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.