Years ago I dated a guy who had a number of tattoos (shocking, I realize).
(He wasn’t covered, but the ones he had were intricate. I called him my illustrated man with few tales to tell. ahh youth)
While he didn’t use my same phrasing, he appeared to approach his body art as I did about my own.
His tattoos weren’t chosen either in haste or for shock value/rebellion.
He felt, as I did, the images had always been part of him, they just rose to the surface when an artist placed needle to skin.
They weren’t tattoos Id have chosen yet on him they made sense.
We were also remarkably similar in the length of time it took us to “just know” we wanted a new piece.
His ornate, bold full-arm sleeves? They looked like a gutsy statement and had also required years of planning, sketching and deciding on positioning.
I spontaneously wanted a Seuss sleeve. 6 years later I was certain.
These details are why it surprised me when, apropos of nothing, he announced he’d chosen his next tattoo.
I assumed he’d have a concept (Ferdinand the Bull) and would commence talking about and pondering for months if not years (ok the bull idea was mine).
I know exactly what I want and where I want it, he continued. The phrase: It is what it is and around my collarbone.
It is what it is.
He had no way of knowing how passionately I hated this phrase.
I cringed when I heard it and had to fight its usage becoming a deciding factor in whether or not someone became a close friend.
Each time I heard the snippet said my brain interpreted it as meaning: I give up. I have no control over anything. I’ll take this situation as it is and not even try to improve it.
To me the five words sounded fatalistic.
It is what it is.
There’s no ending to this story except life conspired against us and our happily ever after was derailed.
I don’t know if he ever got his planned tattoo and hadn’t thought much about him until I heard his fave phrase last week.
It is what it is, a friend said after interviewing for a job she desperately wanted. I did my best, I brought my A-game, it is what it is.
It was only in that moment a positive interpretation of the once annoying phrase became abundantly clear.
It is what it is wasn’t always a statement of futility or lack of f*cks left to give.
It was a declaration of willingness to sit in ambiguity after having done everything one could.
It was a declaration of optimism and faith in the potential of a scenario to shift and become as one wanted.
For the first time I heard the phrase as I think then-boyfriend always had:
Fraught with potential (it is what it is. I’ve put something in motion. Now I sit in the space and see what transpires.) instead of a claim of helplessness and prepared excuse for failure.
Whatever happens in life—it is what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I’ll still never say it.
I’ll definitely never tattoo it on me.
I think I finally understand.
- What’s your interpretation of the phrase? Love it or loathe it? Optimistic or resigned negativity?
- Are you as much of a Ferdinand lover as I?