In This Body: Inner/Outer Self

Editor Fiona George, Editor's Choice, May 8th, 2017

“Something worth gritting your teeth or going meditation dead for.”

Fiona George Essay Nailed Magazine


Our monthly column “In This Body” is comprised of true stories about sex, gender, the body, and love, written by Fiona George, for NAILED.

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It’s a strange thing to consent to an act on your body, then wish through the whole thing that you didn’t have to be present. I alternated between curled toes—clenched jaw—firmed tight against the pain, and a loose play-dead lack of existence that was probably the closest I’d ever come to meditation.

I’m not the kind of person who considers how painful the spot is when I pick the placement of a new tattoo. If I was that kind of person, I wouldn’t have picked my ribcage and the soft belly beneath my breasts for one of my largest tattoos, and with the most intricate line work. I’m glad I picked the place that I did, but if I had thought about it, I might have put it between my shoulder blades, or wrapped over my hip.

I’d let my mouth hang open, felt my eyes glaze over—focused hard on the plaster swirl ceiling, finding shapes. I controlled my breath, deep in and deep out, slow push out on skin under the needle.

Most of the tattoo’s I’ve gotten have been easy, three of them are two inch by two inch flash style little nothings—the Rocky Horror lips, a Black Star for Bowie, a spider from a Friday the Thirteenth sale—all on my shoulders. My other big ones are a pair of roses on the backs of my thighs—unfinished for years.

Each time I was surprised how little it hurt. I’d amp myself up for pain—and the sharp vibration would sometimes sting like a sunburn and sometimes even tickle a bit. Last time though, the tattoo gun rattling my ribs, over skin that never saw the sun, I didn’t know if I could finish until it was finished.

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Images and adornment. My inner world has seemed vacant while my outer self has been crowded, the new tattoo was just one piece. There’ve been layers of new clothing, every-three-week fills of acrylic nails, learning how to apply eyeshadow and that two different mascaras work better than one, the constant feed of images seen/saved/shared.

I could call it a hobby. I call it a hobby. I will say that I’m feeling very visually oriented, and in quiet wonder if I should take up photography. I’ll take twenty selfies, and not even know how to make myself look like I want in a picture.

My inner world has been quiet. A silence inside me that is of me, but out of control. It’s like I’ve lost my story, so I’ve decided to become a character.

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There’s nothing like a tattoo. It’s pain that you ask for, pay for, even if you don’t want to endure it. Not like pain play, it’s not something made to bring you pleasure. It’s not like a piercing, over in a moment. It’s not like plastic surgery, where they put you under. It’s not an accident or act of self-destruction. It’s not something done to you, it’s something done for you.

It’s because an image is important. There is something worth gritting your teeth or going meditation dead for. Maybe it’s even just a pretty picture.

Someone I work with said, “Why does every tattoo have to mean something? Maybe I just like flowers.”

Truth is, I love letting the image of me talk for me. The inner quiet is a little piece. The placement of a tattoo is inventing a piece to fit in my own puzzle. Choosing clothing is colors and textures to be lost in. I see the way I look as a piece of art. Maybe not a masterpiece, but daily notebook scribbles.

And inner me, she’s tired. She’s been doing the driving and the choosing and the expressing longer than she can, and she’s still working on our story. I’ve got to trust when she pipes up again, she’ll have something important to say.

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Header image courtesy of Mirage. To view their Photographer Feature, go here.

To read the previous installment of In This Body, “Cuts I Make,” go here.


Fiona George

Fiona George was born and raised in Portland, OR, where she's been lucky to have the chance to work with authors like Tom Spanbauer and Lidia Yuknavitch. She writes a monthly column "In This Body" for NAILED Magazine, and has also been published on The Manifest-Station, and in Witchcraft Magazine.