Our family was seated for an impromptu dinner at a very popular and busy Thai restaurant in Melbourne late last year. The place was packed with people, and the tables and chairs were overpopulated given the space available. It was difficult to hear anything above the loud clatter of plates, glasses, and loud conversation. Our daughter Emily, 20, and our son James, 17, were their usual chatty selves; full of life and character, and just as we were devouring our entrees, Emily’s expression suddenly changed, and she announced that she had something VERY IMPORTANT to tell us.
My wife, Susie, and I nearly choked on our Thai fish cakes.
Jame’s chicken satay spiraled out of control and crash landed on his plate as he dug into his pocket for his iPhone. He definitely needed to film this.
What do you immediately think when your 20-year-old daughter makes a serious family announcement?
Susie and I looked at each other and then motioned for Emily to wait until we had swallowed what was left in our mouths, in case the news sent us into cardiac arrest. Emily waited for the moment. “Are you ready?” she asked?
Jim knew the film footage would be good. He was in perfect position, seated with a clear view of all the major players. This was going to be a YouTube sensation.
“OK”, we chimed together nervously, “What is it?”
“I’ve got a tattoo!”
Gold. This clip was definitely going viral. Jim adjusted the angle of his phone to fill the camera screen with our facial reactions. If he was quick, he might even be able to get the unedited footage online before his friends sat down for their own dinners.
We were trapped. We were in a room packed with people. And we were on film.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, the only word that either of us could manage was “Where?”
My mind raced. I was hoping the tattoo was located somewhere that could be hidden later if the novelty wore off before the ink. Please let it be somewhere that can be covered.
“On my wrist!” Emily said, “Here, take a look!”
Now, personally I’m not into tattoos, and will never get one. I know a lot of people who do have tattoos and depending on the person, and the size and the design that has been inked, the tattoo can suit them, their personality and their outlook on life; so in theory I have no objection to other people having tattoos. Some of them I actually really like. They are also easier to like when they are on someone else.
Emily had broadcast from her early teens that she was going to get one. At the time we were hoping that it was just a passing phase, or that she would at least wait until she was older and sensible enough to make a carefully considered decision. She did wait, and carefully designed her own artwork; and chose the moth as it symbolizes a lot in her life. Em’s world is all about design and fashion, and with her beautifully tapered hands and chunky rings and silver bracelets, the tattoo suits its surroundings. Moths are nocturnal, always striving to find the light, and represent optimism and achievement, with a desire to “spread one’s wings” to fly and be free.
I have to say that Jim was quite disappointed. Our reactions weren’t dramatic at all; no “out of body” experiences or seismic activity, nothing paparazzi worthy, no world war three, just a family sitting in a busy restaurant calmly examining a new tattoo, with two parents slightly hyperventilating. He stopped filming after he was confident that the moment had passed, and when the allure of the Pad Woon Sen stir fried noodles – that had just landed on the table – finally overtook his senses. He hadn’t noticed that I had just quickly drained half a tall glass of Asahi lager and was looking for a refill.
As an aside, last night we watched the latest episode of the reality show “Survivor” where one of the castaways had tattoos on her face, and where another contestant (who had tattoos all over his arms, legs, and back) complained in an interview about the other, saying “Who gets tattoos on their heads? What was she thinking!” The answer to that is “She was probably thinking the same thing as you, buddy, and you’ll probably finish up doing the same, when you run out of space in between your toes.” This departure from the story doesn’t really have any relevance other than to illustrate that everyone has their own perception of what extent is acceptable when irreversibly inking themselves. We don’t have a right to, but we’re hoping that Emily has satisfied her desire to get a tattoo and will leave it at that.
We like Em’s tattoo. We liked her bare wrist better beforehand, but now that it is done, we like the design and what it means to her. It is very much Emily.
So Em, now that you have your wings, and you have granted yourself permission to fly, don’t forget to wave as you flutter by!