saw the jet.
“Mimi has a tattoo too.” My dad has perfected his deadpan delivery of life-altering information. It’s one of the best things I inherited.
“…Oh…” I said, my back to him. That was mostly the last we spoke of that. And to this day, he still keeps that knowledge from my mother. Because we both want to see me live to see my wedding day.