Because as soon as I start to think of it, I can't let it go. Because this silly tattoo is what I have for my "Chinese heritage," whatever that means. Because I don't know anything besides thank you (Cantonese, for an item), thank you (Cantonese, for a service), thank you (Mandarin), the numbers one through ten (in Cantonese), and three kinds of dim sum. In context, I can read which character is North, South, East, West, or middle, but unless they were on a mah jong tile I'd never recognize them. Sometimes, when I've been playing for a while I remember how to read the numbers one through nine, but then I forget again.
I feel like I'm claiming something I have no right to. And yet, I cling to it. And I fear that part of my clinging has more to do with my own fetishization* of the exotic, my own desire to be different, the fifteen year old I still am, sometimes, trying to be noticed. And I can hide behind the truth of my mother, but sometimes it feels like an excuse. I don't want to be closer to my mother. I don't really care where she comes from. I have no love for my childhood. But I can say HEY LOOK CHINESE MOTHER and I get a free pass.
So, yeah, the tattoo makes fun of people who get tattoos in other languages for dubious reasons and with hilarious results. It also makes fun of me, and my own dubious attachment. It is, in all sincerity, a piece of my childhood. I don't really like pork buns much these days, but I order them religiously anyway. And every time I do I think about tapping on the table (a habit of my mother's that I didn't notice until my dad pointed it out at an Italian restaurant) but I never have the courage.
And, you see? Now I'm taking this silly idea seriously.
*Dear Firefox, also a word.