If you went to college, chances are you waited too long to do a paper or two (hundred). Maybe you even had to pull an all-nighter on occasion. But did you ever have to mutilate your body just to make the grade?
I was taking a feature writing class, which was ostensibly designed to teach us how to write for magazines. In reality, though, the professor spent most of his time telling us that we’d never get magazine jobs. In fact, he told us that we should just give up and go get English Literature degrees instead.
I wanted badly to impress this man. To prove to him that I was good enough to write for any publication I pleased, thankyouverymuch.
So when it came time to write an essay about a personal experience, I was stumped. As far as I could tell, nothing I’d done in my quiet little life would seem newsworthy to him.
I considered bungee jumping, skydiving…even hitchhiking to Canada. But none of those seemed right. I had less than 24 hours to go when inspiration finally struck.
Before I knew it, I was in my car, heading to an address in Pontiac. I told no one where I was going, what I was doing, or why.
I felt very rebellious.
Still, when I arrived at my destination and saw the long-haired, tatt-covered metalhead who manned the front desk, I almost turned tail and ran. But I pictured my blank computer screen, took a deep breath and walked in.
“Hi. I’d like to get a tattoo, please.”
He took in my fresh-faced, trying-for-grunge-and-failing exterior and raised an eyebrow.
“Really. Oooookay. What did you have in mind?”
I told him, and before long, I was trying not to hyperventilate as a stranger swabbed alcohol on my back. Then he put a cool hand on my shoulder and said, “You ready?”
I nodded silently, not trusting my voice.
“Okay, just raise your hand if you need a break.” And he fired up the tattoo gun.
At first it wasn’t too bad. Just a mild pinching. Then my nerve endings realized what was going on. Suddenly, it felt as if an army angry bees had landed on my back hell-bent on revenge. It was all I could do to keep from hollering, “stop!”
But I pictured my empty computer screen and stayed quiet.
After an eternity (or, you know, 20 minutes), it was over. Winnie the Pooh had taken up residence on my back.
Back home, I fired off what I thought was a genius essay in the wee hours of the morning. One worthy of Rolling Stone—or at least an A.
Instead, I got a B minus. He said it didn’t feel authentic. Asshole.
But, oh well. It was the 90s. It could have been worse. At least I didn’t get a tramp stamp.