I’ve never had any interest in getting a tattoo. But strangely, in this confluence of time, place and circumstance, it seems oddly right to have someone I’ve never met draw painful and permanent marks on my body. Go figure. There’s something extremely meaningful to me about the month-long passage we’ve just completed; it represents a significant overcoming. After years of struggling to free ourselves from the cultural gravity of our lives in the US, it’s as if we’ve finally burst through and cleared the atmosphere to reach a certain orbit. The fact that we worked together as a team to reach our goal, and that we completed the passage despite having to turn back to Mexico once makes it even more special. This is a rite of passage.
Polynesian designs have always intrigued me, the graceful yet primitive symbols represent clear concepts and are arranged to tell a story as much as to create a beautiful design. While it’s unclear where tattooing was originally developed, it has certainly been a significant part of Polynesian culture for thousands of years, as it is today. All through French Polynesia having a tattoo is not counter-culture, but culture. Nearly everyone here wears a tattoo. It’s a way of celebrating one’s life and family as well as an individual expression.
After studying the meanings of various design elements and seeing some work done by a local artist named Moana, we take the big step and make an appointment. Tuesday is tattoo day. We’re all psyched up (it takes some oomph to overcome the fear) and come at the appointed hour to find out what they mean by “island time.” The island time translation for “Tuesday at 10am” is actually Wednesday at around 1pm, with several hours of standby time in between. That’s OK, we can do island time. At the end of the day (Wednesday) we have authentic Polynesian tattoos. Karen’s wraps around her ankle. Mine is a Polynesian band around my upper arm. I’m here to tell you the soft skin on the inner arm is pretty darned sensitive! In traditional fashion, the design elements tell a detailed story about this time in our lives, our passage, the courage and determination it took to get here and the fact that we did it together. It is intensely personal and I’ll wear mine proudly for the rest of my life.