During the summer, I can see what it’s like to work from home or to not have a job at all. I’ll go to the gym in the morning and wonder how so many people are already there and imagine what their daily lives involve. A few days ago, my body already ached from pushing too hard that week, but I made myself attend a kickboxing class. The room was filled with an array of badass poptarts, colorful and ready to jump, uppercut, and heave someone at any moment. Strong women, commonly beautiful in their commitment.
The 9:45 am-energy in this class was unlike anything I’ve seen in that studio, maybe because I’m accustomed to going to the “I’ve-had-a-long-day” classes at night. The boxing instructor taught in motorcycle boots, tight jeans, and a razorback top showing off her tattoos. Her hair was down, flying around at each jab, and she was rocking it.
A common denominator with some women in that room was tattoos. Women in the rows in front of me had a garden of them. Vines on forearms, birds on necks, words on thighs. All of them have a story, I hope, and I was the wallflower wanting to know about each of them. Ink on skin is like ink on paper—they hold a truth, a story. Tattoos instantly say to me, I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. I’m not complacent; I control the story.
Sheltering eventually makes everything seem so avant-garde. My generation of Persian girls spent so time writhing in their awkward years. Our parents tried to keep us modest, hoping that the shade cast from our overgrown eyebrows would keep us out of trouble. Eventually, we would recognize we don’t have to be blond to feel confident (although most of us have tried that route at least once), but by that time the damage would already be done. After middle school, it would take 10 more years before we could recognize that a boy and a girl can actually be friends, that driving someone home after school is not a big deal, that staying late for games is normal, that not seeing a future in every step is okay, and that making mistakes is fun and good—like that great line from Gregory Alan Isakov, “If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone.” Growing up comes with common angst, but our adab can make the obstacle that much more…ethnic.
The loud bass in the class encouraged us to fight in unison, a solidarity that could be channeled to light cities, a visual reminder of our capabilities. These women who walked from different roads to get to class that Thursday morning are all part of a remarkable gender. I’ve said this many times before and will say it again: women are the superior gender—naturally capable, able to be the stereotype and to break it, distinguish our inside and our outside. Sure, some of us might rule the world like a khanoom, a lady whose hands may fold over one another in her lap but only because she’s mastered multitudinous tasks and silently observes as if from a balcony over the crowd.
She carries, births, raises, cultivates, and preserves more than children; she’s the fraternal twin to Mother Nature. She’s like Alabama Shakes on stage, Brittany Howard rocking and redefining; she is Esme Patterson’s bird call, cooing with girlish ferocity in a duet with Shakey Graves. These ideas make me wonder about my past and about what I’m capable of; they make me imagine how one clichéd late night with friends would change both the way I see myself and the road I walked on.
It’s ironic that during this holy month of Ramadan that I should be thinking so strongly about the power of those tattoos and how much I want one. When everyone’s in bed and I’m given some silence to let words fall into their place in my head, I wonder how my life would have been if I had gotten a tattoo after high school. I never really wanted one then, and my father’s firm stance against them was clear. I think, too, that what is un-inked is also a story. In Brooklyn, Jim tells Ellis, who has returned to Ireland after emigrating to America, that deep down he is terrified of things that he’ll never do. I supposed I’m suggesting that there is a figurative divide between the tattooed and the not-tattooed, and I wonder what it’s like on the other side.
Maybe it would be silly in some ways to get one now, but part of me wonders what else would come out of me as a result of the very defiance a tattoo outwardly projects. What decisions would I have made differently if I made that first bold move long ago? Or am I just glorifying it like I do so many of the things I didn’t do? Maybe I would have stepped on more toes, slammed doors harder, said no more permanently, rebelled a bit longer, or grown new skin sooner.
Certainly, I have my uninked stories that I’ve earned and that I cherish, but it doesn’t stop me from sitting here on this lazy summer afternoon and wondering about the possible-inked ones.