Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for June 20th, 2007

Raising girls

Posted by metaphorical on 20 June 2007


Somehow, this Father’s Day was all about tattoos.

First there was an article in Sunday’s NY Times about untattooing. (“Erasing Tattoos, Out of Regret or for a New Canvas.”) Actually, first came the envelope that Juliane handed me on Friday night. But I didn’t know that.

Then came an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Roy Peter Clark, “Raising girls: Unpredictable paths certain.” Roy is usually a good writer with something thoughtful to say. In fact, he’s a good enough writer that he teaches writing and his ““Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” has at least 25 or 30 really good tips.

This piece, though, not so much.

When I first dreamed of a daughter — back in 1972 — the dream did not include that tattoo on her ankle, or the one on her shoulder, or the two new ones on her wrist.

In my day, tattoos were for drunken sailors or escaped convicts, not for blond theater majors with eyes that look yellow when she wears green.

In your day, Roy, computers were the size of a warehouse, calculated nothing but accounting and nuclear missle trajectories, and were programmed in specially air-conditioned rooms by men wearing white lab coats. Oh, and burlesque houses were still around, so theatre itself as well as tattoos have become much more civilized and respectable. In other words, get over it, Roy.

My own Father’s Day was a lot more harmonious. As I say, it started on Friday night, when she came up from college to see her mother perform in a choir concert. At intermission, Juliane said, “Happy Father’s Day,” kissed me, gave me the small white letter-sized envelope, and told me not to open it. I thought she meant don’t open it until Sunday. I was away all day Saturday anyway and almost forgot about it until she called Sunday. “Did you open the envelope?” I told her no. “Asshole. Open it.” That’s my kid.

Inside were about 20 jigsaw pieces, mostly white, with bits of green on them. When I put it together, I saw that the green hand-painted lettering said

IOU 1 of tattoo
Happy Father’s Day

A little bit of backstory is needed here. Juliane and I have matching tattoos of the Greek letter pi that we got about a year ago. They were her idea and her first tattoo.

Ankle Pi

A few months later she added to it a peace symbol and a fraction-sign (/slash mark), the idea being “Peace of Pi.”

I liked the idea but somehow the fraction sign didn’t seem quite right. It took me a little while to figure out what it should be. Letting the Omega stand for the peace symbol, my addendum to the pi would make it look like this:


Just as in calculus, where you read f(x) as “f of x,” this would be read, “Peace of Pi.” When, a few months ago, I told Juliane of this variation of her idea, she said it was perfect. (I think she wished she’d thought of it herself. Still, there won’t be any tattoo erasure remorse.)

The jigsaw puzzle message, though, means she wants to take me for my tattoo addendum and pay for it herself. That’s my kid. Eat your heart out, Roy.

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