By the time I poured myself onto her bar stool, I was well on my way to a very decent hangover. I had started drinking mojitos a couple of hours before at a different bar but then decided it was a good idea for a frozen drink that's the color of the Caribbean ocean on acid and has about three different kinds of rum in it.
"Nice tattoo," I say indicating the one on my arm. "What does it mean?"
She immediately places her right hand over it obscuring it from my view. "It's a private symbol." She gives a smug little smile, bats her eyelashes, flips her hair and walks away from me, effectively shutting down that conversation.
I am left sitting at the bar feeling like an asshole for trying to get all up in her private world. I take a sip of my frozen blue cocktail and scrape off some of the frost from the outside of the glass. And then I think:
Bitch, if you want to have a private fucking symbol tattooed on your body that you don't want to share with anyone else, then maybe you shouldn't have it on your left wrist where everyone in the world can see it. What don't you tattoo that bullshit right next to your labia so you can select who will get to look at it. You can tell your gynecologist it's none of her fucking business, but if you're a bartender and you are constantly handing people drinks, then maybe your wrist isn't the best place to put a private symbol. News flash: people can see your wrist, lady.
My tattoo is pretty personal too, but I don't feel the need to shut down when people ask me what it means. Mine is an arrow on my right forearm pointing to my hand.
I got it one year after one of my closest friends died of cancer. I knew him for over twenty years and I could always depend on him for anything, whether it be to make me laugh or if I needed him to listen to me whine about my lack of career. His answer was always the same: you just gotta keep on going, keep moving forward and don't look back. So, yeah, I got an arrow to remind me of him and his advice. When people ask me what's the arrow for, I either give them the whole story or a short version. Sometimes I tell people it's where the tip goes. What I never do is cover it up and claim it's private. If I didn't want people to see it, it would not be where it is.
So, to the bartender who has the private symbol tattoo for all the world to see but for none of the world to understand, I have this advice for you: lighten up or wear a long sleeve shirt, because as long as you have a cool looking tattoo living on your arm, people are naturally going to ask you what it means. I can understand that maybe you don't want to talk to people about it but then just say something like, "Oh it doesn't mean anything, it's just abstract. You want another drink on the house?" You don't need to make people feel stupid and embarrassed for wanting to know about it.
And speaking of embarrassed, I would like to apologize to that bartender for my slurred speech. Clearly, I had been drinking before I showed up to your bar and you probably shouldn't have even served my drunk ass. It is your responsibility to make sure your customers are not drinking too much so that we don't leave your bar too inebriated to make good decisions. And speaking of being too inebriated to make good decisions, I also have a tattoo on my leg of Jimminey Cricket. If you see it and ask me what it means, I will not cover it for privacy. I will proudly tell you, "Oh I got that when I was 21 and in San Diego and had too much to drink. It means I make bad decisions when I'm drunk."
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