Commentary

Snow: Self-expression through body art

CorrespondentOctober 26, 2013 

I asked my wife whether she had ever dated anyone wearing tattoos. “Heavens no!” she replied. “Mother would never have allowed it.”

The subject came up as I read The N&O story about the Army banning tattoos below the knee and elbow.

Yes, there was a time when stigma was attached to tattoos. We saw tattoos only when a seafaring sailor returned from some foreign port where, perhaps half-drunk, he had risked infection by getting a tattoo from some back-alley artist.

Tattooing is now a thriving industry, especially around military installations. Women, as well as men, are attracted to the artistry.

Why?

A Fort Bragg private waiting to get “inked” before the new regulation goes into effect explained why to an N&O reporter.

“I just love ink,” he said. “It’s an expression of yourself.”

His comment reminded me of a Marine I once saw in a Morehead City restaurant.

Both arms were decorated with entwined snakes. I now wonder what “expression” he was trying to convey.

I’ve been speculating on what design I might use in the event I wanted to express myself through a tattoo.

How about a typewriter or computer keyboard? Or an open book? Or perhaps a tattoo of a rufous-sided red-eyed towhee on my cheek?

A friend once told me that the tattoo of an ex-girlfriend on her husband’s chest was one reason she divorced him.

“I finally got tired of going to bed with my husband and Irene,” she said, with a sigh. “Of course, that wasn’t all of the problem. But I could never adjust psychologically to competing with Irene every night.”

Banished expression

Several of you have written regarding tired cliches you’d like to erase from the English language.

Each year, since 1976, Lake Superior State University in Michigan receives nominations and chooses winners for its “Words Banished in Perpetuity” list of over-used words or expressions.

My favorite “banished” expression on this year’s list is “Kick the can on down the road.”

No doubt many of us agree with the nominator, Christine Tomassini of Livonia, Mich., who wrote, “I would definitely like to kick some cans of the human variety every time I hear politicians use this phrase to describe a circumstance that hasn’t gone their way.”

Heady headline

Roy E. DeBrand of Henderson shares his favorite sports headline.

“Several years ago when we lived in Virginia, William and Mary College’s football team had been badly drubbed. Next day, the headline in our local paper read, ‘Tribe Plays More Like Mary than William.’”

Wood fire mystique

My Wake Forest niece is excited that natural gas service is finally being installed in her subdivision.

I’m happy for her to enjoy the convenience of flipping a switch and instantly having a warm, clean fire in her fireplace.

Yet, with winter almost upon us, I find myself waxing nostalgic over those many years that we enjoyed wood fires, despite the chore of finding dry wood, lugging it in and chasing down the wood beetles that scrambled across the hearth as the fire flared up.

Wood fires are a part of the Southern mystique.

Someone once said that you can tell a Southern woman by the way she approaches a fire.

Some women walk up to the fireplace and extend their hands over the blaze. A Southern girl backs up to the blaze, lifts her skirt and absorbs the physical and psychological warmth that only a crackling or sighing wood fire gives off.

I well remember the late U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s advice on choosing firewood: “Woods are like women,” he said. “Some give heat and some give light.”

McCarthy recommended oak and hickory for warmth, locust and pine for sound and color, and cherry and apple for aroma.

He said he and his wood man parted company when the latter left his card “advising me to have faith in the Lord and in my fellow man and to keep smiling.”

McCarthy’s advice to his fireplace friends was “Buy only oak, be careful of philosophical wood sellers and shun those who offer religion, especially with mixed wood.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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