Pretty in Ink

Mutually assured destruction. It worked for Reagan and Gorbachev, so why shouldn’t it work for me and my wife?

You see, Sun Hee has some daredevil in her. She looks at a looping roller coaster and thinks, Upside-down at 97 miles-per-hour? Sounds trippy. I look at a looping roller coaster and think, When was the last time they inspected those fasteners? Never? She sees a nine-storey water slide and thinks, That’s nearly a hundred feet straight down. Awesome! I see the same slide and think, That’s nearly a hundred feet straight down. Jesus Christ!

As for skydiving… Well, she’s been itching to take it up since we met. I, on the other hand, don’t waste time thinking about jumping out of a rickety ten-seater prop plane from fifteen-thousand feet up. I’m not getting into a rickety ten-seater prop plane anyway. If it doesn’t say “Delta” on the side and have engines the size of a bus, I’m either driving or staying home.

There’s only one reason she has never (literally) taken the plunge with a bag of nylon strapped to her back: Ink. The permanent kind.

Here’s where the mutually assured destruction comes into play: If she jumps out of a plane, I get ink. She does not want me to get ink. Rather, she is adamantly against it. If she were writing this story, the angle would be: The only reason my husband doesn’t have tattoo sleeves down both arms and across his back is that he knows I’ll go jump out of a plane if he gets so much as an invisible dot. These are the ways people sustain healthy, respectful relationships, don’t you think?

The problem with employing Cold-War ideology is that neither of us gets what we want. So instead of continuing the Reagan-Gorbachev path, I’ve switched to a less-transparent, more nefarious, and way-more clever plan: I’m going to make her want ink, too.

She’s already hooked on reality competition shows. Project Runway. Top Chef. Dart Ninjas (not really). I even have her watching SyFy channel’s Face Off, on which make-up artists compete to create increasingly gruesome and outlandish prosthetic effects each week. But all that was simply groundwork.

Now I’ve gotten her into Ink Master. Hosted by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, Ink Master is nearing the finale of its second season on Spike. Each week, contestants are required to work in a different style (Japanese, American classic, Pin-up, Black and Gray, etc.) under time pressure on real human canvasses, while douchey judges Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck tell them how badly they suck at everything. The show could also be called, Severe Verbal Abuse Hour, with a Tattoo Competition Thrown In for Value-Added Content, though that might be viewed as unwieldy in marketing circles.

Oliver Peck, Dave Navarro, Chris Nunez

Oliver Peck, Dave Navarro, Chris Nunez

Holy shit. Back up… did I just say real human canvasses? You mean to say that some people are willing to have a mangled, janky images slapped onto their bodies for the sake of a free tat on a basic-cable show that will be forgotten in five years? Like, permanently on their bodies for the rest of their lives? Cripes, all the people on Top Chef have to do is nibble some over-seasoned mahi mahi once is a while. And you know at least three or four of Ink Master’s contestants are picked for their combative, unpredictable personalities (AKA good TV), not for their tattoo skills. Yikes!

Well, some of those poor saps who end up with ink turds on their bodies can make their way over to Tattoo Nightmares, also on Spike. Sun Hee really likes this one, and I want her to like it, because it truly illustrates to the uninformed that not all tattoos are equal. Guests walk in with prison jobs, homemade tribal, the names of ex-girlfriends, or some other blotchy mistake, and one of the three artists on the show must find a way cover it without resorting to portraits of The Blob. My choice of artist would be Jasmine. In fact, I’m thinking of getting an ugly tattoo just so I can go on Tattoo Nightmares and have her fix it. Jasmine looks like a poor man’s Rosario Dawson, and I’m a poor man, so it should work out great. She had better call me sweetheart.

The Oxygen network offers a show similar to Ink Master, called Best Ink, which is alleged to be returning for its second season at some point, though no air date has been announced. I recall that this show has hosts and judges and stuff, but I really only care that one of them was Sabina Kelley. Sabina Kelley makes for some good eye candy to accompany a story about tattoo shows.

Sabina Kelly Naked

Sabina isn’t a brunette, but she’ll do.

I tried to get my wife hooked on this one last spring, but she wasn’t ready. Maybe because the weekly challenges were comparatively less difficult than those of Ink Master. Maybe because they call their canvasses “skins,” which is a little too Ed Gein for my taste. Or maybe because it was on Oxygen, of all channels. Doesn’t Oprah Winfrey run that? No, I guess that would be the Oprah Winfrey Network. Either way, “oxygen” just doesn’t sound like a place where people stick needles under your skin so you can get that picture you’ve always wanted on your chest of a zombie eating Mother Teresa.

Plan C, if I can’t get Sun Hee to want her own body art, is to wait 15 years. By then, our kid should be done with grad school, about to get a good job, and ready to start paying off his student loans. Or not, because he won’t be our financial or personal responsibility anymore. My wife can jump out of all the airplanes she wants once that happens, and I can get to work on those sleeves.

That is, once I make sure the artist’s equipment is clean and new. And that the shop has regular visits from an incorruptible health inspector. And that the artist gets lots of sleep and doesn’t drink. And once I gather hundreds of testimonials. And after we go through at least 75 iterations of the same design before I give my approval. And…


Eric J Baker

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