Anna Cuzzolin. Is there anything more romantic than when a guy tattoos the name of his lover on his arm? I guess it depends who you ask. Flowers, chocolates and jewelry are romantic gifts, but we men are almost obliged to give these gifts to our girlfriends and wives. We only need money, and ten minutes to shop. On the contrary, to willingly tolerate the discomfort of getting a tattoo, and to live with the permanence of it, is a decision which wreaks of commitment and sacrifice to your lover. I suspect the gift of getting a tattoo can be both sexy and romantic.
I contacted Photographer Anna Cuzzolin, and one of the most important tattoo artist in our area, Guido Cinquilli, to help me explore this idea of “Tattoo as a Gift”. Small tattoos on a woman’s body arouse my curiosity, make me consider her in a particular way. Not that she is cheap or low brow, as was the impression that tattoos gave to the general public when I was a kid. Only sailors, convicts, and gang members bore tattoos back then.
Small “tats” strike me as private and sexy. Large ones as statements of some significant self identification. In every instance a tattoo is uncomfortable to get, and it is a long lasting record and declaration of a commitment to something, even if that “something” is a person’s superficial need to get a tattoo merely because all his friends have one.
I got a tattoo in February of 1985 after a week of nonstop debauchery during Mardi Gras in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. In Italy we celebrate Carnevale as a sort of children’s costume party. In New Orleans it is a month long event of shared insanity sponsored by dozens of Mardi Gras clubs. Everyone submits to the irresistible allure of “Fat Tuesday”. I decided to get a tattoo to remind me of some hard learned lessons after my first and only Mardi Gras. I got a small Chinese symbol that I thought meant “to be gentle” but instead turned out to mean “Nature”. The lesson? Be careful what you write on your body.
Even though tattoos have become almost commonplace on the bodies of adults less than thirty five years of age, they still communicate a strong sense of rebellion. Nothing says “I’m a rebel” more than a tattoo except for perhaps, a piercing, but even that can be removed as the occasion dictates. Radically colored died hair can be cut off or even re-died, and funky clothes can be changed out of. Irrespective of its transformation into the mainstream of modern culture “The tattoo” is still king of the rebels. But can it be a gift too?
Although I am in my fifties and feel no particular need to rebel anymore, I am considering to surprise my wife with a tattoo bearing her name as a St Valentine’s day gift to her. In the impressive cleanliness of his tattoo parlor in Trestina, Guido Cinquilli and his sister Gloria explain the point of view of their cliental: “They inscribe themselves with the names of their dear ones. Lovers do it often, and even close friends. It is quite common that new parents write their baby’s name on their bodies”.
This reassures me because I am having visions of “Angelina” and “Winona Forever”, which remind me of the failed relationships certain Hollywood stars memorialized on their bodies. OK. A tattoo can’t turn an infatuation into true love. But it might be helpful in refreshing a relationship during a stale period, or one of the lulls life invariably presents us. It is far more economical than a re-commitment ceremony.
Most guys like giving gifts with dual value. A new washing machine that makes her life easier and his clothes clean. A new set of cutlery, or expensive pots and pans which fill his tummy with food. It is our way to be efficient, but it is not at all romantic, and instead, very likely to result in a fight. So no efficiency allowed guys. The purpose of a Valentine’s Day gift is to show appreciation in a romantic way.A tattoo doesn’t necessarily fall in to this category unless you find that the rebelliousness of it is sexy, that the long term commitment of it is romantic, and that the discomfort of applying it demonstrates passion.
Marriage (commitment) should not be a ball and chain. Men and women need to be fulfilled as individuals, and as a couple. Romantic gifts help to do this. Yet long after the roses have wilted and the chocolate has been eaten, my wife will be able to run her finger over my tattoo, and trace the letters of her name. This tattoo, if I get it, may help us keep the love, and the fun, in our marriage. That is a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for her (and I benefit from it too!).