(Un)tattooed Nation

Making my way down the street I can feel the stares. Both men and women pass by me, inching closer to get a gander at the colorful design on my shoulder. I can feel their breath as they pass and hear faint French whispering, either praise, surprise or disapproval. What’s worse for those who hate tattoos and look back in disgust is the backfull I have waiting for them.

Tattoos aren’t as big in Perpignan as I had hoped. Oh how I wanted to fit in — or at least get by the stranger on the street without them knowing I was a foreigner. The colorful, permanent pictures I’ve collected on my skin over the years ruin that within a few seconds of people seeing me.

Walking by the occasional tattoo and piercing shop while here, I’m always amazed at the lack of action. There is no blaring music attempting to cover the piercing, stinging noise of the needle in work as I walk by. No tattoo artists stand outside sharing a smoke with friends who have come by to hang at the shop. Nothing. I’ve barely even seen tattoos on people while I’ve been in Perpignan and especially not on women. Piercings yes, tattoos no.

Tattoos for me have been my way of remembering. I’ve taken the scrapbook to a whole new level by using my body to mark significant periods in my life and friends who have passed. I’m sure it doesn’t translate like that on the street though.

Does Perpignan think tattoos are unladylike? Has the culture not spread to France as much as it has in the United States? Or is it that they don’t think it’s a good idea to drag a needle across your skin while depositing ink that is potentially permanent?

No matter what Perpignan says with its stares and whispers, gawks and grabs, I love my tattoos and have no plans of stopping the treasure hunt of collecting memories on my skin.