Let's do a bit of shorthand?
Tattoos...long history...bad boys...dirty...prisoners and sailors...trashy...art...self-expression...blah, blah, blah.
This is MY tattoo story. When people attempt to explain what their ink means it always ends up sounding silly or juvenile. This is why I shall write about it. I hardly ever show mine...they were done for me not for others. They are my little secrets.
The first one: classic little "tramp stamp." I'm not proud of its genericism but it was my first and thus important. My best friend and I decided to get them after high school graduation. I bought his and he bought mine. We laughed the entire time and reveled in being young...we spend lots of days together during that summer...No pretense, no double meaning, just friendship.
Funny enough both of us have since developed an addiction to ink. Perhaps that first one was a catalyst.
The second one came spontaneously. I saw this postcard with an Xray of a lily...it was so delicately beautiful...so effervescent. I though it would look fantastic on my foot. This time I went with my mom.
She made fun of me the whole time and tried to talk me out of it until the last second...but she came with me because this one would hurt.
And oh Dear God it did. The foot seemed to have millions of neurons all screaming and burning as the needle pierced my skin over and over again. At first I couldn't breathe...
...but then I had a realization -- I wanted THAT specific tattoo in THAT specific place because I wanted to feel the pain. (this is where you say I'm insane and move on). I had been so well loved and protected throughout my entire life, to that point, that I never experienced pain. I never broke a limb, I never got into fights, I never spent time in a hospital...dancing, thankfully, did not injure me beyond achy knees and busted toes.
Is my reasoning a bit skewed? Perhaps.
I wanted to feel that pain. TRUE, pure, severe pain. (I would never compare this to a car accident or open heart surgery, I mean only the actual feeling of pain). As I breathed in I imagined the needle ripping through my skin, buzzing through muscles and ligaments, all the way down to the bone...it felt GOOD. It made me want more...made me know I was just a bit stronger than I expected...
My foot is my first real scar. My first true pain that I carry with me forever.
The neck one came suddenly as well. I was in the midst of ending another disastrous relationship, wrapped up in Vegas club life, preparing for grad school, assaulted by a constant stream people/noises/sounds/colors. Sometimes I wanted to scream.
I saw a phrase..."Serva Me Serva Bote" (save me and I shall save you). I searched for the perfect font and when I plugged in this little phrase into an online search box a thousand "Save me"'s appeared.
save me. Save me. SAVE ME! they yelled...Save. Me.
My skin ached as though the phrase was already on it...I had to let it come out.
Perhaps that was my call to the universe...to help me find someone to save me who I would save in return. (side note: ILJ)
The fourth. That one was easy.
Well except for the 3 hours of excruciating pain which, this time, did not feel so pleasant. My rib cage was filled with words..."Don't cry, don't beg, don't fear." Classic Russian.
For years my mother said that to me and I never knew why...turned out it was the med school motto where she met my father. Though I have absolutely no connection to him (nor desire any) I loved that phrase. For better or worse these people literally made me. They were young and madly in love and, I'd like to think, gave me the best parts of themselves.
Of all my pieces this one is my favorite. This one is the most severe but also the most beautiful. It is how I live my life. (well, most days anyway)
The fifth. Worst one. Badly made, badly conceived... It was my 28th birthday. Believe me when I say i DO NOT do birthdays well. Every time someone wishes me a "happy birthday" I burst into tears. I get angry and depressed. I feel so so terribly sorry for myself.
Why? Have no idea.
This time was worse because I was starting one of the hardest years of my life thus far, the beginning of which coincided with the end of a relationship that really wounded me. My friends were busy...away from me...unable to stop me. I was exhausted from crying but the tears would not stop. I pulled myself together long enough to walk into a tattoo shop in Salt Lake and sit in front of the first kid with a needle I saw.
His hands shook. I had no energy to encourage him. I did not make small talk. As the scorpion on my foot began to take shape the pain came. This time I welcomed it openly. It felt so good to release the emotional dam that had been building for so long.
He asked why I looked sad. I told him it was my birthday and burst out crying.
You know those really hard sobs with hiccups that come so fast you can't catch your breath? This was it. ....i begged him to keep going.
When he finished I drove home in silence. There was finally peace.
This last one needs work...his hands shook so much that parts of the scorpion are barely visible while others are way too dark. I will fix it as some point. But I still like looking at it...that was one of the worst days of my life. That was when I started to change my life...to realize what I needed and wanted and not apologizing for it.
The sixth one is coming. It has been selected..the skin is yearning for it to show through. This year marked a new stage. It needs to be acknowledged.
I'm sure I will stop at some point..I do not want to be a late 40-yr-something covered in ink.
But 10 is a good number.
10 moments of my life that defined me as a human being.
10 marks that are unique only to me.