Sylvia Plath once wrote, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” By which she meant “wear your heart on your sleeve” but poets aren’t allowed access to clichés. And by that she didn’t mean that you should think of including an actual love heart on your sleeve. She meant that we should try to make ourselves emotionally vulnerable, which is hard, and painful, and totally worth it. Just like tattoos, I guess. Lol.

Which is perhaps why, although I don’t really feel anything when I look at them, my aesthetic inclinations tell me that tattoos are cheap signals; that they imply a low-level commitment to a sentiment. Instead of working to let people know you are sincere, or cynical, or that you have very bad taste, you just draw it on your skin and be done with it. Real human exchange costs more than that. And real judgement shouldn’t be so easy for an asshole like me.

Why do people stay attached to conventional good-life fantasies—say, of enduring reciprocity in couples, families, politi­cal systems, institutions, markets, and at work—when the evidence of their instability, fragility, and dear cost abounds? Fantasy is the means by which people hoard idealizing theories and tableaux about how they and the world “add up to something.” What happens when those fantasies start to fray­—depression, dissociation, pragmatism, cynicism, optimism, activism, or an incoherent mash?

Lauren Berlant (via bemusedbibliophile)