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Columnist Humorously Recalls Ill-Advised Tattoos

New York Times columnist Kashana Cauley knows a little something about regrets. She wrote, “My friends and I got tattoos so we could feel dangerous. Not very dangerous, because very dangerous people went to jail, but slightly dangerous, like a thrilling drop of botulism in a jar of jelly.”

She explains in the piece that when it came time to select her first tattoo, she picked a design of Chinese characters that she was told meant “fame and fortune.” But then she had chat with an older Chinese-speaking woman in a university locker room when they were changing clothes.

“She asked me what I thought the Chinese characters on my shoulder meant, and I told her. Then she asked me what I was at school to study, and I said law. She frowned and told me the tattoo was better suited for someone in the arts — that I should hurry up and get into the arts. We both laughed.”

But Cauley thought it would be different when she got a tattoo of her own name. As an African American descended from slavery, her knowledge of family history doesn’t extend very far. But a friend told her once that her name meant something beautiful and significant in Arabic. As a result, she looked up an online Arabic translation of her name, and got that design as another tattoo.

And she was satisfied with her choice … until she wasn’t. “For a few years I walked around confident that I had finally restored some meaning to my name, until an Arabic-speaking friend spotted my tattoo at lunch. ‘What do you think it means?’ she asked.”

Her friend’s response surprised her. “Instead of complimenting me on the beautiful, permanent version of my name needled onto my arm, my Arabic-speaking friend paused. Apparently, tattoo No. 2 was actually one of those 404 error messages, when an online search comes up blank. So my arm said, more or less: ‘Result not found.’”

“As a reluctant pioneer in the field of bad tattooing, I spent years afterward stubbornly telling people it meant ‘the eternal search.’ It sounded more elegant than ‘I didn’t find a correct translation of my name on the internet.’”

Possible Preaching Angle:

We can avoid embarrassing mishaps by asking for the counsel of others to help guide us through the major decisions we make.

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