Needle and the damage done

“Ain’t Tat Something” by Julie at The Corner with a View
Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
“Needle and the damage done” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

How appropriate that we review a topic like tattoos after one of the most shirtless days of the year!

In April, I made a little comment about the calf tattoos (calftoos or calftats, if you will) I saw when running in my first anything-K race. I took a dip in my gym’s pool yesterday, taking a look around at the surplus of Americans celebrating America’s day.

Then I started calculating how much all of that ink was worth.

A friend once showed me his three inch ankle tattoo and told me it cost him almost $200. It costs at least $60 for the tattoo artist to touch the needle to your skin. You better know what you want because not only are you paying a hefty amount upfront, but you’re generally stuck with it. No pun intended, but pun emphasized.

Let’s get out of my penny-pincher mind; what are the teachings and why?

Many Protestant theologians teach that the Bible forbids it, often citing this: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:28).
If these preachers stick to this (look, another pun), then I assume they also don’t wear blended fabrics. Leviticus is certainly an important part of the Bible, but we need to be careful not to pick and parcel out what we want to believe from what we don’t want to believe. That’s how the Protestant churches lost sight of the true teaching of the Eucharist.
So what does the Catholic Church teach? The consensus among Catholic biblical scholars is that this teaching on tattoos is not part of the unchanging moral law.Cite 
Like many parts of the Catholic Church’s teachings, they leave it up to the church members (you and me) to discern. The Church teaches that it is not in opposition of the Bible to tattoo oneself, but they offer sound principles explaining why, in some situations, it is sinful to be tattooed.
Sinful? Now, no one wants to hear that! Do you know how much I paid for this?! It’s a picture of my dog playing a keytar, get a grip, Church!
A lot of pain for no gain. Gross.

Calm down for a second. For example, if one gets the tattoo with a bad intention, like in spite of one’s parents, that person is sinning against them. If the intention of the tattoo is not one of love (“I want to piss off as many people as possible, because I can”), the evil intention makes it a sin, according to the Church.
To get a clearer understanding of these principles, read here. 
Back to the pool
After hanging out at my gym’s pool, my family held a little Independence Day shindig (Happy birthday, Gramma!). One of our guests was a man who went to the Naval Academy. You would think a midshipman who is officially a member of the Navy would have dozens of tattoos by now, easily hidden, of course.
He surprised me by vehemently exclaiming that he can’t think of one item he would want to have on his body for his entire life. How succinctly put!
Tattoos have a special, quiet place in my opinions. I have so many that they nestle quite nicely among the spiky, bickering items like abortion, justice and crunchy vs. creamy peanut butter (crunchy, obviously).
I have wanted a tattoo (or several) for the last fifteen years. Throughout those fifteen years, if I shared that tidbit with friends they scoffed in surprise; never could they imagine their quiet, somewhat-goodie-two-shoes friend inking herself. Part of me still wants to shovel out the ridiculous amounts of money to get one.
Much like I know not to date bad boys or have multiple drinks at a cocktail party, I know I won’t get a tattoo. 
First of all, the double standard on tattoos makes them very undesirable on female skin. Yes, that’s still true. No, it hasn’t changed.
Second of all, after youthful days pass me by, I’m more likely to find a jalapeno pepper in the exact same place I had once paid someone to ink a strawberry.
Thirdly and most importantly, I ask myself, why do I want to get a tattoo? I can’t think of a single answer at which I wouldn’t roll my eyes. 

So often, tattoos are a fad that fades with youth. They skipped my parents’ generation, perhaps proving their trendiness.
When I ask myself, why don’t I want to get a tattoo?, I have a thousand answers. The big one: I don’t want my future kids to see a tattoo on their mom.
Because of my remaining desire to get my own tattoo, I don’t judge people who have their own (except to think, how in the heck did you pay for that?).  We make our own decisions in life.
Like any decision that affects us for the rest of our lives, we shouldn’t take the decision to go under the needle lightly. 

Christian Commitophobia

Week Three: Dating

“Christian Commitophobia” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

“So you’re an actively dating commitophobe who desperately wants to find Mr. Right?”

A friend recently summed up how the world categorizes my dating style. My answer to him at the time was a laugh and a “yes, you got it.” But really, the answer is more complicated than that and the end result is: commitophobia isn’t always a bad thing.

Break it down:

*Actively dating: yes. I’m getting to know men.

Your mom told you friendship should come first and I think she was right. You know how easy it is to be friends with someone with whom you really connect? Why deprive yourself of the same ease with a significant other? I am getting to know men as friends and taking it no faster than that, for the time being.

*Commitophobe: that’s how the world sees me. I have dated several men over the years and I’ve gotten serious with one of them.

My 24th birthday is tomorrow. This makes me either a late bloomer (first date: age 15 — pretty early), a weirdo (this is entirely possible, but what would that make you, dear reader?), in a place without a sufficient supply of men (that is not the case for anyone when online dating has graduated to non-sketchiness, for the most part) or a commitophobe.

*Desperately: No. Not desperately. Ouch. If I was desperately searching for Mr. Right, I think I would have found Mr. Okay Enough and married him by now.

Desperation, in this case, would cloud my mind and make me settle because the desperation would be less about finding the right person and more about hunkering down into the idea of marriage.

*Wants to find Mr. Right: check. If God is calling me to marriage, I feel prepared to meet the man I will marry. If He’s not calling me to marriage, this post is still a pillar of what I believe about the subject of dating.

I want to be like them

In my teen years and in most of my college years, I felt the ache for the “kind of” companionship I witnessed in couples around me. I liked the idea of holding hands with a nice, cute boy and telling him about my day like the “other girls” did.

To have a male confidant who would be romantic and wait outside of school at the ending bell, leaning against the hood of his car, hand-picked long-stem roses in hand with a poem memorized for recitation… would be divine.

How dreamy this boy would be. He would treat me well, make me laugh, understand my cryptic humor, get along with my family, and respect my boundaries. Finally, the girls at my school would see that someone found me desirable and worthy enough to call me “girlfriend.”

Insecurities like this feed like a parasite on most teenage girls. I’m so grateful to have my parents, for without the motivation to remain true to myself, I could have taken that crazy thought train into a premarital, sexual relationship with the first squeaky-voiced, teen guy who would show me any of the affection I craved.

To clarify, I was quite invisible in high school and was especially so in the minds of the the all-boys’ brother school down the street. I was invisible, but I still emitted a non-silly air.

Being invisible erases the chance of pursuit by some disrespectful guy, but my demeanor prevented it, as well. A foundation of confidence supported me, though it was hidden under many layers of these insecurities, so the threat of losing myself never followed through.


Naptime with Daddy

My hero, my Daddy, gets to take a lot of the credit for this. He was and is a spectacular part of my life and has built up quite an example of manhood. Any prospects, past or future, tend to pale in comparison.

I dated a few men in college and beyond but I often put the breaks on the momentum of the relationship, hence commitophobe. Of course, this has been an effort to avoid pain but also to avoid dating for the sake of dating.

My father’s fervent devotion to our relationship and his relationships with my mother and my sisters prevents me from settling. In fact, he has made finding the right guy nearly impossible because of his example and ability to make me double over in laughter. He’s ruined it for lots of men.

Why would I date someone when I can see he doesn’t value the foundations that support my father’s strong points?

Yes, as my friend from the beginning of the post pointed out to me, it takes a long time to get to know someone. This doesn’t mean we launch into an emotional and physical relationship with everyone who shows interest in us.

When we approach dating as a way to get to know someone instead of a mid-life circus act to convince someone to like us, we can reach a level of comfort.

Taking this path allows both parties to “interview” the other in the same way they learn about other friends. If it turns out that there is something missing between you, at least you haven’t fumbled through a physical relationship before its too late to get out relatively unscathed.

Another friend once described the ideal relationship between a man and woman like a triangle. As a man and a woman work toward God at the top of the triangle, they’re also getting closer to each other.

Seeking to know God helps us grow closer to each other because of the Love that growing close to God fosters.

I have not always agreed with this. In fact, for a time I was pretty cavalier with giving away my kisses and entertaining the idea of dating men who didn’t hold value for the walk toward God.

When it came down to it, my deep-rooted “commitophobia” prevented me from ignoring my inner voices and slapping a “boyfriend” label on the relationship.

Now I believe skipping the step of getting to know someone before allowing a physical relationship to try to push it along is counter productive. Kissing is great fun  
because of the chemicals it releases and the bond it creates between two people.

I don’t want a bunch of chemicals clouding my mind in the early stage of knowing someone. My mind is cloudy enough. I’m a Christian Commiophobe.

Prepare now

It doesn’t take much to set off a teen, but if you wanted to ignite my temper in high school, all you had to do was put on an “Elizabeth’s Mom” mask and say the words, “It will happen when you least expect it.”

So many other nuggets of my mother’s advice have proven annoyingly true, so I’ve decided to trust that she’s right. In the meantime, I’m surrounding myself with a cushion of wonderful, beautiful friends.

My close friends are good, faithful people who help me walk closer to God with each step.

Keeping them around is narrowing my choices in dating even more because I will not be caught off guard or charmed when someone treats me with respect or agrees with my core beliefs. I have a whole pile of those friends at home. Those are now nonnegotiable traits.

This was one of the hardest posts to write and I think it’s because these are new conscious beliefs based on the subconscious beliefs I’ve held my entire life. I’ve always been a little afraid of getting to close to someone in a romantic relationship.

It has taken years of reflection, but I’m grateful for my commitophobia. I know I won’t settle; I know I will attempt to see every friendship and relationship as a journey to Christ and to becoming who I am.

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” -Thomas Merton