the rules are broken

December 12th, 2016

Last night I saw my neighbor at the gas station in town. We didn’t recognize one another at first even though we’ve lived next door for 17 years. A sad sign of the times. We immediately fell into each other’s arms, saying what needn’t be said, that every day it gets unbelievably, horrifyingly worse and that our country is dead. I told her it feels like the flags should be flying at half-mast. She said she feels sorry for our teenage daughters, a year apart. There was a contract we thought we had, a contract with the future that depended on our effort, intelligence, honesty and decency. Did you ever feel that? It was fragile, to be sure, but it’s what we grew up believing.

The rules are broken, I said.

A night or two after the election my daughter came into my room as I was sitting. “Mom, if you let me get a tattoo . . . ” she launched into a proposition that she knew was absurd, “would you get one with me?” She explained that since she was under 18, she could only get a tattoo with a parent’s consent.

Every institution in our country is collapsing and what comes up in the middle of the fall is the tiny matter of a tattoo.

I did not straight away say no, because of the realization that has taken hold in me: the rules are broken. We’re going to have to depend on something else, you see, than what we thought was allowed. How we thought things worked.

I said yes.

I told her about a certain phrase in of one of my books that has inspired quite a few people, words that I wrote with only her in mind. I suggested that if we got identical tattoos based on that message, even though people all over the world have shared it on the internet, we would be the only two people in the world who shared it in real life and knew what it really meant.

And that dialogue has since caused piercing pain for me, but total amusement and pride for her, and considering the way the world is going, it has made us both very happy to have each other, two blossoms blooming on a branch that will never break.


  1. Now this is a most beautiful “way into” getting a tattoo. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and meaning.
    I have long considered one, and then there is where? but more significantly how timeless the impression that I would appreciate both now and then? Thank you, again.

    Comment by Katharine — December 12, 2016 @ 8:05 am

  2. I have been curious about the coming tattoo! As for the rest of the post, oh Maezen. I feel the same way, and I find a little comfort knowing I have company. You articulate — boldly and without qualifications — what I feel. It really is horrifying. My response to all that happened and continues to happen is not an “overreaction.”

    Comment by Kathryn — December 12, 2016 @ 8:20 am

  3. I am 65 and my daughter and I got matching heart tattoos last summer on our right foot. A loving, bonding time that will forever make my heart sing. She wanted to do this and paid for both of us. I am so flattered and blessed. It felt so good to say “Yes” to something I always said “No” to before. It really did not hurt either.

    Comment by Joann — December 12, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

  4. “our country is dead. flags flying at half mast.” This says it all, Maezen. I know that all my friends share this gruesome thought as well. What a thoughtful way to say yes to a tattoo for your teenage daughter.

    Comment by Jennie — December 13, 2016 @ 5:45 am

  5. I too feel like everything is broken.
    I guess getting a tattoo with Diamond
    is the least I can do.

    Comment by Marcea — December 14, 2016 @ 5:13 am

  6. Yes!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 14, 2016 @ 6:54 am

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