Mar 22, 2010

I Always Said I Would Never Get A Tattoo

A friend of mine was standing in the cashier's line of a hardware store a few weeks ago when he noticed something odd. The gentleman wearing a white tank-top undershirt standing in line in front of him had a tattoo on the upper part of his right arm - a cartoon-like depiction of a penis and testicles, with wings. I am not making this up.* I have seen photographic evidence. I won't show the photograph here, for fear that Mr. Dick and Balls (D&B) might track down and shoot my friend upon discovering that he was secretly photographed.** For context, here is a hand-drawn reproduction of the tattoo:

As you can see, the dick and balls are connected, so I think it’s safe to assume that they both belong to the same set of genitals. I also assume that the dick and balls depicted in the tattoo belong to the tattooed gentleman and that the tattoo is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the actual appearance of his dick and balls. Granted, this is pure speculation on my part.

However, as a general rule, I try to avoid rushing to judgment about things like this. With that in mind, I have to admit that it’s entirely possible that the tattoo has a loftier, more artistic purpose than simply showing the world what D&B’s genitals look like. Perhaps it’s even possible that D&B was trying to teach us a lesson that requires a more rigorous and thorough analysis of the tattoo’s meaning.

After all, this isn’t an ordinary set of dick and balls we’re talking about. On the contrary, this set has wings.*** What do the wings represent? Of course, the obvious metaphor is that the wings are angel's wings and the dick and balls are ascending to Heaven or, at least, will one day ascend to Heaven after being favorably judged by their maker (God, not the tattoo artist). In other words: D&B has a heavenly / great set of dick and balls. But I don’t think that this is what D&B had in mind. Anyone with the good judgment and foresight to have a dick and balls tattooed on his arm isn’t going to leap at the first metaphor that comes to mind. Obviously, D&B wants us to dig a little deeper.

For instance, many people associate birds and flight with freedom. It’s certainly possible that D&B, being a lover of freedom and America, is making a subtle statement about freedom’s true nature. Much like Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt in the movie Easy Rider, D&B seems disillusioned with what we as a society have come to accept as freedom, a concept which D&B finds to be in stark contrast with his own. In this regard, D&B will always feel disconnected from his contemporaries, perpetually seeking what he cannot find: true freedom.

Or the tattoo could represent a mixed metaphor. Maybe D&B wants us as Westerners to question our widely shared cultural value that Earthly freedom is the ultimate state of human existence. The winged dick and balls remind us of the Buddhist concept of annica: nothing on Earth is fixed or permanent and nothing that belongs to the Earth can ever be free. D&B shows us that the only freedom we can ever attain as humans is through an elevated state of consciousness.

Or perhaps D&B’s quarrel is not with our concept of freedom but rather with the sexual mores imposed upon all of us beginning in childhood. With his depiction of flying genitals, D&B seeks liberation, not of his mind, but of his sexual being. After all, who are we to restrain D&B (or anyone, for that matter) with our culture’s Puritanical, outdated views on sexuality?

Needless to say, the potential layers of meaning in the tattoo are almost infinite. Do I have my own opinion about what the tattoo means? I will only say that I cannot in good conscience rob any of my readers of their own individual experience with the winged set of dick and balls tattoo by imposing my interpretation on them. I just wouldn't be able to live with myself (like if I had a tattoo of a winged set of dick and balls on my arm).

**I think it’s safe to assume that D&B owns a gun, not that there’s anything wrong with that per se. Also, maybe I’m being paranoid but I wouldn’t put anything past a guy who had a dick and balls tattooed on himself, including tracking someone down and killing him. My concern is heightened here by the fact that D&B intentionally walks around in a Wife Beater in order to show off the tattoo.
***While it may be easy to criticize the tattoo for this fact alone, we would do well to remind ourselves that many great artistic creations require suspension of disbelief.