I'm a Nice Jewish Girl With a Big Bad Tattoo

JD Salinger- for the Grateful Web

Time to stifle your shrieks and open your minds, dear readers, for you will find that this is a story outside of the parameters of Judaism.  A story not about desecrating The Body, but one of adorning it, rewarding it.  It is about a little needle and a whole lot of Bacitracin.  You've read the title; you know what I'm talking about.I was not raised in a home particularly concerned with religion.  Channukah was just like any other week and cheeseburgers weren't outlawed due to kashrut but for cholesterol content. In fact, it was barely a week ago that I even learned the word kashrut. But branding my body was taboo nonetheless, because, simply put, my mother "said so, that's why."  She said, "it's classless, Jennifer, and gratuitous and dangerous.  Nice Jewish girls just don't do it."  And so I nodded and asked her to pass the pork. But funny things happen to a body in college and mine began doing the things it wanted, because it wanted, and started raising its eyebrow at rules that had previously been left unquestioned.  It was then that I stumbled upon  Seymour:  An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger.  Perhaps you've read it.  If not, perhaps you should.  I won't reprint any parts or pieces due to potential copyright infringement (although if it meant meeting Salinger, off to court in shackles I would happily go!), but you must trust that the work touched me in a way I could hardly articulate.  It made my very limbs tingle and in closing the pages, I missed it like a friend who had moved far away.  And I wanted to carry it with me always. So......When I got to the tattoo parlor, I was doubtless.  My calls had been placed to the AIDS hotline for reassurance and I had a Hershey bar on hand for emergency endorphins.  I had also reread my beloved Seymour before leaving, so the epiphany was sitting fresh on my shoulders as I headed toward the needle.  Hardly a flinch later, I left...calm...with a small red bicycle painted daintily on my body.  I had a symbol of Seymour, literally, at my hip.In the past seven years since I had myself illustrated, I've confessed to mother and added a second tattoo to my shoulder blade Life is Elsewhere, by Milan Kundera....ah, our poor, doomed Jaromil).  I have also had to do a lot of explaining to friends, family, and numerous passersby who have happened to spy me in a tank top.  They wonder why I would hurt myself like that; they remind me that nice Jewish girls shouldn't spoil their skin.  What they don't understand is that by being tattooed, I was simply adopting as part of my body beautiful pictures, images that I hold dear.  It is not desecration, it is decoration, celebration.  It's putting a gold foil crown on the birthday girl's head.  And I don't believe anyone's god could find that wrong.  I know that mine finds it pretty.

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