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Not every love story is written in the stars, Lois and Tiny in Elizabeth McCracken’s “It’s bad luck to die,” is an example of this. Despite two people, arguably classified as “freaks,” come together and for a life together, overcoming age, religious views, family, and height. Lois, a young jewish woman of considerable height, meets Tiny, a short older tattoo artist who wins her heart, but is their relationship all it’s cracked up to be?

The relationship with Tiny being described by Lois as “one of those flirty types, one of those bold little guys,” (7) while Tiny told Lois, after years of being together,

That he was bowled over by all those square inches of skin, how I was so big and still not fat. “I fell for you right away,” he said. (7)

Lois has never denied the fact that she is tall, “I’m six feet tall, have been since eighth grade,” (5) however Tiny had to charm her in order to obtain her affection. Coercion often happens to victims of emotional abuse in order for the abuser to create the power dynamic in the relationship, similar to Tiny tattooing his initials on Lois, claiming is “work.”  Lois even admits to changing her view for a man she would love afterwards, “Up until then, I’d always thought it was only sensible to fall in love with a tall men so that I wouldn’t like so much of a giantess.”(7) Tiny does get rid of her worry about fear of being a giantess, but the new worry of being accepted, and being viewed as the tattooed lady develop.

Another early sign of an abusive relationship is the withdrawal they cause from friends and family for the partner. Before Lois met Tiny her life was that of a typical conservative, somewhat shy, Jewish girl. At the time she met him her cousin, Babs, was described as being “a little wild, had a crazy boyfriend (the whole family was worried about it),”(4) compared to Lois’ reaction to the tattoo shop.

She called me up and told me she needed me there and that I was not to judge, squawk, or faint at the sight of blood. She knew none of that was my style anyhow.(4)

Because the family is worried about Babs’ behavior, and Lois states it was not what she agreed with, it is safe to assume her relationship with her traditional Jewish mother was healthier before she began a relationship with Tiny. After the relationship had been going on a year and they were married, Tiny finally tattooed Lois, referring to her as “his early work.” (9) when telling her mother, knowing tattoos were against her religious views, Lois was always nervous about having her tattoos in view when around her mother.

Like all good mothers, she always knew the worst was going to happen and was disappointed and relieved when it finally did. But she didn’t ask to see that tattoo, or any of the ones that followed.


Whether if Lois was destined to be with Tiny, or not, his treatment of her insecurities with her appearance could be a further reason their relationship was unhealthy. Lois describes her childhood struggle on page ten of accept herself how she is, while not living up to her mother’s maintained glamours look. She avoided mirrors, shadows, and reflections to keep from looking at her appearance.

Tiny changed that… he went on a campaign , installing mirrors, hiding them.

This action of Tiny hiding the mirrors examples the power dynamic again, by using her insecurities of her body against her in order to practice his artwork. This power struggle is seen on page 12 when Tiny ruins a book Lois’ mother gives her. When Lois’ confronts him, his response is “Take off your pants,” (12) completely disregarding her feelings, and persists to convince her to allow him to draw a tattoo on her after her many attempts to say no. Once he wanted to tattoo his artwork, he wanted to surprise her.

I balked; my hip was my own, and I wanted to know what was going to be there… “You’ll love it,” he said… “Okay,” I said. (13)

If Lois’ relationship with Tiny had been a healthy one, she would have kept in contact with her family more, and not have felt pressured to give into all the demands of Tiny. After his death, Lois’ would not feel as if she “only had him.”(4) Lois was not in fact Tin’y “love letter,” (22) he used her instead, as his personal canvas, for experimenting with tattooing.


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