Guest Blog: "The Tattooed Dog Freak"
Discussing his personal experience being portrayed in the media as a "tattooed dog freak" -- and the portrayal of tattooed people in general -- Craig Dershowitz offers this essay.
Dressing for my appearance on the Today Show, I worried about what shirt to wear. It was one of the first real humid days of the summer and called for short sleeves, but I had to be a cognizant that I was appearing on national television and that not everyone would take kindly to my long (tattooed) sleeves.
That is the thing about most people who have marked themselves -- we are far more aware of the bias against us than of actually holding any bias ourselves. Each dressing decision is informed by our choices. There is a heightened self awareness amongst the initiated and an intangible level of vulnerability that betrays the tough guy (or girl) personae normally associated with tattooing.
I am the tough guy who spent $60,000 on lawyer fees to attempt to rescue my dog from my ex-girlfriend. In the two or three days that I became news content, opinions ranged. In the span of a news cycle, I was: A pathetic loser who could not get over his ex (not true); A sucker who had been milked by his attorneys (possibly true); A fiercely loyal father with more courage than money (very true). Regardless of the reporter's personal take or, more likely, the spin he was concocting to separate himself from the other reporters and try to get a few more hits on his social media platform of choice, they were always asking about my job. Every story began with my name, age and job description. If you remember the days of dial-up, AOL modems and chat rooms - you might remember how disappointing it was when we discovered that the internet, this new form of communication, would only lead us to discuss ourselves in the same superficial, box-creating definitional ways as before.
The other superficial box that was being created for me was that of one who is tattooed. No matter if I was a loser or a hero, I was a tattooed version of either. In fact, the first three reports in well-known, credible news sources referred to me as follows: A tattooed employee at an art gallery (true); A tattooed artist (possibly true); And, finally, a tattoo artist (not true at all). Forget the apprenticeship model, the news is a far quicker way for one to earn his machines. Again, regardless of their spin and the validity of their descriptions, reporters loved to point out the tattoo information as if it had some bearing on my extreme situation or my being at all.
I was incredulous. And, I was curious. I kept trying to figure out why tattoos meant so much. My greater concern was raising the funds I needed to pay the lawyers to ask the judge to do the thing he should be able to do for a lot less money. Looking at the very arms that I hoped to use to carry my dog back home, I realized just how much money was on them. I could have fought two more cases with what I had spent on ink. Then I realized, it meant everything.
I fought (and am still fighting) for my dog because of the same reasons I am tattooed. I have a sense of permanence and significance. Items that are important or significant to me are sacred to me, expressed in my skin, in my blood, in my life. I am fearless in the face of societal judgment and norms. I am generous with my time, spirit and money when it comes to holding onto beauty. I am, sometimes, reckless and impulsive in protection of my individuality. I am beholdent to no one but myself and to my puppy.
Considering my new extreme circumstance, I would trade all these tattoos back for the money to rescue my pup. But, I would never trade the passion that created my desire to tattoo myself and to hold on to my dog.