“You’ll never get a job if you have a tattoo,” said my mother disapprovingly. Aged 23, I came back from three months abroad sporting a tattoo in the small of my back. She hated it. But to me, it represented so much.
It marked a point in my life where I didn’t know who I was or where I was going, or what I was doing. (That would take another fifteen or so years, well, at least I know who I am these days even if I don’t have a clue about the rest!) I never regretted it and strangely, it didn’t ever stop me being employed. My last boss had a full sleeve tattoo and is currently having a lot of work on his back done!
I hated having it done – it was supposed to be coloured in, but I couldn’t cope with the pain and stuck at the outline. I’m happy I did stop as it meant that more recently I could have a cover-up.
Last year, after more than a decade of dithering and putting it off, I got a cover-up on my back. If you look carefully, you can still see some of the original and I love that. I never wanted to erase my history, but now I’ve added to it, layered it up, made it more beautiful and definitely more me. It went from something about two inches across to five or six inches.
And then I wanted a wrist tattoo. When I’m in a self-destructive state, it’s a visual reminder to slow down. To breathe. It doesn’t always stop me, but it definitely puts the brakes on.
Being me, I had a further two tattoos that day. One on each foot. They’re all done by the same artist, who specialises in dot-work (apparently less painful). Lotuses and unalomes to symbolise the twists and turns in life, growth and harmony, overcoming adversity, and more.
I found that they co-incided with a point in my life where I was becoming more confident. Whether they’re a symptom or a cause of that, I’m not sure. There are certainly days when I’m not feeling so great but when I see my tattoos and ear piercings, it gives me that push. I am not the quiet person who blends into the background any more. I don’t want to be and my appearance helps remind me of that.
A side effect of the tattoos has been getting a couple of other piercings. I really hate the pain (it’s the wrong kind of pain, dammit) so I’m too wimpy to get anything else done – and to be honest it’s embarrassing, squeaking like that, over my second tragus piercing last month.
And then I changed my hair too, getting it fully undercut.
I’m definitely the most comfortable I’ve ever been with myself. Physically, sexually… and despite the last six months or so being a total headfuck, I’ve at least been honest and kind to myself about it. I’m a lot more forgiving of myself and like me a whole lot more than I’ve ever done in the past.
People without piercings and tattoos always tell me I’ll get addicted and won’t stop. I don’t think it matters whether I do or not, as long as I’m comfortable in my own skin. And I did say I wouldn’t get another tattoo, but now I’m idly planning number five. A different style, coloured. It’s part of my story…
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