Thursday, April 23, 2009

Putting The Art in Body Art

Cute, right? The owner thought it meant “courage.” Apparently it literally says “big mistake.” Somebody’s got a sense of humor!

My first boyfriend had a pet name for me: Sweet Pea. As in the baby from the Popeye cartoons. Yeah, it’s a little weird to nickname your girlfriend after an infant with no legs but honestly that was the least weird thing about our relationship. Two things you should know about my first boyfriend: a) He was functionally illiterate (I know, Mom!) and b) he was obsessed with body modifications (I KNOW, Mom! Seriously, you can unground me now.) In addition to several very prominent tattoos including a flesh-mutilating one that literally made me nauseous every time I looked at it, he also had a bull ring, a tongue stud, a lip stud, nipple bars, a home-done body brand (that still makes me shudder when I remember how he got it), those big hole thingies through his ears and several other things I’m probably forgetting. But by far his best bit of body art - and the reason I’m taking you on this little foray into my past - was a tat he got in the military. To remind him of me. According to eye witnesses, it read “Sweet Pee.” Despite laughing over it for months, I never got a chance to see it myself as I dumped him when he returned on leave - not over the tattoo, or even the illiteracy, but over something else entirely legitimate that perhaps I’ll share with you some other time.

Anyhow, I was reminded of this when today it was reported that one of David Beckham’s many tattoos - a Sanskrit tranlation of his wife Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham’s name - is actually mistranslated. Apparently part of it is mispelled - no word if it was the “Victoria” part or the “Posh” part. Although since Sanskrit is officially a dead language, this is not the most tragic example of body art gone bad.

Right after misspellings and romance-gone-awry fixits, mistranslating words from other languages seems to be a prime source of tattoo hilarity. One teen in Britain got her boyfriend’s nickname “Roo” tatooed on her abdomen in Chinese only to discover later the characters actually mean “supermarket.” Another woman asked for the Kanji character for “free” on her back. Apparently the tattoo artist found the symbol for “free of charge” rather than “freedom” which was what she intended. All these women need is to add a post-it note with “open 24 hours for your convenience” and I bet they get all the free dim sum in Chinatown they want.

Celebrities are also infamous for body art snafus. One website chronicles all the inking/lasering/retattooing drama of the Heather Locklear/Richie Sambora/Denise Richards/Charlie Sheen soap opera. Honestly, it’s so twisted I can’t even explain it but if you want the whole story, it’s here - in pictures! And who can forget when Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder went splitsville leading Johnny to alter his “Winona Forever” tat to the darkly hilarious “Wino Forever”?

As for me, my tattoo sins run in the other direction. While I have no body art other than two ear piercings, I was, for a very short time, an illustration major in college. A neighbor asked me to draw him a picture of our University mascot - a minotaur - holding a throwing “hammer” because that’s the event he competed in on our track team. Our particular version of the fierce minotaur was a very cartoonish permutation that looked like a random shirtless man wearing a Bessie the Cow mask with horns strapped on. Which I replicated with great accuracy. Much to my chagrin, he loved the finished design and decided to get it inked on his bicep permanently. He even let me do the first stroke of the tat, seeing as I was the artist and all. To this day I cringe for not talking him out of it.

So now I want to know if any of you bend it like Beckham, at least when it comes to permanent ink? What is it and why did you get it? Do you still like it? Any of you ever get an ill-advised tattoo or other body modification done? Come on, spill it! It can’t be as bad as this guy: