“Gambier Ink”: Tattoos Around Campus, Part I
Three years ago, the Kenyon Alumni Bulletin ran a gorgeous story about students’ tattoos. Relatively, at The Thrill, we’re low in production value, but big on realness. Here’s the first installment of some of the many tattoos I found around campus and the stories behind them:
Michael “Trixie” Kengmana ’14
I got it my freshman year. It was my birthday … and I got pretty inebriated and I was like, ‘I’m gonna get a tattoo.’ Didn’t get a tattoo that night; we were just … around Mount Vernon — it was luckily closed. But it was just embedded in my head, like, ‘I’m going to get a tattoo.’
When I walked into the place and I told them what I wanted, the first thing he said was, ‘Did you lose a bet?’ So I spent the next two hours with them making jokes at me.
It’s also a very popular tattoo for 16-year-old girls, I found out, so that’s cool.
It’s my favorite movie. It wasn’t some whole, ‘This is some sort of philosophical thing’; it was like, ‘This would be kinda cool on my body.’ I think now maybe I project like, ‘This has so much symbolism and significance in my life,’ but I was too stupid back then for that. I was like, ‘I like this movie, I like lions, I’m going to put it on my body forever.’
Carmen Perry ’15
I have two I did myself. This one I did a few summers ago — it’s a thing from a P.S. Eliot album, which I like a lot.
It’s also apparently a symbol for God in some cultures, which I didn’t know when I got it.
Dante Pilkington ’16
My feeling about tattoos is that, you know, you’re born into this world like a physical person but life can be so profound that moments in your life sort of become so much a part of your person as much as like, a toe or a hand. … And that’s sort of where I think a true tattoo should come from — sort of documenting a part of your life that is so significant to you that it should be visible on your body.
I have the opening lines of the ‘Inferno’ — about 75 percent of the people who see it go like, ‘Oh, Dante — Dante,’ and that’s it. And it’s sort of remarkable how self-centered people are and … how much they choose to see the obvious.
Really, what this means to me … I had a nervous breakdown on acid on my 16th birthday. I went to hell — I thought I died and gone to hell. … A few months later, I was reading the ‘Divine Comedy’ for the first time and I sort of realized that … they say Dante is going through a midlife crisis, but I read it more as a spiritual awakening. … You’re born a physical person … but I think that your spirit and who you are as an individual is born along your life’s way, as it says in the last line of this thing on my chest. … And I wanted to remind myself of that, that on that day where I went to hell, I was sort of born into this world the man I am now.
Maureen Hoff ’15
I got it this past summer, and it’s both a representation of Montana, which is where I’m from, and also because I have a skin disease that I just started taking medication for … and you can’t get tattoos when you have that skin disease, so it’s the first time I could get a tattoo and it wouldn’t turn into psoriasis.
People constantly ask me if it’s done, or they see the first half that’s just this outline sketching, because my clothes usually cover it up. … So people will ask if it’s a polar bear, because it’s empty on this side.
When I first got it, I kept it a secret from my parents for a while, but my little 12-year-old brother knew what it was. … My little brother and I would refer to it as my ‘jean jacket,’ because he would want to ask questions about it because he was 12, so he would be like, you know, ‘How’s your jean jacket?’
Darci Marcum ’14
I got it while I was abroad in Buenos Aires and … I was going through like a kind of badass stage, I was feeling badass while I was there. So I went with my best friend and got it.
The color I chose because there’s this thing called dulce de leche that they put on everything in Argentina, and I got it the color of dulce de leche for that reason.
The reason I got ‘thug life’? I thought it was funny — in the like, cursive letters and the squigglies … I don’t know, I just thought it was very ironic.
I was 15 when I got it. I didn’t really have a good reason; I was kind of a troublemaker and I wanted to do something extreme … and I had a friend who was kind of like me. … Of course, it had to be on our butts so our moms wouldn’t see it. … I drew it up and we got it the next day.