My parents gave us a lot more freedom than we deserved. We didn’t have a lot of rules in our house, and I remember our house being wild and crazy because of it. We had a ton of fun growing up, but ONE rule that we always had was NO TATTOOS ALLOWED. Interestingly enough, as much as we pushed our parents and as much as we tested their patience, none of my siblings or I have a tattoo. This was the one real rule we had, and this is the one rule that we have all abided by.
Tattoos have been on my mind because I keep seeing people get them. One good friend said that she got one to “mark the time.” Another friend just had a baby and as soon as she was cleared to get a tattoo, she went and got one. I also keep seeing new tattoos pop up on social media, so I figured it was time to write about them.
If you read my recent blog, you will see that I love art. If you come into my home, you will immediately see that my husband and I both love collecting it. However, neither of us has any body-art, and as we lean into middle-age, I don’t anticipate that we will invest in body-art. We will just stick to the wall art. I can’t speak for him, but I happen to love body-art, and I am intrigued by it. I reached out to three friends and asked them about their body-art, and their responses were unique and quite interesting.
My first friend is a world traveler, and on a whim, she got a tattoo as she was traveling southeast Asia.
Here is her story:
I was traveling in Taiwan on a long weekend. While in Kaohsiung, I found the cutest little tattoo shop. I thought “I’m a traveler I can get a travel tattoo now”. I went to Taipei the next day and looked up tattoos shops still not totally convinced I was getting one. We had been communicating via google translate in Chinese. When I arrived, the shop was on a 5th floor walk up, and the artist was Vietnamese. He was in Taiwan for a tattooing competition that he won. I asked about how long the tattoo would be because I had a flight. He started tattooing me and a few hours into it I realized I would miss my flight back to Okinawa.
Long story short, I impulsively decided on a travel tattoo while I was traveling. Traveling is a my favorite things to do. I wanted a map of the world but I also wanted it soft and feminine so I made it out of flowers.
Friend number two had an interesting tattoo story as well:
“From start to finish my tattoo took about 30-ish hours. It took me a month and a half to complete. Due to Covid restrictions leaning into a military move, I had to endure 8-12 hour sessions once a week to get it done before we moved. I got a dragon which represents a powerful and wise guardian. I also got a Japanese dancing crane which is a symbol of beauty, elegance, happiness and longevity. I have a Japanese Torii gate which represents the border between the secular world and the sacred worlds of the Japanese Shinto religion. We included Mt. Fuji because hiking Fuji was truly quite the out of body experience. Not only was I sick, but once I reached the top, I felt a true spiritual awakening. Another thing I wanted were Cherry Blossoms. They are the symbol of transience of human existence- fragile and short… death, beauty, violence. On my arm you will see that starting from my wrist, the cherry blossoms are light and gets darker going up my arm… to represent life stages and the beautiful yet impermanent nature.
I was always against tattoos. Never would I have imagined having a full sleeve. When I walk past a mirror, I have to do a double take…even 2 years later. I still wake up wondering who I really am with this crazy sleeve tattoo. I like to consider myself graceful and elegant, but when I look at my tattoo sometimes, I wonder if people think I’m part of a gang! Haha I have never regretted getting it, I think it’s unique and I think most of the time I pull it off. Fortunately, I have gotten more compliments on it than dirty looks…so I call that a win!
Additionally, the pain reminded me that no matter what struggle or what obstacle are thrown at you in life. It’s temporary and fleeting, but pain can be beautiful and teaches you to process other pain that has made its way into my life. In particular, at that moment, the pain was the cancer my mom had, then followed by her death. Pain is just a means to an end… and is perishable… proud of the final product and proud to have loved my mom remains eternal.”
Finally, my third friend’s story:
The short version of her story is, “I wanted to represent the idea that no matter what else is going on around us, truth prevails. That we cannot become so blinded by what we believe to be true that we cannot accept change. Also, faith and science can coexist.”
Her long story is filled with science, some Latin thrown in for good measure, rumors of Galileo, knowing our truth, and “I just feel like in a time where things are so uncertain and people are either renouncing their faith or leaning into it, we need to remember that both can coexist. That as we uncover truths, it doesn’t challenge faith. But also that we cannot pretend that those truths do not exist for the sake of our faith. Both science and faith are based in humanity’s insatiable thirst for knowledge. We all want to know what else is out there. And we can find answers and still continue to believe there is more out there we don’t know. And I am not very religious, but I want my child to know that curiosity is not a bad thing. And no truth is a bad thing. It simply is. The earth not being the center of the universe was not bad. It was simply the truth.” *Her body-art was done by Jesse Keller at Iron Ink in Akron, Ohio.
I loved reading their stories. I loved admiring their tattoos, and I hope that you enjoy both as well. The next time I see a new tattoo, I will be reminded that there is quite a story behind it.
***I cannot stress this enough…before you comment, please be reminded that these are my friends. They openly and authentically shared their stories with me, and for that I am so grateful. If you want to criticize my writing or my blog, I will accept that, but I will NOT accept any criticism about my friends or their body art.***