The Many Combinations of Four Letter Words

The Many Combinations of Four Letter Words

Knuckle tattoos have their own history, place in pop culture, and societal stigma. I still want some.

Job stoppers. You know, those tattoos you get and just can’t cover up (without some elaborate fucking make-up skills), so your “professional viability” diminishes immediately upon getting them. The first tattoo I got is the opposite of a job stopper — a starfish tucked along my belly, and for a long time before and after getting it, I was convinced it would be my only ink. 

It didn’t take long for me to change my tune. I’ve always loved the way tattoos, even terrible tattoos, alter the plane of a person’s body. The more covered someone is, the more they seem like a superhero to me. Eventually, a collector’s skin fills up, either by adding more and more tattoos of all sizes, or by committing to a long relationship with a piece of art taking over their whole bod, and the result is just visually gorgeous to me. You can stop at your wrists and ankles and collar bone, but I do love when people just go beyond, into job stopper territory.

I’m not saying tattoos have an order of operations, per se, but they do for me, to some degree. I can’t imagine going onto my hands before my arms are filled, it’s just how I gotta approach it. Lunging right into hand or neck territory just feels like a leap, especially since my skin isn’t remotely filled up. But I want knuckle tattoos so fucking badly.

Knuckle tattoos have their own stigma, their own special place in pop culture. We’ve all seen that movie shot from Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, where Eddie grabs the handlebars of his motorcycle and revs the engine. “LOVE,” his right hand grips; “HATE,” his left hand reveals. Knuckle tattoos are supposed to be a sign of being a true degenerate, a motorcycle aficionado, a punk, a “bad” guy. I, personally, think they make people look, again, like super heroes.

It doesn’t even matter if the phrase inked into your fingers is super cheesy. It might be. It probably is. Maybe it’s even a joke. Regardless, I love it. And I want some of my own. I think it’s just a part of the usual “what would YOU get” game that even completely non-tattooed people do — what would your knuckles say? “Cool Dude”? “Nice Jerk”? “Fork You!”? The opportunities are endless, as long as you can figure out how to do what you’re doing in four-letter phrases or an eight-letter word. So, what do I want on my knuckles? “Cold Brew.” Oh, Katie, are you a barista? NO, NO, I’m not, random stranger, but I love coffee and also Brew has weird witchy connotations. So there, I’m a coffee loving, beer swilling, witch superhero now. What of it?

The good thing about having some strict ideas about tattoo order of operations is that even though I had this knuckle revelation months ago, I didn’t go right out and get it. I won’t until my arms and hands have run out of space. (I’m working on that.) But if years from now, I still want Cold Brew, I’m doing it. It’s cheesy and weird and people will constantly ask about it. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe I’ll be so filled up, they won’t even know where to start.

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