Dear Harry Potter Tattoo I No Longer Plan to Get,
Didn’t we almost have it all.
You were meant to be tiny but I had big plans for you: featured player in at least a dozen Instagram stories within week 1; avoiding for as long as possible the phone call to my dad where I’d retract 18-year-old Cristin’s promise to Never Get Another One; a life lived on my left forearm a respectful distance away from my (existing) Shel Silverstein tattoo. I can picture it perfectly even though I can’t picture you; I never decided between the stylized minimalist snitch, the classic lightning bolt scar/ glasses combo, the deathly hallows, the sorting hat, or any still-unmasked dark horse contestant that had yet to grace my Pinterest feed. I should thank my design indecision for your absence–I wavered right up to the pandemic quarantine, where I couldn’t have gotten a tattoo if I wanted it, even if I had decided on a design, even if J.K. Rowling hadn’t imploded, forfeiting her place on a ton of readers’ mental bookshelf of heroes and teaching me that permanent icon status doesn’t exist, at least not outside of Joan Didion. We can all still agree on Joan Didion, thank god. Somehow I still don’t see Later I Forgot or You Sit Down To Dinner and Life As You Know It Ends quote art taking over for Always or I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good on anyone’s tattoo power rankings any time soon.
We can likely expect a tattoo baby boom post-pandemic, both from all of the tattoos not gotten in quarantine (I still can’t believe that the women of this world were asked to deal with RBG’s death without immediate and abundant access to dissent collar tattoos) plus all the mulling-over time we’ve all had at home. There was newfound free time to devote to things like tattoo selection, and things like tattoo selection to allow us to think about permanence, if it even exists, without looking at the concept head-on and punching a one-way ticket to an existential crisis. After a year in a world that bares absolutely no resemblance to its predecessor, the one we thought was indelible and enduring and were categorically wrong about, I can’t think about permanence without feeling like I’m staring into the sun or holding my hand too close to the stove. I can only look at permanence sideways, through philosophical scrims like body art and Sharpies and bad credit histories.
I’m still working through my feelings on Rowling, hoping to talk myself into believing that the books are each of ours as much as they are hers, which would allow me to keep a pensieve’s worth of happy memories and associations that would be a fantastic consolation prize for Tattoos Never Gotten like yourself. Maybe there are places I can go for help, support groups filled with people who still have framed Woody Allen movie posters and who like the Weinstein seasons of Project Runway better than the recent iterations. Maybe in these groups I’ll come to grips with having lost something that I wanted to stay a permanent part of me, something much bigger than just the idea of a someday tattoo.
There’s no sign of you on me, and there won’t be, but I’m left with plenty of Potter inked on my insides, in my personal permanent collection. I’m also left with a vacancy in the spot you surrendered. Tell Frog & Toad they’ll be hearing from me.
Take care, and I’m sure I’ll see you on a BuzzFeed list soon.