Saturday, August 16, 2014

About Tattoos


Have I told you that I was something of a rebel as a teen? I was somewhere in between horrible and pretty challenging. I wasn't a bad person, just not my best self. Really the trouble only lasted about two years, but in that period of time I got a tattoo. Let's call it my last gasp at rebellion, because I think that was about the end of my shenanigans. I was 16 at the time.  My parents did not know about it at all and they didn't find out for several years, until I had the courage to admit the permanent reminder of my adolescent misbehavior. How, you may wonder, did I keep an arm tattoo covered in New Mexico through hot summers? Let's just say that was a high price I paid for being a teen liar, that and a heavy guilt that rested on my heart for a couple of years.

While I regret the youthful deception I have never really regretted the tattoo. In case you are wondering, the tattoo was the Japanese symbol for love. My 16 year old self thought it was totally unique. My adult self, pretty much from 18 onward was a little embarrassed. Not about the word love, that is a great word. It's just---well I am not fluent in Japanese and I have never visited Japan. There wasn't a real value to the tattoo, it felt a bit canned. While it was kind of embarrassing it was also kind of a bittersweet reminder of the girl that I once was. I was trying to show my independence and lay claim to my own body and those are great things. However, I might have made a different choice had I waited until I was mature enough to know myself and own my decisions. We'll never know.

Now before I go forward I know that people have a wide array of feelings about tattoos and I respect that completely. Some people think that any body modification is wrong, others think that permanent body modification (with the exception of earrings or surgical procedures like wisdom tooth removal and appendectomies) are wrong. Still others think a few discreet tattoos are acceptable, the kind that can be easily hidden. I think many, certainly not all, in my generation are a bit more comfortable with the whole thing.  I don't know where you lay on the spectrum, but I have chosen to be a tattooed person. Also, I am in a career field, the arts, that won't see a tattoo as a negative. I made the first choice before I knew my mind, but earlier this year I began work on a rather large tattoo on my arm and now I know my own mind.

I actually went back and forth for a few years, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to cover the original tattoo. If you are at all aware of the tattoo culture it is kind of sort of taboo to cover a tattoo, kind of like hiding a part of your past. And that is exactly what I was doing. Finally, I just realized that it was time to give myself a tattoo with a bit more meaning a lasting significance that I could proudly carry forth through the remainder of my life, which by my math is about 97 more years. Plus, I am an artist! I live for beauty and art and decoration, why not reflect that with my own self.

Anyway, I enlisted my husband for a little help in the design of the tattoo. I love nature, like a lot. So I always knew I wanted something beautiful and natural. I leaned toward a small bouquet of flowers from the start. I didn't just want any flowers though, I wanted meaning. So I chose a very personal bouquet. I chose a rose in the center (this covered the original tattoo). Rose is my Great Grandmother's name, my middle name. Then I chose a smaller rose to represent Cordelia, whose middle name is also Rose. For Elise I chose a violet, her middle name is Ione which means violet in Greek (incidentally this is a middle name she shares with her Great Grandmother). I have two stalks of wheat to represent my father, who grew up on a wheat farm and is still a wheat farmer in his heart. My mother is represented by morning glory, she loves the flower. Funny story, she suggested that I have the morning glory strangling the wheat (it's actually a weed unloved by farmers). I also have included two little buds off of the morning glory to represent the two children I miscarried, as I feel in my heart like I am a mother to four children. My amazing husband took all of that and my request for something that looked like a vintage botanic print and created a beautiful design.

I met with my tattoo artist in May and we set to work. It took three sessions (outline, tattoo, finishing touches), but now it is done. I love it, there is no way that I can regret a beautiful reminder of those that I hold dear---although both brothers have been bugging for representation so they may find their way in at some point---as bugs . I kid---or do I? Anyway, that's the story of the tattoo and how it came to be.


Mom said...

It really is pretty and very meaningful. AND, you are forgiven for getting tattooed when you were underage.

Marie Roxanne said...

that is an awesome design, and for the brothers, maybe instead of bugs, how about two thorns coming out from the rose? Ha Ha - and yes I used to have a brother... LOL

Sarah Purdy said...

It's a beautiful piece. I love it!

Stacy said...

Great story and very meaningful. <3

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