Rosie Glow Wellness

Mind body health for the deeply fabulous

2:138 On Balance, Tattoos and Gertrude Stein



A portrait of me (not really… but… right?) by Neryl Walker

I’ve written lots of posts on balance. Really, all of my posts are about balance in some right: balancing healthful vegan eating and a whiskey-fueled social life full of sparkle-friends who sometimes eat animals; harmonizing with the voices at odds in my punchy, flummoxed frontal lobe  (FYI, one voice is sort of raspy and sexy, if not a little lispy, and belongs to the Rose wearing a fringey minidress and platform combat boots, vice-gripping a bedazzled flask of her signature drink — Champagne mixed with gin — which is NOT a real thing, even though she’ll tell you that it’s almost a French 75; and one voice exclusively expresses itself via inflected meows and Twitter, but still manages to convince me not to leave my apartment a great deal of the time. You’s a persuasive bish; Emily Dickinson recluse-Rose.) But then there’s the third voice, thank you, Universe, who mediates: who sings mezzo soprano to their Macy Gray/mewling coloratura situation.

That voice belongs to me.

Several years ago, I promised my mom I would never get a tattoo. When I went to college, the rules were as follows: inking my unadulterated derma and putting myself in a position to EJECT ANOTHER PERSON FROM MY PERSONAGE/become a young mother were equivalent grounds for being yanked out of academia. I didn’t test this threat, and while I’m certain that my marvelous mom would rise to the occasion if I had prematurely become a mom, myself… I know she’s damn serious on the tattoo front. So. I don’t have any tattoos BUT, and I promise there is a point to follow… I’ve wanted the same tattoo since I was 17. It’s two stanzas from a Gertrude Stein poem called, of course, I am Rose.

I am Rose my eyes are blue
I am Rose and who are you?
I am Rose and when I sing
I am Rose like anything.

As a blue-eyed human named Rose who majored in opera performance and likes to meet other humans and gather tiny, self-defining truths about them, this incidental piece written by a literary genius (named Gertrude, i.e., not Rose) resonates with me — enough that I’ve forever dreamed of scribing “I am Rose and when I sing I am Rose like anything” in courier font on my left inner forearm, positioned horizontally 3-4 inches in from my elbow crease (not that I’ve given this any thought). However, a few years after I graduated with my dual degree in OPERA and POETRY (killin’ me, Gertrude) and relegated outright, literal singing to my hobby box… rather than, you know, my life’s work box… I decided that maybe Gertrude had steered me wrong; Brunhilde horns and an addiction to Mucinex did not make me “Rose like anything.”

It turns out, though, that singing in the abstract does make me the most me. Expressing my voice; my honed and balanced voice; above those of the opposing Roses — because through years of trial and error, I know what’s best for me and I have opinions about what’s best for the world — has, indeed, made me Rose like anything. Cutting through the choir of black and white with a sound that is lush and gray and wiggly with vibratto: that’s balance. That’s how one becomes a person, at least that’s how I’ve become a writer who sings; a vegan who doesn’t judge you for your bacon habit; a lush for green juice and tequila; a lady who likes to pen personal essays while her cat sits on her stomach as much as she likes to mack on boys in plaid in her hip, hip hood as much as she likes to paint strange little portraits in the company of friends making baubles out of raccoon bones and teeth (um, craft day was yesterday.) I know who I am because of all the extremes I’ve been at times too intimately familiar with, the experiences I’ve gathered like so many raccoon vertebra, the siren calls of identities that don’t quite fit. That’s how I found my voice.

So anyway. Balance. And Mom, can I get a tattoo?


Author: twitchysister

Hey you! is largely devoted to musings on what balance means to an urbane, artsy-fartsy twenty-something. It’s tough out here for us post-grad women: if you’re not homeless, you’re doing something right. But do you, too, worry that you spend too much time furrowing your brows over your future when you should be unwrapping and relishing your present? Do you, like me, sometimes feel like everyone expects you to be the type of person who spends the majority of her entry-level “arts” paycheck on fifteen dollar old-timey cocktails, four a.m. cab rides home and everything sequined on the Urban Outfitters sale rack when, perhaps, you are really the type of person who would rather drink cucumber mint kale juice while wearing yoga pants and Googling reiki techniques? Is it possible that such a person is one and the same, and she is fabulous in her own, very confused right? Sister girl, I hear you. I know you. I accept you. I also know in my happy gut, full heart and coffee-addled brain that you and I are gorgeous glow worms, just as we are! We are sparkle ponies of light and love and we are still in the process of teasing out our true, authentic selves with all of this… living. So if you don’t have it figured out, if you acknowledge that you never will and that is tremendously exciting, if you want to connect with other smart chicks and tap into that charming inner-self of yours, then come back real soon, ya hear? We’re family now!

15 thoughts on “2:138 On Balance, Tattoos and Gertrude Stein

  1. Wow, Rose. This is perhaps my favorite piece you’ve written on this blog. Tremendously touching and striking and full of heart. Love!!!

  2. I drink gin and champagne, too! IT IS ALMOST LIKE A FRENCH 75. (Because who has all that other stuff on hand?) Great post!

  3. This post really resonates with me as I just started a food blog and it already seems uni-dimensional. I guess I started it as an escape to go to my “happy place” (i.e. food, yoga, working out) whilst working on the “hard stuff” of my PhD studies (if that makes sense). Anyways, keep doing what you are doing =)

  4. Totally makes sense! Mine has definitely evolved… wellness has become more of an umbrella term to encompass physical/emotional/social/creative fulfillment… which is really what wellness means to me, anyway. Thanks for reading! Good luck with the PhD :)

  5. GET THE TATTOO! (Sorry Rose’s mom ;) ). loved this post x


  7. Girrrrrrl. I had back and forth thoughts on the tattoo front for YEARS. My family is Jewish, and though we never talk about ritual, religion, or burial (gimme a break), it was an unspoken truth that we just didn’t have tattoos. Then my parents split up. My dad moved out. My whole sense of family / ie wholeness was completely fractured and suddenly I started to think of myself as an autonomous unit. I could continue to live at home, following unspoken rules, being the “dutiful” daughter. Or I could do what I wanted. A year (to the week) after my parents formally decided to split up, I tattooed ))(( on my left shoulder, at the tattoo parlor in my college town where so many of my friends got their “big mistake” tattoos when we were in undergrad. I remember it hurting just a little, but that the point of the tattoo was that it was a signifier for me. It meant I’d gotten through a shit year. That rules are meant to be broken. That marriage isn’t forever, neither is the idea of the nuclear family. It meant I was doing something to my body that I could control, and the best part was, it was symmetrical. It looked the same to me in the mirror as it did to my outside viewers.

    There’s a scene in the movie my tattoo is from, Me and You and Everyone We Know, in which the mom, who is going through a separation is brushing her teeth in a giant tee-shirt with words written on them backwards. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband walks in and marvels at how he always hated the shirt, because he couldn’t read it, to which she replies, “It’s self-affirming.” And that’s what my tattoo is for me. It’s self affirming. It’s a reminder of the pain I pushed through, emotional and physical. Of how I would “never get a tattoo” but then I did, and it’s still there frontwards and backwards, keeping me company always. Back and forth, forever.

  8. Sandy, this comment is BEAUTIFUL! I love that movie and I love your tattoo. You should steal this from yourself and write an essay about it!

  9. one of my fave posts! will read anything with “gertrude stein” in the title :) i want to be her when i grow up

  10. Pingback: 2:272 How to be a Person | Rosie Glow Wellness

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