Yesterday, my poetry professor asked if my “write” tattoo was part of the Skin project by Shelley Jackson from 2004. When I explained that I would’ve been 11 years old in 2004, so my tattoo didn’t stem from that particular project, he explained it to me.
I’m obsessed and in awe and shocked and in love and…so upset that I couldn’t be a part of that project. Because it’s honestly the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever heard.
Shelley Jackson wrote a 2,095 word story and asked that people come forward and get one of those words tattooed on their body. The participants had no choice in which word they would receive, though they could refuse to get the tattoo if they so chose. Most of those words, outside of the context, would seem completely random, and a lot of them involve one end of punctuation, like back,”. She has the word “skin” — the title of the story — tattooed on her body. And no one, no one besides these people and Shelley Jackson herself, know the story.
Shelley refers to these people as her words. When they die, she will try her best to attend their funerals. And when they’ve all passed, the story is over. The story is gone.
There’s something so perfect about this. These 2,095 people, scattered around the world, are connected forever. There is a secret story that binds them. Isn’t that the most ingenious, wonderful notion you’ve ever heard?