Is Love Skin Deep?
I wanted to like it — to dig the anatomical accuracy and artistry — because
I liked him. But the truth is, it was a turnoff. Skeletons and synapses? No
thanks. While my mind reeled, he kept talking.
"...And I can't wait to finish it."
Turned out, he hadn't had time yet to complete his masterpiece.
When my friends heard the story, they reminded me that not only are tattoos
totally common (more than a third of 20-somethings have at least one), but ink
is, for many, a big turn-on. Bottom line, they said: A tattoo, no matter how
weird, should not be a deal-breaker. The guy had too many other great
qualities. Plus, it was still winter — there were plenty of months of sweater
weather ahead of us.
As the weeks wore on, I tried befriending the skinless man who slept between
us. One night, after a few glasses of wine, I gave him a name: Telly Savalas,
after the late, bald actor who starred in a detective series when I was a kid.
Let's face facts: It's not like the tattoo was going anywhere. I was naming the
elephant in the room.
Our meet-the-parents moment came in the midst of a serious heat wave. Even
sandals felt stifling; long sleeves were out of the question. Although Telly
peeked out just a few inches past my boyfriend's T-shirt sleeve, I was a
nervous wreck, keeping tabs on which side of my mother my boyfriend walked on.
Blessedly, my folks didn't say a thing.
By August, my boyfriend had amassed the cash to carry out the tattoo
artist's original vision: bright swirls snaking down past the elbow that would
demand multiple lengthy sittings. I hated the idea, but kept my mouth shut. One
night I even popped by the tattoo shop to watch the process. It was as
uneventful as he'd promised, but the patrons and artists were spectacular —
their arms, legs, necks, and even faces decorated with designs that made Telly
As the work of art neared completion, strangers couldn't help but take