I have a lot of tattoos. I am not covered, but I definitely have more than most. (Sorry Mom.) They are an intrinsic part of who I am now and I have not regretted a single one of them…okay well maybe one. And an unexpected bonus of having all this visible art on me are the conversations they have opened me up to with complete strangers. They’re even better than a “Hello , My name is,” badge.
What’s With all the Tattoos?
The question I am asked most is why do I get tattooed? And truthfully I don’t I have an answer, at least not a simple, one sentence answer that I can give someone in the grocery store, which is where I always seem to get asked. But here in the blogosphere, I think I can begin to give voice to what has become a bit of an obsession for me.
I got my first tattoo when I was 26, late by most tattoo aficionados’ standards, but I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer. I was traveling in Ireland at the time with a wacky and wonderful girl named Sarah and we decided that the best way to commemorate our travels together would be to get a tattoo. Sarah already had a number of tattoos, including a beautiful sacred heart on the inside of her left forearm, so this was no big deal to her. But to me getting a tattoo was huge. I wasn’t someone who wandered off the beaten path very much at that point in my life and I knew doing this would not be something the people closest to me would approve of. I remember admiring her heart and her “I don’t care what you think of me attitude,” that went with it. I decided to mimic that bravery and got a bright blue and yellow Celtic braid on my right wrist. I look back on that day as my independence day. It opened up something inside of me that gave me the courage to start being the person I was meant to be and I haven’t looked back.
My one and only negative experience related to my body art happened moments after I got my first tattoo. I was on my way out of the tattoo parlor when an old man grabbed me by the newly tattooed wrist and said that I would live to regret the day I did this to myself. Man was he wrong. (Okay the crooked swirly thing on my left foot I regret, but I do not regret getting tattoos in general.)
It took almost two years for me to get under the needle again. After my world travels were over, I found myself drifting around for a while and lacking the funds or inclination to get another tattoo. It wasn’t until the sudden and unexpected death of my father that I felt the urge to have something permanently etched onto my skin again. In his memory, I had a bright pink and yellow butterfly tattooed on the inside of my left forearm. The healing process was cathartic for me. The pain of getting the tattoo, the scabby, gross healing process and the beautiful end result all mirrored my grief. Even looking at it now, it makes me smile.
Things kind of snowballed for me from there and I ended up getting a tattoo a year for quite some time until I found my left forearm filled with butterflies. Looking at it now, I still love what and who those butterflies represent. They are a big hit with little girls who often touch them to see if they are real. After my butterfly arm was completed I felt it was time to revisit my other arm with the Celtic braid and build. I added a tree of life with roots that wrap around a sewn on heart to anchor me and show my love for my children and my partner. I literally wear my heart on my sleeve for them. Each and every one of my tattoos commemorate life events and have deep personal meaning to me, none were done on a whim…all accept for that damn weird swirl on my left foot.
Claiming my Body Through Art
I’ve heard many heavily tattooed people say getting tattoos becomes addictive and I can relate. However, for me it’s not the tattoos I’m addicted to, it’s expressing myself and claiming my body through art that I feel compelled to do. Up until that fateful day in Ireland I had never really felt at home in my body, never felt beautiful or special and did everything in my power to avoid looking at myself. Like so many other women I suffered horribly from a poor self image and was constantly waging a war with a body that I felt was all wrong. Tattoos changed that for me and now I love what I see and feel more at home in myself than ever before.
Tattoo Road Map
Tattoos have become a road map to my life, a visual reminder of the good and the bad, a way to make this body that I have struggled to accept more loveable. I liken it to finally hanging art on the walls of a place that you’re ready to call home. I have no regrets and have plans to continue decorating the walls of this body until I’m a very old woman. Not exactly something you can tell a complete stranger in line at the grocery store.