The Girl With The Darwin Tattoo

If you read this with any regularity, you’ll know that my wife and I recently visited New Orleans. (My new favorite American city) On our last night in town, we went to a jazz club to hear the Rebirth Brass Band play. The place had been recommended to me by a talkative visitor’s center employee who informed me that it would be “hot, sweaty, packed, and loud.” I took that exact quote and repeated it to my wife. She didn’t hear that. She heard, “candle-lit tables, spaced an appropriate distance apart, with waiters and a nice jazz band.” We ended up standing behind two drunk college guys for the first set of the show, and then we called it a night. It’s too bad, the band was great.

One of the things that sticks with me most about that night was a girl who was standing in front of us in the line to get into the club. It’s not really the girl that I remember, it’s her tattoo. On one of her shoulders she had a large portrait tattoo that was really quite well done. People do this from time to time to commemorate a lost loved one. I’ve seen the faces of parents, children, maybe significant others, all memorialized in ink. This is the first time I’ve seen Charles Darwin’s face staring back at me from someone’s shoulder. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that not even any of Darwin’s descendants actually have a Charles Darwin tattoo. I’m gonna climb even further out on that limb and say that this may be the only Darwin tattoo in the entire world. Look, you can do whatever you want with your body, but as Isaac Newton famously figured out, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Yes, it’s the Third Law of Physics, but it applies to social situations as well. I can imagine her parents equal and opposite reaction. It goes like this.

Girl: I got this tattoo as an expression of my love for science and also to make a social statement about how I reject religion, but embrace evolutionary theory with religious fervor.

Dad: That’s great honey, good to know that money we sent you went to important things like feeding and clothing you,,,,,,, and tattoos.

Girl leaves room.

Mom: Why couldn’t she just get dolphins on her ankle, or a pixie, or a butterfly, or a tramp stamp?

Dad: Why couldn’t she have gone to a bad tattoo artist, then we could have told everyone that it was actually Benjamin Franklin, and that she was just really patriotic.

Mom: What are we going to tell her grandmother?

Dad: I’m sorry, what did you say? I was just over here setting up this savings account online and naming it
 “Tattoo Removal.”

Mom: I guess she’s not wearing a sleeveless dress to the Easter Service this year.

Dad: Can you imagine what kind of boyfriend she’ll bring home for Thanksgiving? You don’t attract normal guys with stuff like that. It’s going to be some nightmare like this.

Dad: Hi, welcome to our house, Happy Thanksgiving.

Boyfriend: Thank you for having me, I’d like you to know right off the bat that I’m extremely allergic to nuts, I am against all forms of violence, and I don’t believe that people have the right to own pets.

Dad: Great.

Dad: So, where are you from?

Boyfriend: I was born and raised in Michigan.

Dad: You must be looking forward to the Lions game today.

Boyfriend: I only watch Association Football.

Dad: You mean soccer?

Boyfriend: Yes, the true football.

Dad: Great.

Dad: Well, anyway, we’ll be serving Thanksgiving Dinner soon.

Boyfriend: It’s a shame that what I’m sure will be a delicious meal, is going to be served on a day that celebrates the beginning of the theft of this land from indigenous peoples.

Dad: Would you like some peanut brittle?

So their you have it. An imagined conversation in which the imagined people have another imagined conversation. All because of a girl with a Darwin tattoo. I’m just glad that the other shoulder is free so she can get a tattoo of Harambe the gorilla, 1999–2016, Gone Too Soon. Her poor parents.

Originally published at on June 6, 2016.

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