hey philadelphia!

i arrive tomorrow & will be around for eight weeks! i will be living in south philly & if you want to hang out, you should let me know. i am into coffee, going out for food, sitting around & chatting, or maybe possibly having you over for food. i cook meat, just for the record. & sometimes meatless lasagna that is full of cheese. in other words, if you are vegan & you want to hang, we should probably go out somewhere.

while i am in philly i hope to mainly just max & relax & spend some quality time with amanda. maybe see if there are good zines worth buying at the wooden shoe. re-acquaint myself with city living. if i feel ambitious, i’ll try to wrap up the first draft of my novel. i may need to do research in the form of talking to people who have a) done fiber arts, b) broken their arms, & c) accidentally set something big on fire (purposefully would work too, i guess, but i hope none of my friends are arsonists).

i will probably go to new york city a couple of times too, to see jared, so if you are a new york friend, maybe we can hang. jared will be living in harlem, i think, but i can travel.

i hear there is an auction of cat art this weekend to raise money for a cat rescue shelter. cat art is one of my all-time favorite things, so we might go (jared will still be in town then).

oh, also. i know there are a few people in philly with whom i have issues & drama. if i am talking about you, just please pretend like you don’t recognize me if you see me out & about, & i will do the same. do you really want to fight with me any more than you already have? didn’t you feel kind of embarrassed afterward? let’s just leave it at that.

tonight i am making chicken rolled in cheddar cheese & bread crumbs for dinner, & then jared, ailecia, & i are going out for ice cream. i am going to get a hot fudge sundae, although i kind of want a hot fudge sundae & a chocolate malt. i’ll resist the urge to be a glutton though. i can have a chocolate malt in philly. jared just got home from paying me for rent all summer & returning the last library book i read, the art of eating in, which surprised me with unexpected references to anarchist time & the what cheer! brigade. i expected another localvore foodie gimmick book, like a homemade life, or worse yet, plenty (still one of the most obnoxious books i’ve ever read), but i was pleasantly surprised. tonight we go to bed early, & tomorrow, off to the airport!

on a totally unrelated not, now that the weather is getting downright hot & i am dressing for the summertime, i am finding myself wearing a lot of outfits that put a lot of my tattoos on display. i’m wearing lots of shorts, so people can see the tattoos on my ankles & leg, sleeveless tops, so all my arm tattoos are out in the open, & i have also gotten into really deep scoop-neck shirts & off-the-shoulder shirts, which means my shoulder tattoos are right there for the world to enjoy. i also wear my hair in a bun when it’s hot out, so the tattoos on the back of my neck are unobscured. i haven’t had any of the usual obnoxious interactions so far. no one has tried to grab me or anything. a few people have commented, but they were people i already knew to some extent or another, so i didn’t care. i have seen other people, who i don’t know, openly stare or gawk, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it did when i was younger. i think i felt a lot more defensive about a lot of things when i was younger, & now i’m like…eh, if people want to gawk, it’s not like they’re hurting me. i don’t care.

but one thing i have been thinking about, especially since january when i got my pterodactyl tattoos, is tattoo quality. the other night, a guy i know was drunkenly getting in my face about how the midwest is so much more awesome than the east coast. because, as far as people in kansas are concerned, i am from boston & am a dreaded east coast elitist. i showed him the ohio tattoo on the back of my left arm & explained i can have it both ways, because i grew up in ohio & am “from” boston, in terms of spending most of my adult life to date there. he spent a long time examining my tattoo, & i felt like he didn’t think it was any good. it’s a drawing by cindy ovenrack, who writes the zine “doris”. people familiar with her zines are familiar with her drawing style, which is cartoon-ish & not at all detailed. one step up from stick figures, basically, but i love her drawings (as do a lot of other people–i know several other people who have tattoos of her drawings). mine is just the drawing–i didn’t augment it at all with color or shading or try to turn it into anything it’s not. it’s the ohio drawing from “doris” #24, with four little people standing inside the state outline. i changed the hair & clothes on the people a little bit to make them look like my four best friends (jared, amanda colianni, nicole, & jessika rae). that’s it. a traveling hobo punk with a professional tattoo gun did it for me in my kitchen. it’s one of the best tattoos i have because it is exactly what i wanted, even though it doesn’t look like much. but when people who aren’t familiar with “doris” look at it, i feel like they feel sorry for me because they think the artist must have botched the design for it to look so cartoon-ish & simplistic. it’s always an awkward moment.

most of my tattoos actually are objectively terrible. they’re either bad designs or bad execution. i drew some of them myself & i am no artist. i sketched out the font for my knuckle tattoos & it’s really ugly. some of the worst knuckle tattoos i have ever seen, design-wise. my pippi longstocking tattoo is beautiful in ever respect except that the tattoo artist colored her hair orange instead of red & i never bothered fixing it. several of my tattoos are stick & pokes, including the huge anarchy heart on my chest. it’s an obvious stick & poke job, with shitty proportions, & it’s so huge, there’s not really much i can do to fix it.

i didn’t pay much for any of my tattoos except for the pterodactyls. i never once researched artists. the pterodactyls were the first time i ever worked with an artist to create the tattoo design, instead of just rolling in with something drawn or photocopied. for years, i got tattoos within a couple of days, or even a couple of hours, of thinking them up. i’m not sure how many tattoos i have at this point–maybe nineteen? & probably 90% of them are objectively shitty.

so…who gives a fuck? it’s weird for me to read impassioned defenses of tattoo autonomy or tattooed women such as myself that include little sidebars about how most people’s tattoos suck, because they’re flash off the wall (something i have never done) or poorly-designed or poorly-executed. yes, most of my tattoos suck. but i don’t care–why should anyone else? a tattoos idea is almost always better than the way a tattoo is executed–or at least, the ideas the tattoos represent mean a lot more to me than how skillfully they are executed or how well they are designed. i even have a lot of tattoos that represent ideas that are totally not anything i believe in anymore, but…i’m stuck with the tattoo, so it’s a constant reminder of the fact that we grow up & we change our ideas. i’m not always overwhelmed with joy that i have permanent reminders of various moments in my life when i was a fucking wingnut, but it is what it is.

i think snobby tattoo advice is objectively good advice. yes, you will probably walk away with better, more impressive art if you research artists & work with them to create a design you like, which they can execute well. it’s worth saving your pennies until you can afford a talented artist. maybe that means you have to wait more than three days before getting the awesome tattoo you thought of last night. but even while i recognize the value of this advice, it’s not something i have ever done (the excellent work of the artist that did the pterodactyls was a fluke–as always, i just went to the first tattoo shop i stumbled across, & happened to not mind waiting a few weeks for the appointment because i was going out of town for the holidays anyway), & it’s probably not something i ever will do for any of my future tattoos. i mean, now that i’ve already had one great tattoo experience with a local artist, i’ll probably try to go back to him for future work while i am in lawrence. but if he’s not available, i know i’ll just go to whoever can schedule me first.

at the end of the day, tattoos are pretty meaningless. which is to say, maybe they mean something to the person that is getting them, but there aren’t many people under the age of fifty that don’t have at least one. so getting tattoos to be cool or to fit into a sub-cultural milieu is a big waste of energy & money. i no longer notice other people’s tattoos, & i don’t notice people noticing mine, for the most part, unless they are being really obvious. i don’t dress to show off my tattoos, & i don’t dress to hide them. talking with people about what their tattoos mean or what mine mean to me is a good way to make me fall asleep. i just don’t care about the various ways other people express themselves through body art, & i don’t want to talk about myself that way. amanda has been talking about getting a tattoo that matches one of mine (a heart with an empty banner–well-executed, but very simplistic in design) in philly, & jared & i have agreed to get memorial tattoos for charlotte whenever she dies (it will be charlotte dressed like president taft, stuck in a bathtub). i’ll probably get some other goofy shit as time goes by. i’m thinking about getting the villa villekula on my right leg to match my pippi tattoo, & maybe another set of knuckle tattoos. i’ve been thinking about getting a hideously ugly armband on my right arm covered with a big wrap-around kraken brandishing a letter in a bottle.

but i don’t care if someone’s tattoos are impressive or ugly or what they mean. i don’t even care anymore if you’re a white dude who got the word “chair” written on your back in chinese because you thought it meant “actor” (true thing that happened to a dude i knew a long time ago). yes, it’s culturally appropriative. if a friend had such a tattoo, i would probably give them shit until they acknowledged it was culturally appropriative. but whatever. we all have shitty tattoos, or some other dumbass mistake we made that we just have to live with. who cares?

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

7 thoughts on “hey philadelphia!

  1. I used to be really into judging people’s tattoos because I have mostly objectively nice ones, then I realized it was just another form of obnoxious appearance policing. If folks are happy with ’em, why be an ass about it? Also, I think when people defend, say, ladies with tattoos except for THOSE LADIES with lower-back butterfly tattoos or whatever, there’s a classist element at work as well. There’s one well-known blog lady who writes a lot about body art and she spends a lot of time talking shit about women she thinks have “trashy” tattoos, which seems to be part and parcel of her trying to disconnect tattooing from its lower-class roots and reimagining it as high fashion. Blech.

    I also have been judged for my tattoo quality, though it was kind of in the opposite manner (which I don’t imagine happens much outside of hippiefied social bubbles, but anyway). When I lived in Asheville, someone asked me how much I paid for my tattoos, then told me it was too much, the artists obviously ripped me off, I was a capitalist dupe for not being OK with hand-done tattoos on me, blah blah etc. Yet another reason why I sometimes am glad I no longer run in the wingnut social circles of my younger days.

    Also, your idea for a Charlotte memorial tattoo is amazing. I LOL’d forever.

    1. my philosophy is that it’s just really not cool to ask someone how much their tattoos cost (unless you are planning a tattoo of a similar size/detail & are curious about how much it’s going to cost) because i think it’s uncouth to really talk/ask about how much anything costs. i just think it’s tacky to talk about how expensive something was, or to judge someone for how much money they spend & on what (whether it’s too much or not enough). but i have found that most people don’t necessarily share this perspective.

      i feel like most of my tattoos suck because when i was first getting into getting tattooed, i was pretty much flying solo. i didn’t have any tattooed mentors around to clue me in to scouting artists or how to design something that will actually look good. i think tattoos have gotten a lot more socially acceptable since i first started getting tattooed (not that it was SO LONG AGO, but you know, it was like 1995 or something–a lot of people were getting tattoos then thanks to grunge, but it was still kind of an unusual thing, especially in a relatively small town in ohio), so there is a lot more information ready available, & i think also tattoos have become more of a socially-acceptable art form since i started getting mine. having really gorgeous body art was never a motivation for me to get tattoos, but i think that’s a big reason why people do it now. that’s cool. it’s just a different strokes for different folks situation & it bugs me to be judged according to someone else’s standards & motivations.

      i am a tiny bit reluctant to get all up on my classism high horse to decry people who judge “trashy” tattoos on ladies, just because tattoos still cost money at the end of the day, they are still a choice, & a seriously disenfranchised person doesn’t really have the money to get a tattoo of two dolphins swimming around a yin yang on their belly button. i would say it’s more a weird kind of class-based judgment that is entwined with feminine expectations, & that tattooed women seem “cheap” or “trashy” or “low-class” to certain segments of the population, & those judgments are made even in tattoo-friendly circles when it comes to certain tattoos & certain women, & that it mostly comes from the fact that people–even other women–continue to feel totally justified in policing & judging the bodies of women. & i think it really sucks. i have hulked out before at people for using the phrase “tramp stamp,” which i hate hate hate. it’s gross sexist body hate tied up in problematic expectations of gender performance.


  2. the charlotte memorial tattoo is one of the best memorial tattoos i have ever, ever, EVER heard. i only hope i can memorialize my beloved cats in such an awesome way.

  3. I’m at the City Kitties art auction right now. I don’t see anyone who I think could be you though.

    1. we ended up skipping it because jared’s friend bart came into town & we pretty much just wanted to hang out with him. west philly isn’t the most convenient place to hang out when you are living in south philly. oh well.

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