There’s a guy named Eric Sprague, age 37, whom you’re not likely – thankfully – to meet up with in a bar, restaurant, or church.
To begin with he’s straight. (Don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are straight – and act it.)
Secondly, Eric’s, well, just a trifle on the weird side.
Eric has ten half-inch bumps implanted in his forehead. His face and arms are tattooed with green reptilian scales. His teeth are filed to sharp points, and his tongue is surgically split. He speaks with forked tongue!
To achieve this zooplasty Eric spent 600 hours under a tattooist’s needle. (Oh, the heavenly agony!) He also has had a tail grafted on to his coccyx. (Please note spelling carefully.) Eric’s the kinda guy who gives gila monsters a bad name.
His girlfriend, in the cause of aesthetic bestiality, had her body tattooed from top to bottom with urban legends. (Including a “scar” where her kidney was “stolen” while she snoozed while being permanently designer decorated for the betterment of sociological and embalming enrichment.)
Fastidious lot my PG readers are, I thought it might be well to let each of the six of you know that Eric has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Albany, N.Y. (I wonder if John Corvino might be interested to debate him. Subject: “Creation Science. Has it a place in the classroom?”)
I confess I have a tattoo fetish. Icing on the cake, as it were. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s not flattered by questions about his or her own epidermal artistry and the degree of masochism necessary to acquire it. (While I’ve never offered my flesh for embroidery, my own artwork owes much to the influence of tattoos.)
Each year at Motor City Pride I look closely at tattoos sported by gay men and lesbians. My notes show that Celtic arm and leg banding are popular; and fashionable spots are neck base and the small of the back. Elaborate designs are mostly on shoulders and upper arms. Among womyn the labrys design is chic.
I’ll wager that most gay men are reluctant to tattoo their face and mar the smooth, glistening, gleaming, radiant, exhilarating – my untattooed heart be still! – look of a torso at its peek, er, peak. (I knew a male escort who had a tear tattooed on his cheek. Said his ministerial clients loved it.)
The gay side of tattooing goes back centuries. Among the ancient Greeks, tattoos were often part of an initiation for same-sex lovers. In the 17th century, Japanese samurai warrior “partners” wore identical markings and cut each other’s right arm to mingle blood.
In the 19th century, French whores had their bellies tattooed with their lesbian lover’s name. It was also about this same time that tattooing became declasse in Victorian England and the United States.
Until the 1960s Hippie Movement the only persons who submitted to tattooing – usually crudely drawn girlie-girlie pinups or MOM identifications – were criminals, drunken sailors, freak show headliners, carnies, hustlers and those suffering from what psychoanalysts then called an “identity crisis.” (Namely, your basic straight male – with latent homosexual tendencies.)
Unrelated to tattooing, but nonetheless a story with a decorative theme, is my favorite about Truman Capote, who met up in a disco club men’s room with a burly number who had had perhaps a little too much to drink.
Standing away from the urinal Mr. Butchly B. Brawn turned to little Truman Capote and said quite loudly for those in the stalls to hear, “Hey! Mr. Capote. Come on over here and autograph this!!!”
Said Truman without missing a beat. “Would it be all right with you if I just initialed it?”