I may have a slight tendancy to blog on others pages in the guise of 'commenting'. I did not technically blog yesterday... because I have been too busy 'commenting'. I blame all you great bloggers. Why do you write so damn well?!? Why do your blogs make me laugh and have my fingers hovering over the keypad.
I keep on trying to keep my word to keep comments short. But then someone blogs about a topic close to my heart, and everyone who knows me knows self-restraint is not my strong point. I had been holding myself back (yes all those comments were my version of holding myself back) but then Sleepless asked about something I a passionate about. I love Tattoos. And it's not just because they are so damn hot!
When I was 27 I broke up with fiance #2 (fiance #1 had resulted in an ill-fated and short-lived marriage when I was 22 and I was not keen to repeat the experience). Taking stock after the break up I realised that (1) I should try not to get engaged after going out with someone for four months (because I couldn't wiggle out of it after he did a massive production proposal complete with bling bling ring that he had designed and the whole remote luxury island thing, rather than because I was in love), and (2) that I hadn't taken any major holidays by myself. Ever. I was 27 and photos of me in England, France, backpacking around New Zealand and Australia, always had the flame of that moment with his arm slung around me. Obviously it was time for this independent woman to get on a plane.
One of my close friends was getting married in France later that year and that seemed the perfect jumping off point. My parents were not keen. I tried to remind them I was planning on going to Europe, tried and tested by teenage tourists for many years (ie. harldly dangerous travel). My mum started to launch a campaign against me going which largely consisted of her warning me about the white slave trade (as previously discussed Europe is not known as a dangerous travel destination and I think my darling mum was just trying to point to a logical reason why she didn't want her only daughter touring solo). No matter how I tried to convince her that I was not 18, not a virgin and not even white, thus not fitting any of the target critiria, my mum refused to be reassured. But I was determined. So for the same reason they tried to stop me in the first place, when the parentals realised I was really going, they gave me money to help make the trip happen (and possibly to keep me out of the hands of white slave traders). I will never forget that amazing trip. From touring vineyards in Alsace to the strains of Samoan hip-hop to the stunning scenery of Slovenia, and the romance of Rome. It was a coming of age. I returned to Australia supremely happy and extremely BROKE!
One month later my cousin called and told me my cousins were getting their pea done. Despite being totally broke and totally out of holiday time, I knew I had to get on the plane home. I had wanted a malu since I was 16. Oh yes that's right, that's what this blog is supposed to be about- tattoos. Though I loved the pea, I didn't think the malu were particularly beautiful. But I loved how they were an intrinsic part of Samoan culture, I loved how our tradition of tattooing endured through colonisation and church disapproval, and I loved that they announced permanently and indelibly that you were Samoan. When I was 16 my parents weren't so keen on the idea. They muttered about how I would change my mind when I wanted to wear short skirts (my mum) or when I was practicing law overseas where tattoos were associated with gangsters (my dad). But I was determined.
I remember reading the poem 'Wild Dogs under my Skirt' and feeling it so completely. I was 27, living in a Western society, practicing in a conservative profession, and still determined to get a malu. So when my cousin called, I knew I was getting on that plane home. My dad, now proud at this choice I was making as an adult (as opposed to an impulsive 16 year old), was on that plane with me. At my behest, my mum tediously photocopied a reference book on Samoan tattooing (the kind you are not allowed to take out of the library because they are too precious) and faxed it to me in Samoa so I could look at the designs and tell the tufuga what I wanted (oh the naivete). I was summarily informed that the tufuga would be doing it his way or not at all. I was tattooed with 10 of my cousins. My dad sat there and held my hand and stroked my temple, as the chisel bit into my legs. We had a sama with the full Faasamoa. Oil and tumeric were rubbed over me. An egg was cracked over my head. Ie toga, clothes, pusa apa and money were presented. It was an amazing experience. It was a coming of age.
So my malu is about travelling and about coming home. It's about staying true, being who you are, no matter where you are. About family who don't necessarily agree with you, but then support you anyway. About not letting wrong choices (fiance #1 and fiance #2 and all holiday snaps containing them) define you.
There are some things that change and some things that stay the same. Always. My malu is permanent and indelibe, like my love for my family, my aiga, my country. And it reminds me of my dad, with a look of pride, holding my hand, and wiping my brow.