Saturday, July 08, 2006

Access denied on Nature's Internet

Tattoos seem to be making a bit of a fashionable comeback. While once the exclusive adornment of seafarers and graduates from the School of Hardknocks, it’s now a pretty common sight to see some privileged, suburban gal with a butterfly sticking its head out from behind a spaghetti-strap, or a flower straining above the hipsters for a glimpse of the morning sun. And as for the guys, it seems everyone’s becoming a Celtic warrior or a Japanese Samurai!

I once even helped to hold down a good friend while he underwent 47 minutes of gruelling torture at the hands and hammers of a respected, traditional tattooing matai (chief). Nursie’s decision to go through with the “operation” was taken out of respect for his Samoan colleagues whose homes and lives he had shared for a year, however I don’t think either of us had anticipated my having to spend the next two weeks nursing him through raging fever after the shark-teeth wounds became infected and septicaemia kicked-in. He assures me it was worth it, however, as he gets many an admiring look and approving nod at the beach each summer.

Indeed, tatts are everywhere, and each one represents a story; an old girlfriend or wife, a sporting victory, a year in London getting stuck into the nose-candy, a visit to Dharamsala to meet the Dalai Lama, a drunken night with the Lads, twenty-years of an unjust prison sentence etc. Sometimes there’s no story directly associated with the tattoo as such, but it stands as an invitation, “See this tattoo? It means I’ve got something to say, so go on, ask me”. Tattoos are a talking point, and if you get talking to someone about their tatt, rest assured that even if they look like they might tell you to stick your questions in an uncomfortable place, the truth is, they’re more likely to bang-on for hours about themselves and their exploits.

So I guess by this time you’re wondering where and what Donkey’s tattoo is, but I’m afraid I’m not really intent on joining the ranks of the decorated; I’ve already got enough battle wounds on me to hold court to an army of bar-flies without needing to punctuate them with a snake or dragon. You see, with me it’s not tattoos; with me, it’s scars.

Scars are different from tatts. Tattoos are an advertisement; they are an invitation to inquiry. Scars are different. They are unwanted, sometimes shameful and often embarrassing. Scars do not invite questions, however I am learning as I move through this world, that there are many who seem to think it’s alright to ask people about their scars. Well it’s bloody not! Especially when you don’t know them, and especially not in the first five minutes of meeting them. So for the many people in this world who never seem to learn, and who admittedly seem to make up the ranks of expatriate society in many countries, this is for you. Read, learn and then piss-off and mind your own business! Here is the story of my scars …

See this one, on my left hand? It’s from sliding down an embankment to escape a rabid Samoan dog and slicing it open on a discarded can of corn beef – I didn’t clean it and it became infected.

This left middle finger? I was dragged over a fence by an aggressive dog when I was twelve years old. I later learned that my friend and his sister used to torment the poor thing every day by pointing a hose at it. No wonder it attacked.

Left knee? I had just had the stitches out that morning after having landed on a piece of glass while on holidays. As it happens, I must have eaten something dodgy, and had contracted a bout of gastroenteritis. While running to the bog, the cat shot out from behind a curtain to wrap itself around my ankles (as per its usual game), I hit the deck, ripping open the knee again – pants soiled in two places!

Right ring and little finger – I was a pretty drunk as I watched Essendon win the 2000 AFL Grand Final. When the final siren blew, I stood up on my chair, thrust my arms aloft in victory and stuck my hand in the ceiling fan. Twelve hours of celebratory drinking later, I awoke to a red, swollen, oozing hand.

What about my Neck? A debilitating childhood illness that is DEFINITELY NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS, AND THAT GOES FOR MY LEGS AND FEET TOO – GOT IT?

And this one on my left bicep … well growing up in the ghettoes of Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs was pretty tough, and the odd 20 cents you could earn by returning bottles to the Milk Bar all helped. Unfortunately, some bottles weren’t refundable, and because they were marked as such on the label, there was no fooling the crabby old bastard who worked behind the counter. So I snuck into my Dad’s office one day, removed a razorblade from the top draw and retired to the space behind the hot water service to start scraping the labels off. It was hard work, but I was determined to get through all three bottles (well, 60 cents is 60 cents!), but I only got a quarter of the way through one when the razorblade slipped and cut about a half-inch into my bicep which, given my age, was about three-quarters of the way through my arm! Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of copping a whack for stealing the blade, so I suffered in silence.

It didn’t work by the way, Mr Milk Bar saw through my subterfuge. So no money, and disfigured for life – not much different from a twenty-year unjust prison sentence, I reckon!

Scars and tatts – one is a boast, while the other is often shrouded in shame, but both, either willingly or not, represent a story. The Story of the Bearer. Some stories are like share-wear, proudly available for all to enjoy, while others exist in the most secure vaults, often never to be let out, or at least not until their owner wills it. Either way, these stories belong to the Bearer. We may be living in an age where information is available on demand, but remember that the Information Super Highway stops at your computer screen. We are not entitled to ALL information, and for the sake of dignity and human rights, many of us need to re-learn some of the social graces that we were taught back in pre-internet days.

Picture: Google Images

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Greets to the webmaster of this wonderful site! Keep up the good work. Thanks.
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