Tattoo or not tattoo?
by David Finkle
[ fiction - october 11 ]
For some time Drew Fineberg had been conflicted. “I’m conflicted,” he said, usually to himself but sometimes to others. Or sometimes - depending on whom he was addressing and his, her or their tolerance for, or expectation of, obscenity - he said, “I’m fucking conflicted.” When he said either version, whether to himself (silently or aloud) or to others, he always heard a tinge of whinge in his (actual or interior) voice. Within that whinge tinge, he detected a fainter tinge of wistfulness he couldn’t expunge no matter how much psychic energy he put into it.
About what was he in such resolutely unresolved conflict? Something of perhaps little importance or interest to most of the population but of perhaps immediately recognizable interest to an increasing number.
He was mightily conflicted over whether or not - as the title of this account makes plain - to get a tattoo. It was a growing battle that had begun as no battle at all, as the opposite. When he was young and tattoos were associated with sailors and stevedores and men - some women - who hung out in seedy parts of town where sailors often hung out when they were on shore, he knew for certain he’d never want to be tattooed, never want to be taken for the kind of palooka who had a heart or an anchor or a buxom mermaid etched on his arm. He definitely didn’t want the kind that faded over the years or appeared to go blurry.
Even in more recent years when men - and not a few women - farther up the social scale began to get tattoos and fell into the self-satisfied habit of referring to their skin decorations as “ink,” he vowed he was not a candidate.
The attitude prevailed in him for many years.
Until it changed. He couldn’t point to the date. It was a gradual change. All he knew was, he started to soften on the subject, the inflexible condemnation started flexing. From his expressing himself to friends and acquaintances with “I’m not the kind of man who’d ever get a tattoo,” he shifted to - not really to “I’m not the kind of man who’d say a categorical ‘no’ to a tattoo” or to “I’m the kind of man who might consider a tattoo. He graduated to not expressing himself at all whenever the topic was broached.
He kept quiet. He kept quiet, at least initially, because he’d started admitting to himself that some tattoos could be attractive. He kept quiet because he’d started admitting to himself that some tattoos could be, well, “cool,” and he didn’t want to be caught out contradicting his previous, long-held stand.
But there it was. There was an entirely new catalog of tattoos he’d never noticed before. Yes, anchors and mermaids and “l-o-v-e” and “h-a-t-e” on the knuckles of the left and right hand continued to be popular, but no more popular, less popular really, as he gauged it, than bold geometric patterns covering one shoulder or both shoulders or stars placed aesthetically here and there across the chest or any number of colorful floralscapes on an arm (or both arms) from shoulder to wrist as what he learned were called “sleeves” in the tattoo community.
These tattoos, like those less imaginative ones preceding them, could be exhibited at will, of course. When the tattooee wanted them unexhibited, they could be covered by a shirt or, for women, a blouse. Or, if on legs, by trousers or skirts. The exception here was the tattoo on the neck or face. Drew maintained an adamant disdain for them. He had no time for tattoo vines climbing the neck like ivy clinging to a wall. Nor did he approve of the tattooed word on the neck. He once passed a heavily tattooed fellow on the street, who had “passion” penned floridly on his neck, and Drew - believing in passion as much as the next dude - objected to the belief aired in such a boastful manner.
Moreover, as his bias against tattoos eased, he held on to a dislike of certain sorts. While he thought a chained-linked band around the biceps was appealing, he reacted against faux-barbs or faux-thorns. They implied pain, and who wants to be seen in self-inflicted-wound, overly-pleased-martyr mode?
He dismissed clichés such as angels or, on the back, angel’s wings, or butterflies or skulls or zodiac signs. (He’d never cottoned to astrology anyway and was relieved, not to say suffused with warmth, the day he realized people had stopped asking each other, “What sign are you?”) Furthermore, he had no regard for tattoos that peeked out only partially if the wearer had on, say, a short-sleeved shirt. Expose all or nothing, Drew held, you either have it or you don’t, no in-between.
Drew still kept it close to his untattooed chest when he acknowledged to himself he could consider having a tattoo. Just consider it, mind you. Not really, really get one. Or maybe, just maybe, just maybe remotely get one.
That was when incipient conflict began and slowly flared, because it was when so many new questions surfaced like bubbles in a pot coming to boil:
If he got a tattoo, what kind of tattoo would he get? He knew what he didn’t favor, but he didn’t know what he did.
If he got a tattoo, where would he have the tattooer apply it? There were so many parts of the body to choose from - and if, for instance, on the forearm, on the outside or inside, and if, for instance, on the leg, should it go on the thigh, inside or outside, or the calf? If on the calf, in the front or the back where others could see it - if he were wearing shorts - but he could only see it sometimes?
And the biggest two-pronged query: 1) If he got a tattoo, would he tire of it? and 2) If so, how long would it take before he did?
When in the tattoo-positive mode, he sometimes amused himself by imagining a tattoo on his penis and thought of the old joke about the penisly-tattooed fellow whose tattoo said “Pa” when he was flaccid and “Peninsula” when he was erect. But that was just Drew’s private (no pun intended) joke and not anything he truly contemplated - not that he could have accommodated anything like “Peninsula,” in the first place.
As more time went by and Drew realized he was spending increasing minutes and hours admiring tattoos when they passed him on the street and, more immediately, when friends of whose taste he approved showed off new tattoos or confided they’d been “inked” somewhere “where the sun didn’t shine.”
Eventually, then, Drew couldn’t keep his conflicted state to himself. That’s when his “I’m conflicted” or “I’m fucking conflicted” became a regular public utterance. Not that he stood on corners shouting it out to those tattooed or un- who happened to be within earshot. No, he limited his outbursts to chats with one, maybe two, maybe at most three confidants.
Perhaps needless to say, he knew he wouldn’t get a cumulative yea or nay in his polling, but he did conjecture that after he talked over the dilemma with enough respondents, he would surely be able to reach a consensus.
Didn’t happen. Just as he was conflicted with himself, the opinions he heard were too much in conflict with others to allow for an answer emerging on the simple question whether he should or shouldn’t get a tattoo, let alone what sort of tattoo to get and/or where to put it.
For just a sampling, take his co-worker Earl: He knew how Earl would answer the question for himself, since Earl had a tattoo and had had it for some time. But he thought Earl might have a different take on Drew’s obtaining one. Earl didn’t. “By all means, do it,” Earl said too loudly in the corridor outside both their offices and couldn’t be hushed no matter how covertly (though forcefully) Drew gesticulated. “Women think it’s great. Men think it’s great. Depending on whom you’re trying to impress. The only thing I’d advise against is tattooing a girlfriend’s or a boyfriend’s name anywhere, because in my experience, relationships are transitory but tattoos aren’t.”
Take his friend Angela, who had the kind of name ripe for tattooing: “Tattoos! Yuck!” She wiped her hands of the notion, saying, “The very thought of someone tattooing ‘Angela’ on them makes me want to puke. That’s all I have to say about it. Not another single, solitary word. Not one.”
Take his friend Erma: “Wow, you’re thinking of getting a tattoo? Amory, when I was going out with him, had one - a spider-web covering his left elbow. I suppose he still has it. I could get into it then, and I could get into it now. When we had sex, I always felt like the fly looking to be wrapped up by the spider. In silk. Do you mind me saying this, or is it too much information?”
Take his friend Matt: “Awesome, man,” he said, “Do it, and forget the pain. Only wusses let that stop them. Real men get into it.”
Take his friend Dan: “If you’re coming to me for advice, I’m not going to give it. People tell me about the urge all the time, and I tell them I wouldn’t want one for myself, but I can’t speak for them. I can’t speak for you, either. What I can say to you is something about you, Drew. I see this as typical of something about you that you may never have noticed. I have. You run into difficulty when you need to make decisions. Right now, it‘s about getting a tattoo but other times just about anything. When we grab a meal together, you can’t decide what you want from the menu, and then when you finally order, you change it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through that. If you’re that way about surf and turf, it’s no wonder you don’t know if you want a tattoo or don’t.”
Take his mother, Hannah: “What do you mean, a tattoo? Are you kidding?! Of course, you can’t be tattooed. We’re Jews. It’s forbidden for Jews. (Drew pointed out that not a single Jew in the Old Testament is named Drew, so how Jewish were the Finebergs, anyway. “Jewish enough” was the reply.) And if you do get a tattoo - your grandparents should rest in peace in their graves - make sure it doesn’t say ‘Mom.’ Gevalt!”
Soon enough, he had to admit the tattoo-polling one-on-ones, one-on-twos and one-on-threes were getting him nowhere.
He had to come up with another way of approaching it.
He had a few things to go on - two to be exact, his own uncertainty about long-term commitment to long-term body ornamentation and the whole wuss-related pain issue.
For both, the internet was kind of helpful, kind of not.
Googling “tattoo removal,” the search engine suggested somewhere in the neighborhood of six and a half million station stops. He scotched the idea of visiting them all. Instead, he looked at a site promoting successful laser erasure and featuring impressive “before” and “after” photographs. (Is this, Drew mused, to what Angelina Jolie resorted when she divorced Billy Bob Thornton?)
As he studied the sites, however, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking that if he was already contemplating the possibility of having a tattoo removed, why bother going to the double expense of getting one and sometime down the line obliterating it? Yes, knowing he could get rid of a tattoo - if those advertising their skills at the process aren’t overstating their abilities - lessened the permanence onus. But still. Why start unless fully committed?
He shifted his attention to pain and Googled accordingly. The words “tattoo pain” revealed - even before he went to a site - a series of choices, among which were “pain chart,” “pain scale,” “pain areas,” “pain relief,” “pain index,” “pain description” and “pain comparison.”
That’s a lotta pain, he thought, and might have been enough to stop him, but it didn’t. He clicked on “pain description” - perhaps unconsciously thinking that whatever he read wherever he landed would discourage him once and for all - and found a sentence not too far into one person’s reminiscences about having heard horror stories. He gave a moment’s consideration to not wanting to become the latest horror story but read on to learn that for this woman getting tattooed wasn’t so bad and compared favorably to giving birth. Well, whoop-dee-do, but that meant less to Drew than it did to the writer, for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, the gigantic number of entries about pain told him what he wanted to know: Whether it was less, whether it was more, pain was highly likely to be involved to some extent. He needn’t explore further.
Yet he couldn’t banish tattoos from his mind. He pursued it in a new way.
Not too far from where he lived was a tattoo parlor. Not too far at all. So not far that although he’d never had reason to count, he probably passed it several times every week - not necessarily every day but nearly that often. He’d been aware of it since he’d moved into the neighborhood but no more aware of it than he was of any number of other stores he never had occasion to patronize - like the barber shop he didn’t use, the vintage clothing shoppe that carried clothes he’d be too squeamish to try on, the dry cleaners he also didn’t use (as opposed to the one he did for their more reasonable rates), Madame Olga’s palms-read storefront, the eyebrow-threading (whatever that was) establishment.
Now he started paying attention to that handy tattoo outlet. At first, he’d walk past it quickly, turn back, pretending he’d forgotten something at home, do another about face as if he realized he hadn’t forgotten it after all. He’d do this in order to get a better look at the store without seeming to be looking at it.
While the maneuver allowed him to read the sandwich board sitting outside the door identifying the parlor as “Rising Serpent Tattoos and Piercings” (for the record, Drew had zero interest in piercings), the quick walk-by didn’t satisfy him. He couldn’t really see into the room or rooms.
After a while, he raised the stakes by stopping on the sidewalk outside the shop and looking into it, using an absentmindedly-contemplating-something-else-entirely pose, but the few times he tried it, that also fell short of meeting his needs. It’s difficult to see anything clearly when acting as if not looking at all. What he gleaned from those forays was sighting a rack of flip-boards hanging on a wall that featured the wide array of designs the resident tattooers were prepared to execute.
Ambling towards “Rising Serpent” one day while pondering what he could do to pick up more about what transpired within its intriguing walls, Drew passed two men - one tall and thin and hairy, one short and squat and hairy - who’d both turned themselves into tattoo billboards. As they made their way down the street in their tattoo-revealing muscle shirts and shorts, they looked like twin movie screens featuring related animated cartoons.
Drew couldn’t keep his eyes off them, but worried that at any moment they could interrupt their consuming conversation to take him in as a kind of Peeping-Tom of the Streets, he picked up his step and left them in his wake.
When he reached “Rising Serpent,” however, he once again looked through the door, intending only the momentary glimpse. Imagine his surprise when the two men he’d been following seconds before turned into the store, noticing him as they did.
“Oh, no,” Drew said to himself but not out loud, “these guys are so covered in tattoos, they can’t be looking for more. They must work here.”
As he was drawing that unnerving conclusion, both men stopped at the parlor door. The short, squat, hairy one turned to Drew and spoke in a high-pitched voice and with a big smile on his face that made Drew think of the smile on devil tattoos he’d seen in many versions, :He said, quite distinctly, to Drew, “This is it.” Drew knew he was being taunted.
The tall, thin, hairy one - tattooed like his colleague around the neck but not on the face - added with his version of a different devil’s smile, “We’ve got your number. We’ve seen your type before.”
The short, squat, hairy one chimed in with, “We’ve seen you before.”
They stopped talking but didn’t move. They looked at Drew and looked at each other with immense, not to say devilish, pleasure in their eyes and looked at Drew again, obviously waiting for him to say something.
Drew was flabbergasted, tongue-tied.
The short, squat, hairy one turned to face inside and yelled, “One of ‘em is out here now.”
Drew heard a sound cease (was it buzzing?), and two elaborately tattooed others - one wiping her hands - came to see what was what. They all exchanged looks and said a few things to each other. Drew thought he heard one of them say, “Oh, that one.” They regarded Drew with the same undisguised amusement.
The tall, thin, hairy one said, “You know you’re going to do it sooner or later. Today might as well be your day.”
How was Drew to respond to that? He could say nothing and just walk away, of course. If he did, he’d have to take into account that he was known and could never stop in front of the shop again for fear of further humiliation. How many times could he endure hearing “Oh, you again!” or something like it? He could say, ‘I’m just browsing,” but that could invite a counter-invitation to come inside and browse where browsing would ostensibly be more effective. He could admit the quasi-truth by saying, “I haven’t made up my mind yet,” but that was obvious - and even more obvious was that evidently he was just one of who-knows-how-many-others who loiter outside Rising Serpent on a regular basis. How mortifying! He was part of a distinct sub-genre. He was surprised he’d never run into one or more of his sub-genre affiliates.
He did have another alternative. He could take the tall, thin, hairy one up on his offer - and, by inference, the offer of the nodding-at-him co-workers - and do it, go through with it, get the damn tattoo. Maybe the tall, thin, hairy one knew something from experience that Drew didn’t know. Maybe he knew that the “sooner or later” he spouted was based on having seen others who’d stalled in front of the store eventually commit themselves to the body-art process. What was the percentage of those who did, Drew wondered - could it be approaching one hundred percent, could it be one hundred percent?
Maybe this was a sign. Maybe this was a sign that the decision had just been taken off his hands. Maybe his lingering (lurking?) where he was was an unconscious choice he’d made to be noticed, to be confronted, to be shamed into going forward - inactivity as a passive-aggressive form of proactivity, inertia as a silent cry for imposed ertia.
If that’s the case, then he’d go with it.
The series of thoughts had come to him in only a matter of seconds through which he was simultaneously aware that the foursome at the door was waiting for his reply and looking as if they knew what it would be.
“Okay,” he said with a new-found conviction, “let’s do it.”
“Awesome,” the tall, thin, hairy one said. “Awesome,” the short, squat, hairy one said. “Awesome,” the other two said, pretty much in unison.
As the first two awesomed their “awesomes,” they advanced toward Drew in what could have struck him, it struck him, as menacing. He didn’t take it that way. He took it as comforting and even more so when they put their arms around his shoulders and indicated they simply meant to escort him into their lair, as if, it occurred to Drew, they were welcoming him into an exclusive club.
(Maybe it was an exclusive club - not that exclusive from the numbers of tattooed men and women he saw walking the streets every day, but exclusive in its non-exclusive way.)
As they did, the tall, thin, hairy one said, “By the way, I’m Nolan, also known as Every Inch or EI. For obvious reasons. Pleased to meet a new recruit.”
The short, squat, hairy one said, “I'm Elmo. Tate.” With that, he removed his arm from Drew’s shoulder so he could show his hands. On the appropriate knuckles of the right hand the name “Elmo” was spelled out and on the appropriate knuckles of the left, the name “Tate” was spelled out.
For Drew to take this in, Elmo and Nolan - or Every Inch - had momentarily stopped, and now they resumed their tattoo-parlor version of what Drew could only think of as “the perp walk.”
And then he was inside, close to the rack of designs and able to see around a divider that separated the reception area from the tattoo zone. The two who’d joined the others at the door had gone back to their perches, only one of them to a customer who, it appeared was half-way through having a sleeve of flowers - were they orchids? - appliqued on his left arm.
The occupants were in a room painted (but not recently) a garish mustard yellow. The walls were covered with pictures of tattooed people singly and in groups proudly showing off copious acquisitions. In two corners there were sculptures of Buddhas, one with votive candles in its lap, one with incense sticks, which accounted for the cloying odor Drew noticed filling his nostrils. (He thought he might smell burning flesh, too, but he didn’t - or didn’t think he did.) A couple of sinister speakers poured out heavy metal music the lyrics of which were harsh but basically and typically unintelligible. Drew thought he did catch the word “tattoo,” but, considering where he was and what he was disposed to be thinking, he could have imagined it. There were also cabinets on top of which were devices Drew didn’t want to concentrate on, although bottles of colored ink did catch his eye.
“So what’ll it be?” Every Inch said after Drew took the minute to absorb everything.
Starting to talk but realizing his mouth had gone dry as Texas in a drought, Drew produced the words, “That’s just it. I don’t know. What do you suggest?”
“We don’t suggest,” Elmo said. “Store policy. Tattoos are personal. We want satisfied customers. If we suggested and a customer came back later to complain about what we’d suggested, we’d have no recourse. So we leave it up to the customer.”
“We’re here to serve,” Every Inch said. “So what’ll it be?” He pointed at the rack. “Don’t you have anything in mind?”
Still parched from nerves, Drew shook his head slowly.
“Why don’t you look over the designs?” Elmo said.
“I’ll do that,” Drew was able to get out.
The unoccupied tattooer yelled over, “He looks like a professor of something. Probably English. Show him the literary ones. The original cover of ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ Or maybe he’d like the diploma?” When he said that, he barked a laugh.
Elmo yelled back. “Shut up, Rico.” To Drew he said, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s only joking.”
But it’s a thought, Drew thought. Perhaps he should go with something along those lines, something that said - to those who got it - “I have a tattoo, but at the same time I’m totally sending up the very concept of tattoos.”
I’m on to something here, Drew thought. Something ambivalent. That’s the ticket. He could feel himself flush with satisfaction. He could sense something bubbling up inside him. It was coming, it was forming, it was breaking through, it was here:
“I decided not to get a tattoo.”
That’s what his tattoo would be, would say;
“I decided not to get a tattoo.”
It would be enclosed within a thick black border, boxed, as an important statement should be.
“Perfect,” he said aloud to himself - and also, since they couldn't help hearing, to EI. and Elmo, both of whom still flanked him.
“What’s perfect?” they said, overlapping each other.
“I know what I want,” Drew said to them.
“Without even consulting the designs,” Elmo said, waving a tattooed arm towards the rack and then snapping his pudgy fingers. “Just like that, you’ve decided.”
“That’s right,” Drew said, “and I know where I want it.”
Which, suddenly, he did.
He wanted it inscribed across his lower back, just above the patch of black hair he knew grew there and that some women said was sexy and some didn’t. (The same for some men and some other men.) Not many people would see it, but those who did would undoubtedly get a laugh out of it for the contradictory self-referential declaration it would be. Certainly it was unlikely his mother ever would see it, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.
Hmm, Drew thought further, maybe It should say “I decided not to get a tattoo here.” Yes, that’s even better, he said to himself. But no, maybe phrased thusly it would imply that he’d decided not to be tattooed in that particular place but might be tattooed elsewhere on his body. But no, the joke was clear enough. It conveyed a general disinclination to be tattooed, and if observers - few as they may be - didn’t understand as much, that was their look-out.
“Then what’s it going to be?” EI asked, patently impatient.
“I decided not to get a tattoo here.” Drew told them, pride coating him like honey.
They listened. They exchanged looks. EI said, “Now you change it?”
“Huh,” Drew said.
“Your mind,” Elmo said.
What were they talking about?, Drew asked himself. Oh. “No,” he said to them “I’m getting the tattoo. It’s going to say, ‘I decided not to get a tattoo here.’ I didn’t mean I decided not to get a tattoo here.”
He waved in the general direction of the entire location.
Again Elmo and Nolan - aka Every Inch or EI - exchanged looks. Drew could tell they weren’t thrilled. They’d sussed out the less than favorable editorial comment about tattoos.
EI said, “It’s your choice.”
Elmo said, “So let’s get started.”
They looked at each other again, and Elmo pulled a coin, a quarter, from the pocket of his jeans. “Heads,” EI called. Elmo flipped the quarter and, when it landed in his palm, said, “Tails.”
He looked at Drew. “Over here,” he said, pointing to a chair where he apparently carried out his handiwork.
Drew moved to the chair.
“Where are we putting this puppy?” Elmo asked.
“Not a puppy,” Drew said, momentarily confused by how quickly this was moving along.
“I know that,” Elmo said. “Just a figure of speech, like ‘I decided not to get a tattoo here.’ So where’m I writing it?”
“Right,” Drew said and heard in himself an unexpected assurance. “On my lower back.” He pointed at the area.
“Then you’re going to have to take off your shirt, aren’t you? Your button-down shirt? Then you’ll have to bend over the chair and brace your arms. We don’t go in for gurneys here.”
Drew did as told. While shucking his shirt - his button-down shirt, as had been pointed out, unnecessarily, he felt - he noticed EI only a few steps away, watching out of what looked like humorous curiosity.
His shirt off, arched over Elmo’s tattoo throne, Drew heard Elmo say, “Just relax. This won’t hurt hardly at all.” He felt something liquid and cool on his back. “Disinfectant going on,” Elmo said, “and then some Barbasol, since I’m going to have to do a little shaving here. Then disinfect again.” Drew followed it all. “Just to put you at ease, we sterilize everything in the Autoclave, if you know what that is.”
Drew didn’t but decided he’d act as if he did. “Right,” he said.
“So just to make sure, I have this the way you want it, it’s ‘I decided not to get a tattoo here.’”
“Exactly,” Drew said. “That’s it exactly.”
“Here we go,” Elmo said.
Drew twisted his head around and saw Elmo holding one of the appliances he’d spotted earlier that resembled something from a film about aliens.
Elmo was lowering it. The needle was getting nearer and nearer.
As it was, Elmo said, “Funny line, ‘I decided not to get a tattoo here.’ Sounds like something you’d put on a t-shirt. Not your back.”
A t-shirt! Yes, Drew thought. A t-shirt!
“Stop,” he said. “That’s where I want it. On a t-shirt.”
“You’re shittin’ me,” Elmo said.
Drew twisted his head again and saw Elmo drop his tattooing hand with the bulky thing in it.
“I’m not. I’m not shittin’ you,” Drew said. “That’s a great idea. A t-shirt.”
He straightened up, pulled his wallet out of his trousers, filched a 10-dollar bill from it and handed it to Elmo. “That ought to cover your troubles,” he said, grabbed his shirt and raced out of Rising Serpent before Elmo, Every Inch, Rico or the unidentified lady tattoo expert had a chance to say anything that might stop him.
Putting on his shirt as he ran, he kept up the pace in case he was being followed - which, when he looked back, he could see he wasn’t.
Later that same day, after he’d regained the composure he’d lost at getting so close to branding himself maybe forever with that silly quip, he went to the t-shirt place situated not a block from the tattoo parlor and had the t-shirt made.
(Why hadn’t he thought of this before? Why did it take Elmo to put the idea in his head?)
He wore it, too. Several times - and got the laughs he was after. When he walked down the streets in it, he could see people chuckling and giggling and sometimes pointing it out to each other. A few times someone came up to him and said how funny the slogan was. Once, a young woman - she couldn’t have been more than twenty-one or –two - put her fresh-as-a-Jersey-peach face in his and said, “Great shirt. Where’d you get it?” Told it was custom-made, she said, “In that case, did you ever think of copywriting it and selling them? You’d make a fortune on eBay.”
Drew was pleased and even gave the suggestion a few seconds thought, but already the joke was getting old, as - knowing himself - he suspected it would. After a few more wearings, he put it in a drawer where it rests. Every so often when looking for a laundered shirt to wear, he comes across it and remembers the time he was extremely conflicted and how he resolved the conflict so satisfactorily.
Indeed, he regards that satisfying resolution as one of the many wise resolutions that over the years have led to his having such a good opinion of himself.