Certainly she is my last, as in my most recent ex wife of the two that I have. But she is to me my last, as in there will be no others. Not because it was that bad. On the contrary, because it was that right.
I may indeed have some long term friend. I suppose it is possible that I may change my mind about marriage. But as things sit in my mind these days, my last will be my last – wife.
My last ex and I never fought. For that she is owed my undying thanks. I detest fighting, arguments between lovers or friends. They never go well. Things are always said that were not meant. They always bring deep cuts that peroxide cannot heal. We stop hearing when we start shouting.
That said, we did have our disagreements. We were different people. We acknowledged that very early in our dating days. We felt we could work around those differences and did so for a great many years. But differences of persona are deep differences that cannot stay buried or ignored indefinitely. This is a story of such.
After more than a decade of wonderful marriage I casually mentioned that I might like to get a tattoo. She said straight up and flat out, “No. You cannot.” I asked why. She said, “Well, let’s just say if you ever want to have sex again you better not get a tattoo.” Wanting to keep the peace I let it go for the moment.
I am sure she had visions of Mike Tyson or full sleeves. When we dated, I ran a small aquarium maintenance business. For a short while I shared a building with an old, dropped out biker who was selling reptiles. This was not an attractive guy, with a weak ZZ-Top beard, long scraggly hair; both almost clear dirty-blonde color. Unfit from too many years of beers, yet he still often worked with his shirt off proudly displaying an unfinished tat on his back. Not an appealing sight and I am sure this influenced her thoughts. But beyond all that, she simply had a dislike for tattoos.
I was not thinking of anything so ambitious. A simple thing, perhaps to commemorate some special event in my life and my life as a whole. Perhaps after being awarded some high rank from my Wing Chun instructor, getting a tat to celebrate the moment with bits of my wife and my child thrown in. Maybe a small band around my upper arm perhaps, or maybe on a calf. However, that now seemed totally squashed.
I brooded over this for quite some time. This is after all my body. I never told her how to cut or color her hair or what clothes to wear, I might add, something all women seem to have no trouble doing with their men. The dreaded double standard. I pondered on this for well over a year, slowly accepting that I was not mine unless I wished for conflict.
Two Christmases after that casual mention I opened a present from her. It was a gift certificate from a tattoo parlor for a tat. She expressed that it had been wrong of her to tell me what I could and could not do with my own body, at least as far as things that directly affected no one but myself. I was appreciative of her understanding.
But now I was faced with an entirely different set of dilemmas.
I had no say either way. I did not get to choose the parlor, the timing, or the cost. It had all been done for me. Moreover this tattoo represented my ability to obtain a tattoo because she said I could, not because I wanted one. I thought over this for a few months. What a horrible thing to have to reject a Christmas present that was so hard to give. But in the end I had too. I asked if we could talk.
I explained that I understood how difficult it was for her to give me that gift certificate and that I appreciated her understanding and ultimate acceptance that my body was mine. She was in my heart and head but I was in there too, and the shell is mine alone. I expressed that on the surface she had taken away what I wanted the tattoo for. She had done all the picking and timing.
She loves to visit Europe, especially London and Germany having spent time there during college. I asked, “Suppose last year when you asked if you could go to London I had said, ‘No. I don’t want to go there, and I don’t want you going by yourself.’ And then suppose for Christmas you opened a box that had a plane ticket and hotel reservations. Wouldn’t half the fun be gone? I would have chosen when and where with no say from you. Wouldn’t you have preferred a note that read, ‘Sorry. You can go. Here’s some cash to get you started.’”
I pointed out that she had traded one form of control for another. The control of not allowing it for the control of allowing a tattoo of her preference, more or less, from the parlor of her choice at the time of her choosing. She understood.
But I had to add one more thing. You see that tattoo, that particular one, would have been a permanent mark of what had transpired. A skin-deep reminder of how I was allowed to have such a thing. Permanent ink of a memory I did not want to keep.