January 16th, 2015


Social norms and self-fulfilling prophecies (or, I can't have a tattoo WAH!)

I want a facial tattoo.

I would be lying if I said I'd wanted one forever. Fact is, until I saw the possibilities of facial tattoos that are portrayed in Dragon Age in 2009, I'd only ever seen gang tats and ta moko, neither of which has any appeal to me. Gang tats because they're, well.. gang tats, and ta moko because cultural appropriation is not my bag and even if it were, the aesthetic doesn't do it for me.

I would like to have an asymmetrical set of rays across my forehead and cheek and incorporating one eye, similar to the one I sometimes wear in cosplay.

Problem is, facial tattoos are a big no-no in our society, to the extent that it's insta-rejection from employers (ta moko is something different in NZ but white folks don't have a cultural claim to the right to wear a facial tattoo in the same way), and unless I want to work here - who might be ok with it - forever, then I can't have one. At least, not until I'm either independently wealthy or retired.

Can I just say here I'm going to be the funkiest (or scariest, depending on your perspective) granny in the resthome.

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I'm self-aware enough to know that I have innate aggression, but my reasons for wanting a tattoo aren't to make me more scary. I don't want to be more scary. I am, however, interested in the dynamic of interaction created by having a facial tattoo. I'm a little afraid of the self-fulfilling part I described up there, but would actually like the reverse to happen - for it to be something that demonstrates that facial tattoos do not need to be associated with aggression*.

Anyway, I've been investigating the various methods of creating temporary tattoos that will last about a week, as part of an experiment in which I plan to wear a facial tattoo for a while and see how people react, whether I can actually pull it off, and whether it really is something I'd be willing to have on a permanent basis. I've a discreetish row of dots above one eyebrow, and some exaggerated eyeliner a la Cleopatra. I've done this with a couple of media.

So far, henna is winning. Temporary tattoo ink doesn't actually penetrate the skin but sits on top. This means that in places of high movement or humidity (like eyelids) it very quickly clumps and flakes. It is easy to apply and did look snappy (if somewhat fake) for about 12 hours, but by 24 hours it looked like yesterday's makeup.

Henna, on the other hand, is much harder to apply. I ended up settling on applying it and then letting it dry a little, then covering it with a layer of liquid latex. This kept it damp (important for staining) and allowed me to move without it smearing or falling off. 2 days later I had a reasonable brown which has lasted 8 days now. It has faded some but it still visible.

Thing is, henna is crap around the eyes. For a start it works by penetrating the outer layer of dead skin cells - and on soft, mobile areas like the eye, those cells are very thin and don't stay long before being replaced. I got some faint staining on the eye surround, but it disappeared after maybe four days. Also, it contains clove oil. If you've ever put clove oil anywhere near your eye, you'll know why it's not fun. And god forbid getting any *in* your eye!

So what I have so far is moderate success with henna for everything except the bit directly around my eye. The design requires colour right up to and including the eyelid, which I simply won't be able to do with henna.

So my question to you all is, do you know of any solution to this problem? I can use stage makeup or the temporary tattoo ink, but neither are all that good and don't have the same look as the henna.

Surely some of you have experience with this?

* it might take someone less direct than me to make that point though, eh?