19 April 2010

The Myth Of Sisyphus

I finally decided to move forward with the tattoo I have been planning for the last six months. So many people told me getting a quote by a French existentialist/absurdist - in French, no less - tattooed on me was pretentious. Yeah, yeah, yeah. At least I can read French (I used to be fluent, but it's that whole use it or lose it deal), and Albert Camus has always been my favorite philosopher. All that said, the funniest aspects of getting this tattoo all revolve around my mother.

Let this be said, my parents bought me my first tattoo for my 20th birthday. At the time, my mother insisted that it be discreet, easily covered, and tasteful. What did I end up with? A tramp stamp. (Though I maintain this is a misnomer, as I am neither a hobo nor a postal carrier.) My rather socially conservative mother accompanied me to the tattoo parlor at the time, The Green Man, and seemed to have a blast. To be fair, my first tattoo was not a full-on tramp stamp, it's a very symmetrical, Tibetan lotus -- stylized, which I pilfered from a singing bowl used in meditation practices that we have in our living room. At any rate, my mother was all for the first one. 

I went back to the Green Man for this one. I had a great experience the first time, and wanted to reprise my inking there. That, and I have a serious affection for the Celtic mythology around the Green Man itself, so it's fun to give custom to a place that I have an additional connection to. Okay, so I tend to babble, as I am now. Let's rejoin my story...

Anyway, on Saturday, I decided now was the time to do it. I had chosen the quote months ago, after my bipolar diagnosis, and out of my love for Albert Camus. Now, my mom almost shit herself when I said I wanted to get a quote from Camus tattooed on my person. The conversation went something like this (though I don't remember exactly, as it took place six months ago):

"I've finally decided on what I'm going to get for my new tattoo," I said one evening.

"Oh yeah?" Ellen responded, eyebrows raised.

"Yeah, it's a quote form Albert Camus, you know... l'Étranger."

"WHAT?! I don't like that AT ALL," she raised her voice. "Those existentialists are SO DEPRESSING. You don't want something depressing on your body permanently. That's awful."

"I haven't even told you the quote yet," I yelped. "It's not depressing at all! And I don't think existentialists are in any way depressing. But whatever."

I believe I stormed off. (Not unheard of in my household.) 

Either way, I had made my choice, and it only took several months for me to go forth with my plan. The whole tattoo took maybe ten minutes. I can't remember my other tattoo hurting as much as this one, which was odd since the first was bigger, with thicker lines, etc. Location, location, location, right? Pat at The Green Man did a really good job, and he was funny as hell, poked fun at me the whole time, much to Adam's amusement. I will be returning to him. 

So, for those of you who aren't fluent in pretention, the tattoo says, "Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été." Which in English is, "In the middle of winter, I found in me an invincible summer." Kind of great, isn't it? Not depressing at all, if you ask me.

The kicker was when I arrived home this morning, having spent the entire weekend with Adam, I showed my mother the tattoo. What does she say? 

"The font is very pretty, but you know it is permanent."

The point, mom -- I think you missed it. 

I love my mother, but she does have an insistence on restating what I already know (at least once, if not more), especially when she thinks I've made a poor decision. 

Looking at my tattoo now, I think I might have placed it higher, except it would be harder to cover when I want it to go unseen. I do think I have opened the door for ever-more tattoos, which I will not mention to my mother. Now I just need to invest in halter tops and sun dresses. So much for covering it...


  1. Camus is your most favorite existentialist? Admittedly, (and setting aside Nietzsche) I haven't read any of the canonical existentialist philosophers, but as far as existentialist writers go, you prefer Camus to Dostoevsky or Kafka? I was amongst those who said a Camus quote is pretentious, but I would have wholeheartedly endorsed any Kafka quote.

  2. I love it. I think it's great. The font is pretty indeed. What was the font you used?

  3. I have a Nausea tattoo, but yours is awesome-er.

  4. I don't think Camus would like being called an existentialist... Good quote though, I recently got a Camus tattoo from his Myth of Sisyphus: "I conclude that all is well."

  5. Cool quote....very inspiring!!!!

  6. Hi, the font is pretty indeed. What font did u use? I want to get a Rimbaud quote and I am looking at fonts. Thanks

  7. Hi doll, I love your tattoo & shared it on my blog if that's okay! bcommanderinchic.com

  8. I love the font can you remember the name as i have a quote from my favourite play which would look stunning as a tattoo in this font... thanks x

  9. Came across this and before I even read your story the quote spoke to me. If you don't mind, I will probably steal it an get it myself. My roommate didn't get what the quote was trying to say, but being Bi-polar myself I found it very inspiring. Thanks for posting.

  10. HI folks! I was surprised to learn recently that my tattoo has a life on the Internet all its own. It's a little bizarre, and a little cool. For the commenter wondering what font it was, I honestly can't remember exactly. I used LinoType Font Explorer at the time, and I think it's Cezanne. Best of luck finding it! Unfortunately, I don't think it's a free font.

    As for those who want to get a similar/the same tattoo, knock yourselves out!

    My best x

  11. Hi, I would love to say this tattoo is so moving... it struck a cord with me, because this is so true to myself... And I so want this tattoo but different font! thank you for being ok with people coping you!!

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  13. This is very unique idea to put on body. Thanks for giving such a great design.Sun Tattoos

  14. Beautiful...that's my favorite quote. I think the location is great, too. Perhaps it marks the place inside where your invincible summer resides. :)

  15. P22 Cezanne http://www.p22.com/products/cezannepro.html

  16. I am 66, learning French and leaving in two weeks for my fourth trip to Paris...taking my 8 year old grandaughter this time. I love this quote 'cause I am there and I get it!

  17. The font really is VERY pretty. I'm thinking of a quote tattoo myself, and I think this would be the perfect font.
    Which font is it?

  18. my most recent of many tatts is: Alis volat propriis.....she flies with her own wings.....(while i wait for anti-ink peeps to awkwardly stare & make some comment about the font....I am thinking I wonder if you are catching the meaning of i dont give a fuck what you think) I luv your quote .....GR8 way to own the Bipolar.

  19. Hi there!
    Sorry for bothering you, but what size have you used in your tattoo? The font is amazing.
    This is the exact quote that I was looking for.
    I've passed through hard situations in my life (including bipolar disorder problems in my family as well) and I think that your idea of tattoo matches with mine ^^
    Thank you for the inspiration!