Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tattooed Lady

Last night I was washing my hands in the bathroom at school when I caught sight of the tattoo on my arm in the mirror and for half a second I was shocked-I'd forgotten about it. I don't seem like a tattoo kind of gal, I'm awkward and shy and really not an exhibitionist (Physically. This blog is proof I'm an emotional exhibitionist. Sorry again, Z.) When it's cold out I don't remember the tattoos. Throughout the winter I'll be caught by surprise when I spy them in the shower or when I'm changing.

In the spring I feel a little embarrassed by them. I get used to feeling tattoo-free and it is undeniable that people look at you differently when your tattoos are showing. By the time fall rolls around I feel comfortable in my skin and I don't think about them at all.

The one thing I don't do is regret them. I got my first one when I was 28. It wasn't an impulse decision. I didn't get smashed one night and decide I needed a butterfly or "peace" in kanji. I don't have a tramp stamp. Every woman I know who has one got it when she was in her late teens or early 20s. The people I'm drawn to are not the kind who would decide to get a tattoo just north of their ass crack whilst approaching their 30th birthday. Actually, I did briefly consider getting one-it would have been the words "tramp stamp". Z thought it was hysterical, he begged me to do it. But ultimately it broke one of my rules-a tattoo shall not be a joke.

Yes, 50 years from now they are going to be faded and wrinkly. I realized that when I started getting them. So why did I make the choice? I love that they are an expression of who we are in a moment in time. They are memories made permanent. Hell, if I did have a tramp stamp I wouldn't regret it. It would be a reminder of who I was as a young woman.

Z wanted to get tattoos to celebrate our 10th anniversary of being together. I was very cagey about the whole thing-it felt like a relationship curse. I mentioned that to the guy who does all my work and he said, "Listen. Even if you guys get divorced someday you still spent 10 years with him. That is a big deal. Won't you want to remember that?" He was right. And he articulated exactly what I loved about tattoos.

A couple of years after I got my first, an outline of Brooklyn with Prospect Park and three dots signifying where we had lived, my friend took a picture of it and posted it to flickr. What? It was 2006. Curbed NY, a real estate website, reposted it. At first I thought it was super exciting, but then I read the comments (which are no longer there-thanks for the kindness internet!). Besides being called fat the one that stuck with me was something like "At least I can shave off my ironic mustache in a few years. She's going to be stuck with that forever." You know what? I am going to be stuck with it forever. When I got it did I think I'd live in Brooklyn for the rest of my life? Yes. But I still love the tattoo even though I live in Syracuse. It means where we got married. It means the first place we were homeowners. It means surviving the ugliest days of our marriage and learning to like each other again. It will mean those things until the day I die. I'm glad it is on my arm.

My tattoos celebrate my love for my husband, my sons, my parents, my country, and the twins that I miscarried. I'm glad I carry that love on my body for anyone to see. My choices weren't made lightly and I don't believe they will lead to regret. My only concern is how the boys will react to them when they are older. I don't want them embarrassed by their tattooed Mom and Dad. But they are going to embarrassed by us no matter what we do. Maybe it's good that I've given them a straightforward target to take their adolescent angst out upon.

And about them being wrinkly in 50 years? My whole body is going to be faded and wrinkly. I don't give a shit that the tattoos will be as well.

It would make a hell of a lot of sense to post some pictures of my tattoos. But it is fucking freezing in my house. I'm keeping my sweater on. How about a picture of my kids playing with the world's best toy?

Yeah, this isn't going to end badly....

One last reason I love tattoos--on our 5th wedding anniversary, back when things were pretty much rock bottom with Z and me, he got a tattoo of me as a mermaid on his chest. I questioned him about it-months earlier he'd told me he didn't want to be married anymore. Did he really want to get a picture of me (the art was taken from an old photo) permanently inked on him? He told me yes. It was a bizarre leap of faith. That might have been the beginning of me believing he and I were going to work things out. Also, my husband has a picture of me as a mermaid tattooed on his chest. Come on. That is totally bad ass. 


  1. My husband hates tattoos. It really irks me because I've always thought of getting one someday, maybe getting matching ones with my daughter, like someone we know got with her mom. We'll see what happens, though.

  2. My husband hates them as well. I, however, came with quite a few. I got another a few years ago and he didn't talk to me for a week. Sigh.

  3. Re: husbands
    It's your body, ladies.

  4. It was a bizarre leap of faith. That might have been the beginning of me believing he and I were going to work things out. Also, my husband has a picture of me as a mermaid tattooed on his chest. Come on. That is totally bad ass.


    Reason #150,475,264,432,999 why you invariably keep me coming back

    to read

    your quite un-typical

    (in the good way)


    Sometimes I am very afraid that you will become famous, become your own reality show, and have your faces plastered on billboards across the USA.

    I will have to convince everyone that I "knew" you when you were a diamond-as-yet-somewhat-hidden.

    Don't take this the wrong way. I hope you don't become famous. I like you the way you are.

    Even if you deserve the limelight,

    Cathy in Missouri

    P.S. I consider fame a curse; as in, something I would never want. Hence, I don't want it for those I like. ie: you :)

    1. Wow, you sure are great for my ego. And I don't think there is any threat of me becoming famous. I'm too old. I swear too much. I'm certifiably crazy. And very very few people read my blog. If I could earn enough so we didn't worry about money all the time, especially through writing? Now that is my dream that I don't think will ever come true....

      I've said it before, but thanks for reading. It really makes me feel good to that someone I've never met enjoys this stuff. You are doing me a great kindness, Cathy in Missouri