I was recently challenged by someone on why I would want to have a tattoo, let alone more than one. I was chastised for having them at my age and how I was setting a bad example for young people, including my own daughter (who also has tattoos). I learned that this person, in accordance with their beliefs, has a very negative view of someone permanently marking the body. That is okay. While I’m not here to argue about what may be perceived acceptable by someone else’s standards, I would like to share how I ended up with my first tattoo, why I might get more, and why that is okay as well.
A little history: I didn’t get my first tattoo until about three years ago for a variety of reasons, mostly due to my “uneasiness” surrounding needles and pain. Uneasiness is putting it mildly, if you were to ask those that know me. Ask the nice nurses at the laboratories where I’ve been known to pass out while having blood drawn. Ask my mother and I’m sure she could recall in vivid detail what it was like to watch a number of doctors and nurses try to hold me down in order to give me a shot of antibiotics when I was 11 years old and so sick I could barely lift my head. Ask my daughter, who just last night watched me get queasy while receiving a B-12 injection. Such an aversion to needles led me to avoid tattoos for many, many years. While I liked the look and the idea of them, the potential pain wasn’t worth it to me.
Close to my 39th birthday, a friend asked my daughter and I to go with her to get her new tattoo. I thought, “Why not?” I had been in tattoo shops before, I knew what sounds and smells to expect. What I didn’t expect was a challenge from the tattoo artist. As I perused the various designs, waiting for my friend to finish up, Sean came up and introduced himself. He asked if I’d ever considered getting a tattoo and when I uneasily laughed and said, “Yes.” I quickly added that it was too bad they didn’t have numbing gel. He smiled and said that if I had gone through the pain of childbirth, I could handle it. Of course I got through childbirth…I had an EPIDURAL! As I pointed this out, Sean calmly said that he thought he could do the tattoo I wanted in less than 20 minutes and that if I felt any pain, he’d stop. Stop? With a black dot on my body that I could pass off as a freckle? Of course, I’d never be able to tell anyone about it because it would be humiliating to admit that I stopped after one tiny dot! I wasn’t sure about this. My daughter, loving this idea, said she’d “hold my hand” and somehow I found myself agreeing to try.
Sean did an amazing job. Not that the tattoo was intricate – it’s a very simple Japanese symbol – but I felt no pain. At all. I didn’t even need to squeeze my daughter’s fingers (which she was eagerly anticipating, I’m sure). Turns out, we sometimes get ideas of what something will be like and assume the worst without ever giving ourselves a chance to try it. We base what we think things will be like using similar experiences such as when I contemplated hot yoga, hiking, and blind dates! I’ve learned that it’s best to not immediately say no to something I haven’t done before. Instead, I question why I might not want to do it (Parasailing? Someone just recently died!) and think of the benefit that I might gain (Move to a new state? Meet new friends!). The last three years have been wonderful with all the experiences I’ve had, which I might not have had if I’d continued to blindly say no.
Back to the tattoos: ironically, I now have approximately 10 of them and am proud of each one, each experience, and what led me to get them all. Future blogs will go into more detail about why I chose them and what experiences I’ve had that surround them as these make up the “breathe” portion of eat.write.breathe. but my current tattoos are:
* Desire (Japanese symbol)
* Spirit (Japanese symbol)
* Chance (Japanese symbol)
* Journey (Japanese symbol)
* Serenity (Japanese symbol)
* Credo in Ora (Italian meaning “believe in now”)
* Breathe (Japanese symbol)
* Believe (Chinese symbol for “believe in yourself”)
* Love (Japanese symbol)
* Two hearts intertwined (for my daughter)
I have a few more that I’m planning and each one has a special meaning. For example, for years my daughter and I have had a running joke regarding what she wanted to be called when she was 3 years old (“shooting star flower pot butterfly”) and I’m looking for a way to incorporate them into something nice for her. I’m also likely to get one for my dog, Kona, when one day he is no longer with me.
Regardless of how many more tattoos I get, though, it’s my body. It’s an expression of my creativity, my beliefs, my life. If I choose to display that on my body, I must live with the consequences of doing so. Out of these 10, only 3 are visible when I wear short sleeves. The rest stay covered up for the most part. And yes, I will be just as happy with every one of them when I’m an old lady with wrinkly skin. I will still feel beautiful. In the end, I don’t mind defending my choice to those that feel the need to challenge me on why I get them. I would just hope that those doing the challenging are as open to hearing the reasons why.