Pierced Boy and I were in town when we passed East, latest inhabitant of the 197/Artisan/Si/Leonie’s premises. Noticing it was open despite the incomplete shop-fitting I chirped, ‘ooh, it’s one of those pop-in shops!’ P-Boy slapped me down with a flick of his pierced wrist, informing me that the correct phrase was ‘pop-up.’ So what if I got the preposition wrong, quoth I. I understood the principle.
But as I sat in Tizz’s waiting for Boy to find an blank space big enough for his latest tat – again, please note my familiarity with the vernacular - I realised I didn’t actually understand it at all. Surely pop-up implies a fly-by-night operation, like the mad Christmas wrapping paper shops that used to take over every store in Ilford on December 23rd, staffed by terrifying men in sheepskin coats keeping an eye out for the rozzers? East is a nice ladies’ clothes shop, which has set up in the building it’s going to occupy permanently. So why then is it a pop-up rather than a normal shop?
Pierced Boy chose the back of his knee as an appropriate site for his memorial to Elizabeth Taylor. As he settled face-down onto a bench, and a girl scarcely older than Thing One advanced with the needle, it occurred to me that I didn’t really understand tattoos either. Or piercings. Sure, I understand having one or two of each, to decorate otherwise boring parts of the body. But more than that and I am properly bewildered, adrift in a world which also contains shots instead of proper drinks, paying utility bills by standing order, vajazzling; a world where Lady Gaga is cool yet Dana International is not, where parking attendants have to be mean rather than pleasant and where young men may wear their underpants and trousers as two separate items rather than the conventional one-over-the-other formation.
Pierced Boy asked me to distract him from the pain, so I held his hand and asked what he found puzzling about modern life. ‘Nothing,’ he said, gritting his teeth. ‘I am totally twenty-first century.’
My phone rang with Thing One’s new ringtone: ‘And I’m like baby, baby, baby, oh, like baby baby baby no.’
‘Ooh Justin Bieber!’ squeaked the tattooist, looking at me respectfully. P-Boy raised an eyebrow at me, no mean feat considering the attached metalwork. ‘Maybe some aspects of contemporary life are a trifle incomprehensible,’ he conceded, adding, ‘ow,’ as the tattooist began to fill in Liz’s violet eyes.
Beth Miller, 30th May 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, July 2011. Photo by Alex Leith.