Once I realised that my redone dolphin was perfect, I fell in love with it. It’s on my hip, and I used to look at it adoringly, not just when I was showering and getting dressed, but at other times when I was on my own, when I would gaze lovingly at it and enjoy it. And looking at it, and thinking about all the pictures of tattoos I’d seen, I began to find something rather inspiring in the idea of tattoos as a means of putting one’s mark on one’s body.
As we grow and change, so many things about our bodies are out of our control. We put on weight or lose it, we get wrinkles and grey hair and bits of us droop or stiffen up. Things which may seem fixed change at random; when I was younger, I was long sighted. At some point things switched around and now I’m short sighted. I used to have a metabolism which was so supercharged that when I was at university it was not uncommon for me to wake in the morning feeling sick from hunger to the extent that I had to eat something before I could get out of bed, even though I’d had a perfectly good dinner the night before. (This was in the days of proper student grants, which were calculated to allow one to buy a certain amount of luxury products like mince and potatoes). In those days, if I wanted to lose weight (I didn’t), I could just eat toast for a week and half a stone would drop off. These days, if I ate toast for a month I might just lose two pounds.
You may lose your hair, or start growing hair in places you never had it before. Puberty, and, if you’re a woman, childbirth and the menopause, bring other totally unpredictable changes. Science can tell us generalities, but not definites; no-one can tell a woman when her periods will start, or stop, or whether she will get morning sickness, or post-natal depression, or period pains, or hot flushes, or how long any of these things will last. It’s the same for men; we’re all different, says science. Learn to know your own body. If you’re in the grip of crippling post-natal depression, or disabling hot flushes, learning that your own body is a bastard that can up and slap you round the metaphorical chops with no warning at all is, frankly, not much comfort.