A couple of years ago, I began reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books. For those who don’t know, the earliest of this series started out as a recurring installment in the San Francisco Chronicle, the local news paper. I imagine it was sort of like reading a soap opera. The books take place in San Francisco and center around a young gay man, Michael, and his naive, mid-western suburbia transplant neighbor turned best friend, Mary Ann.
One night, while reading one of the early volumes, a reference was made to an actor by the name of Tab Hunter. The first thought that popped into my head was that “Tab Hunter” sounds like a made up name (it is) of a porn star (it is not), yet, in spite of not being a connoisseur of pornography, the name seemed vaguely familiar to me. I never did find out why, but in my investigation I pulled up his IMDb page to see if I would recognize him, or might have seen him in anything. While I’m sure to have seen him in some of his late career television guest roles, nothing jumped out at me, but as luck would have it, he had starred in a film adaptation of Damn Yankees!, a play I had the opportunity to see in the mid ’90s and very much enjoyed. It also happened to have significant relevance to my, as yet unpublished (in fact, still unedited) novel I was writing at the time.
While I perused Tab Hunter’s IMDb page I noticed that he was quite a handsome man in his youth, though, to be fair, he’s not a bad looking man now, considering his advanced years. Anyway, I became curious about him. Along with adding several of his appearances to my Netflix queue, I also checked out a copy of his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential, from the library. It was there that I learned a lot of interesting things about Tab Hunter. Most notable to me, especially at the time, is the fact that he is gay, and while Hollywood (and society) would not allow its leading men to come out publicly, in that day and age, Tab never really made much effort to hide the fact either. In fact, he claims, in his book, that he never really gave it much thought, never questioned whether it was who he really was or what he was supposed to do or be, and he never felt the need to make a declaration about the subject either. It was just who he was, and he never gave it a second thought. Too me, that seems like some pretty forward and progressive thinking, even by today’s standards, not to mention in the 1940s and 1950s! Tab Hunter Confidential is Tab’s life story beginning with his birth on July 11, 1931, in New York City, as Arthur Andrew Kelm (later Arthur Galeen) and ending with his quiet life on a secluded ranch near Santa Barbara, California where he still lives with his “partner” (I hate that word in this context) of 30 years and their many animals.
In the final pages of the autobiography, Tab describes being at his mother’s bedside as she lay dying. His mother had been a hard and difficult woman who never quite accepted who he was, choosing instead to ignore that part of his life and never discuss or confront the situation. His description of the woman reminded me quite a bit of my own mother and her general reaction to the news when I came out to her, and so when he describes reading a poem to her on her deathbed, a poem that I felt was very poignant, I found it quite moving:
I felt that this poem was a powerful message, and words to live by. It became the foundation of an idea; an idea which began to shift and grow in my mind. Over time, it began to take shape until it became something real.
I hadn’t planned to write about this, or share any pictures, until all the touch ups and augmentations were complete and it was completely healed, but circumstances intervened, and here we are.
Today’s prompt (and it actually still is today, as I’m writing this. Go me!) is Words To Live By. While I originally thought to find a way to photograph my favorite quote, “Stop laughing! You can’t fix stupid!”, I decided to try for something that is hopefully a bit more uplifting. So instead, I now present, in all it’s imperfect, incomplete glory, my fifth tattoo. The largest, most elaborate tattoo I’ve gotten so far, and certainly the one with the most meaning and significance behind it. (Not to be confused with the most sentimentality, which is still tattoo number four, all the way! Which, as it turns out, I don’t think I wrote about here… Hmm…).
I gave my basic concept to the tattoo artist who created a more elaborate, and better than I could have imagined, design. The poem, I think, is pretty self explanatory. The rest represents baring oneself before God, concealing nothing, and basking in the knowledge of God’s grace, mercy and love. With this tattoo, I proudly demonstrate the certain knowledge that I am a child of God, loved and blessed, free of judgement and condemnation, and that it is not a contradiction to be gay and a Christian.
The finished product is not perfect, however. As you can see in the third image, the first line at the top, “If I relax” the I and the r are too close together. The artist assures me that he can fix that and I certainly hope he can. It was definitely a disappointment when I took the bandage off after I got home and realized that the letters were so close together that it looks like an h “If helax”. The sun rays, in the colors of the pride flag, need to extend further onto my shoulder, chest and back than they do, and they definitely need to be filled in more. He told me as he was doing the tattoo that they would need to be touched up. Blocks of solid color that large rarely heal perfectly on the first pass. It is also my preference, and he says he can do it, for the colors to be a little more bold and primary, as they appear on the pride flag.
Finally, only after I’d had the tattoo for a few days and had looked at it regularly did I realize, it just doesn’t quite look complete to me. I have an appointment for this coming Wednesday to have the touch-ups and corrections done and at the same time, I’m going to have him do some augmentation to frame the tattoo in a little better. I’m thinking more flourishes, similar to what’s at the bottom of the poem along the sides and around my arm, meeting on the inside. That should be quite an exciting experience since the skin there is quite tender and soft. It does not go through a lot of abuse, being on the inside of the arm and, therefore, it will be much more sensitive than the outside of my arm was during the original application.
I’ve written about my first three tattoos previously, here, so I won’t get into them now. If you’re curious, check that post out. I had intended to link to the story of tattoo number four as well, but it seems that story hasn’t been written… yet. I will. I promise. It’s a good one.
3 thoughts on “Words To Live By”
Oddly, I knew immediately who Tab Hunter was because I was a huge fan of Grease 2 when it came out. (Had a big crush on Maxwell Caulfield.) I can now picture clearly the classroom scene where Tab Hunter is singing, along with various students and another teacher, a song called “Reproduction.” Thanks. That’ll be stuck in my head all night now! LOL
Love the tattoo! And it conveys such a true sentiment. I hate it when people get nonsense tattoos. I’m not sure why it bothers me what other people put on their body. I guess I think if you’re going to permanently display something on your skin for the world to see, make it something you can be proud of.
Grease 2 was one of the movies I added to my Netflix queue and watched as part of my “Tab Hunter education”. While I don’t remember the song/scene well enough of it to be stuck in my head, I do know exactly what you’re talking about.
Thanks for the compliments on the tattoo. I just went yesterday to have the colors in the “sun rays” touched up and extended. I decided they need to go further onto my shoulder than they did originally. MOST. PAINFUL. TATTOO EXPERIENCE. EVER!! 🙂 But, as they say, “Pain is temporary.” Still glad it’s done, but ready for it to be healed up!