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How Scleral Tattoos Work

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Author's Note: How Scleral Tattoos Work

I got my left ear pierced back in the early 1990s, for what probably seems like an odd reason: My wife and I had just gotten married, and we were either too frugal or too broke— I forget which — to buy gold wedding rings. And I'm a bit absent-minded, so I was certain that if I got a ring, I'd inevitably leave it in a gym locker room or on the hotel nightstand (I traveled a lot in those days). So instead, she and I went to the Piercing Pagoda at the local shopping mall and split the $25-a-pair gold ear stud special as a symbol of our love. I soon acquired a variety of ear studs and rings, including a ceramic yin-yang symbol, a gold peace sign, and my favorite, a silver skull dangling from a chain that my wife fashioned for me from stuff she bought at the local bead shop.

Having an earring was kind of a gateway drug for me, and pretty soon, I was sporting other affectations of nonconformity. I traded in my foreign correspondent-style raincoat for a black biker jacket and a beret, and grew a ponytail and a chin beard that I imagined made me look as cool as Dave Navarro, the guitarist for the then-popular alt-rock band Jane's Addiction. I contemplated getting a barbed-wire band or Chinese characters tattooed on my arm as well, but I never quite could go through with it—in part because of a fear of getting some infectious disease from the needle, in part because I was concerned about how silly it would look someday when I was an old man playing shuffleboard in a trailer park in Sarasota.

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