OCD and Tattoos

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I like tattoos. I like the look of them on most everyone. I’m too old to appreciate the new counterculture that finds facial tattoos to be good looking, but I can even accept that to a certain point (I honestly don’t think much about it, that’s the “certain point.”) But pretty much every other style of tattoo I’m into.

Of course, some tattoos just aren’t well done, which is a technical issue. These are tattoos that I’d probably find attractive if they were done right. Not every tattoo artist is good at drawing, nor is every tattoo applied in a way that is crisp and clean.

I want a tattoo.

That is a loaded statement. With my OCD, deciding on what I want as even my first tattoo is a process that has my mind spinning to the point where a decision is going to take a little while to make.

That is a purposeful understatement. I took about a year to come up with the general idea of what I would like to start with for my first tattoo. I then told myself I’d sit on it and think about it to make sure that is really what I want. This is a process that would make sense for anyone, sure.

However, I’ve been sitting on my idea for just about twenty years now. Yes, I had the idea in 1999 and I am here in 2019 still making sure this is truly what I want.

So I am thinking right now about what is stopping me from going through with getting the tattoo.

For starters, it has nothing to do with the pain, or the process involved. I happen to want to start with a somewhat small tattoo, and I have a high pain threshold. And I am very patient. I quite literally, the other day, called some dental work taking place across my whole mouth “relaxing.”

Permanence is a major problem for me with my OCD. I need to be able to obsess over getting things right, and once the ink is under my skin—there is no more obsessing. Having a tattoo finished flies in the face of how I think about everything in my life.

I need everything to be liquid. I need everything to be able to be changed. By me. I do not generally like when others change things that have to do with my life. I need to be in control. And with a tattoo, I am in control—until I can’t change my mind anymore because of that damn permanence.

Yes, I am aware that tattoos can be touched up and even erased. However, this procedure would be quite unlike what I am used to in word processors, spreadsheets, databases, and code. Those I can tweak all the time, and I do. All the time. All the time. I mean all the time. Nothing is ever perfect, and as long as I created it and I am in control I am happy spinning my wheels going forward or going nowhere with tweaks.

One does not “tweak” a tattoo very easily.

Now, at the same time, I’ve finished large paintings that I am happy with. Most of my photography I am happy with and do not find myself in Photoshop editing again and again. (In fact, I come from the school of black and white photography that insists that almost all editing happens in the eye through the camera.)

So I can do that.

But, those pieces of my art can be put away or ignored if for some reason I do not like them in the future. This seldom happens, I either like something of mine or I do not once it’s grown on or away from me a few weeks after completion.

It is having that mechanism available to me that allows me to complete art. And me “completing” something is saying a lot.

The tattoo offers none of this. And thus with my OCD, I will most likely spend another decade sitting on the idea.

Oh, the idea. I want a drawing of a light bulb. On my upper arm.

However, now that I think about it… I haven’t decided if I want the light bulb on or off. I’m going to spend some time thinking about that.