Thursday, June 25, 2020

My World Part I

In the spirit of Indigo Bunting's Covid Notes.

My tattoos, except one, were all done by the same artist. I have one done by another guy, but all came from the same shop, which I have recommended to friends and priests and my brother's daughter who got one for her 18th birthday. I trusted my guy and I trusted where he works.

I have recently found out that while my guy is still a stand-up guy, shy and unassuming behind his neck and knuckle tattoos and quiet laugh and true artist's eye, the shop is not. It's in a neighborhood that is one of those up-and-coming strips in the city like a lot of St. Louis has experienced at one time or another, in the 1970s and 80s, boarded up and abandoned. Then the gay bars moved in and then the classy gay bars moved in and a few immigrant-run restaurants and then a local brewery and so forth. The tattoo place fit in with vibe of the street, with tacos and beers and rough ladies bars and 50-something buttoned-up gay mens' lounges and a Himalayan buffet across the street. Classy condos started going up and gentrification was well on its way.

The tattoo shop was one of those co-ops with several owners, who also owned several other places on the same strip. Part of what was moving the neighborhood forward, if you looked at it from the surface like I did when I stopped in to see if my guy could schedule me for more work. But one of the owners and one of the tattoo artists were recently called out on social media for a variety of terrible things. Drugging women at a club and raping them was the main accusation, which hit the news and I assume is moving forward with law enforcement. The tattoo artist, it turns out, inked his name into women's tattoos without permission. Gross stuff.

My tattoo place this week posted on Instagram, my guy's hand scraping the window paint off, both the men's names. He'd obviously taken control of the Instagram account and was in damage control mode. The other owners were scrambling to cut the one guy out and the artist was fired. Today, he posted again.

He admitted that while he had no knowledge of what was happening, he was part of the silence, the covert action, that allowed for this unsafe space and these terrible men to continue their terrible acts. And he set out a 6 point plan to begin to rectify the situation, including cover-ups for anyone who had received a tattoo from one of the accused. Then he said he needed to go be with his wife and daughter and he would post again tomorrow.

I hate that this has happened at a place where I felt completely safe and recommended highly to other people, other women, young women. I hate that my guy and the four other artists who did not commit any bad acts are cleaning up this mess. I am proud that they are, though, instead of circling wagons and deleting accounts and victim-blaming, which seems to be the name of the game these days, maybe all days.

I was just talking to Maggie about how both of us need more ink, and how I was going to give my guy a call. I'm going to let the dust settle a bit but I'm going back. My oldest daughter doesn't think I should: "You are rewarding them for doing the bare minimum."

Maybe I am. But I'm a huge fan of the simple thought: "We do what we can. When we know better, we do better." My guy and his coworkers may have put their heads down and let things happen around them, but now they know better, and I think in doing better, they are doing right.


  1. I don't know. If he really didn't know it was happening, and he's still stepping up and taking some responsibility, it seems like more than the bare minimum. I guess I'm wondering what more he can do. Not trying to play devil's advocate here—just uncertain. I like your "When we know better, we do better."

    1. That's what I said to Sophia. She did not believe that he could have been so clueless, but I know him better than she does. He was definitely a keep your head down introvert kind of guy. The rapes did not happen in the tattoo parlor but at and associated with the bar that was owned by the same guys. Remember, Sophia is nearly 19 and very strident right now... :)

  2. I'm glad Sophia is 19 and strident. But yes, I was thinking the same as IB. And knowing better and doing better is all any of us can ever do.