I got my first tattoo when I was just 18 years old. I was young, impulsive, rebellious, and to put it simply, I was “itching for ink.” I didn’t know what I wanted from a tattoo other than knowing that I wanted something colorful, “cute,” and something to memorialize my father, but what that would be remained a mystery. But on my 18 birthday, I walked into a tattoo parlor off of St. George Avenue, coughed over my ID — and a $100 — to some man behind a waist-high counter, and got my first set of ink. I love my tattoos, and I won't ever pretend to be ashamed of them just because somebody else might not like them.
Back when I was 18, I thought that you picked tattoos the same way you would a shirt or a pair of shoes. I didn’t realize you have a tattoo artist create something just for you. After nearly an hour of searching — a flower I liked here, and a bowling-designed tattoo I considered over there (yes, my father was a bowler) — I settled on a small cross, wrapped in a single yellow rose.
Today, that tattoo still sits on the small of back beside a Kanji (Chinese character) that means “to endure or persevere." It's one of the many tattoos on my body that I love and appreciate and am proud of. It's one of the many tattoos that makes me, well, me.
All of my tattoos were designed for me based on ideas I had. They were artistic interpretations of stories I wanted to tell. They were created for me, to fit me.
During my 14-year body-modification journey, I’ve learned a lot about tattoos and myself. I’ve learned to ask questions about procedures and healing times and colors and designs. I've learned to be more thoughtful and less impulsive. I’ve learned not all pieces come off “the wall” (the endless sheets of stereotypical designs where my cross and Kanji came from). And aside from the aforementioned flash pieces, all of my tattoos were designed for me based on ideas I had. They were artistic interpretations of stories I wanted to tell. They were created for me, to fit me, and that makes each and every one beautiful. That makes each and every one something I want to share.
Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing wrong with a flash tattoo. I know not everyone agrees with me and that some of my heavily modified friends think they aren’t “real tattoos." I know many artists who loathe doing them because they're easy, unchallenging, and do not offer the artist a chance to truly impart their creative talents. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still amazing or meaningful or important. I love my tattoos equally, and that includes the very first two I got years ago on my 18 birthday.
Honestly, whether you like them or not doesn’t make a damn difference. I like them. I love them. And that's enough.
Over the years, my tattoos have helped me realize how sexy I truly am. In a world that makes it increasingly more difficult to find yourself and to love yourself, my tattoos ground me. They've gave me a sense of self I never thought I could – or would — have. They've gave me more confidence and self-assurance than I ever imagined. They help me define myself, and they empower me to be me.
But perhaps the I love most about my tattoos, the thing that makes me happiest, and fills me with the most pride, is that they are, in fact, mine. These pictures and images represent my life. Some are moments I do not want to forget (my childhood, my wedding, and my memories of my father and my grandmother). Some are reminders of things I want to do, of the woman I want and aspire to be (like my semicolon tattoo and my Hunter S. Thompson sleeve). And some are just images that make me smile, and that make me think of good times, of better times, of bad days I've overcome. Honestly, whether you like them or not doesn’t make a damn difference. I like them. I love them. And that's enough.
I'll never be shamed into hiding or feeling insecure about what I've chosen to do with my body.
My tattoos make me more confident and self-assured than I ever thought I would be. Tattoo art is something I've always loved, and the ones adorning my body are an expression of my heart, my pain, the road I've come from and the one sitting before me.
I'm not defined by my tattoos. They aren't the sum of my life. They aren't the sum of who I am. I am not less feminine because I have ink, nor am I jobless, a “degenerate,” a criminal, or stupid. The art on my body is simply one part of who I am, and I'll never be shamed into hiding or feeling insecure about what I've chosen to do with my body. They are unique representations of events and moments in my life that have meant something to me. I look at each one on my body and remember the moment — the minute — I got them. And when I do, it brings me joy.