Several years ago – in Essex, at a family party in a Mexican restaurant where, after you’d eaten, you were serenaded with an off-key version of Isn’t she Lovely, sung by a Stevie Wonder impersonator in a Rasta wig – I noticed my cousin had, on her shoulder, a small black inking. It was new. It was, roughly, two inches square. It had the same basic shape-form as the characters you see on menus at Chinese takeaways.
‘Oh,’ I said to her (I’d had a few glasses of wine and I was having regular sex during this period of my life, so I cannot guarantee I said it without an undertone of smug condescension), ‘You’ve had a tattoo.’
She looked at her shoulder, and, sensing danger, back at me with the hard, psychopath stare she has perfected for occasions when confrontation is imminent.
‘What does it say?’
‘Why Kung Fu?’
She shrugged. And then said, in a tone of voice that indicated more questions would not be welcome, ‘Because I liked it.’
A few weeks later, my boyfriend of the moment came home, proudly peeling back his shirt sleeves to reveal upper arms scarred with a lurid, terrifying set of crudely drawn pictures. Pictures that looked as though they were from those temporary tattoo transfer kits you get free with kids comics. Soon after, he started behaving like a total wanker.
My experiences suggest that tattoos are an externalisation of damage that should, on the whole, remain bottled up until one can afford to exercise it with therapy.
I am not a fan.
I certainly do not wish to permanently ink an image onto my silken skin, with a needle. This is mainly because I am very satisfied with my naked body. There’s not a Chinese character nor a whimsical sketch of a busty mermaid that would improve it. And, although I know the same can’t be said for women everywhere – and although I firmly believe that one’s own body is one’s own business – I do have questions about the self-esteem and sanity of any person who voluntarily scars themselves with a picture, or a phrase translated into a script they can’t understand, or, worst of all, an ‘inspirational’ quotation they have read on the internet, pasted over a photograph of old people laughing at sunset.
But, last Thursday, during a trip to the cinema – where I watched Jake Gyllenhaal pretending to be a twitchy detective who solved horrifying crimes, very slowly – I realised an alarming thing, a thing that runs contrary to every life lesson I have learned thus far. Neck tattoos are well sexy.
I see a man with a neck tattoo and an instinctive flame alights in my libido. By which I mean: I want to lick them. I want to lick their delicious, veiny necks and then their torsos and I want to have them lick mine in a sensual, tender way that the word ‘lick’ does not fully encapsulate.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about lust, however, it is this: I should never trust my instincts.
Entering into a sexual romance with somebody who has a tattoo on what should, by rights, remain an anonymous plinth for the face is unwise. Good things – by which I mean kindness, stability and fat likkle babies who won’t grow up to develop compulsive hoarding tendencies – are not likely to result from sex with a person who has a neck tattoo.
I know this and yet in my brain there is a screenshot of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prisoners neck and, over the top of it, the instruction: LICK.
It is most perplexing. You would think logic would be able to take on this kind of primal response to ostentatious displays of unhinged masculinity and win. You would think evolution would have intervened and shut down the libidos of women whose tastes are so questionable.
No such luck.
I am going to have to step in and stop this shit on evolution’s behalf. My animal desires cannot be allowed to continue, unchallenged. Thus I will chain myself to the sofa and watch back to back episodes of Pointless until such a time as I can be trusted to enter the world of functioning sexual adults again. It is the only option.
*Image from eonline.com. If you own it and want me to remove it I will. I won’t give you money though. I haven’t got any.