A story of my tattoo journey to here…
This morning, while taking a too long shower, I thought about my childhood. I thought about all the weird expectations that were constantly being put on me. I think the worst was probably when my father told me that no man would ever marry me unless I learnt how to cook. I thought it was kinda funny while being extremely insulting. I didn’t care but I did. Is that possible? The irony is, my husband, you know, the one who married me, does most of the cooking in our home anyway. I can cook just fine but I don’t enjoy it really.
I had other expectations put on me too. I guess the one I gave in to most was the one that required me to be educated. It was always this thing pushed on me. Get yourself an education – no one can take it away from you. Don’t marry a man and then sit back while he has all the power. Be strong in your own right. While cooking him dinner? These things confuse me.
I remember being really young and discovering the power of my voice. Speaking out loudly about what I do not want. I never had a problem with that. Authority? No problem. As long as it’s fair. Always fair.
Don’t expect respect if you respect no one. Because equality is gold. I trust that we can all act like adults around these parts. Giving and taking respect freely, without being asked.
Funnily enough, one of the biggest stands I’ve ever taken was the day I decided that now, I brush my own hair. I still remember my grans disappointment. I won’t wear those frills and I won’t be having two bloody side ponytails anymore. Nope! It may seem like nothing but it took a lot for me.
Then a few years later, I packed my bags and moved in with my dad. It was time and I was ready. I was starting this journey for me.
Years went by, teenage years! Forced to fit in boxes that I never really fit in. Little rebellious phases – trying to find my feet.
Tattoos? The first real claim to the rebel within.
I was 19 when I got my first tattoo. A question I hate so much and I am ALWAYS being asked, along with; but what do your parents think? (Ugh that again!) is… “what will they look like when they’re older.?”… my mind drifts off…
Somewhere in the air is a picture of a super cool old lady, on a Harley no doubt… haha, nah, probably sewing… covered in ink of the various times of her life. Symbols that tell stories that perhaps, one day, will trigger memory. Dementia runs in my blood so maybe I’m writing my story where I won’t forget it.
Some of my tattoos don’t have much meaning – and people don’t like that answer so I avoid it like the plague but here you go…
What my tattoos mean or don’t…
My first tattoo – a gecko. Picked off the wall. Little to no thought went into it. My very first stance as an independent woman. My father hated it. That made me love it even more. This is my body and I can do with it what I wish. Years of piercings and still he thought he could decide for me. But there’s no going back now.
A star on my back – between my shoulder blades. Everyone wants to know – but does it have meaning? This one means nothing to me. A combination of pictures I found in an architecture book one rainy day as I sat in the university library. Gothic church designs, inscribed on my body.
Soon after that, a bird, a swallow – grey scale on my ribcage. FUCK that hurts like a bitch. I suppose it represents freedom. I don’t know. People ALWAYS ask the meaning behind your tattoos. And then somehow seem confused when I say there isn’t any. I liked a similar picture of a bird printed on a t-shirt I once saw.
A year later – the biggest piece on my body. A tree – the moon, the grim reaper on my side…a man hanging from a tree while others watch. The first of my tattoos to have real meaning. A tattoo created from art I made in high school. A life punctuated with death. Death I’m trying desperately to unpick. I don’t know why grief has arrived on my door.
This tattoo, in all its dark glory depicts the ever watching ever waiting grim reaper – while people stand and watch you being persecuted. Something like that. My cousin died and he was young and didn’t deserve to die and I don’t know how to process the pain in my heart. It covers up the gecko. So I tattoo myself. There – feel better knowing what it means?
After that, the number 695 – Everyone who sees this asks me what it means. My father raced off road bikes, this was his last race number.. “oh” they say. “How does he feel about that?” “He’s dead,” I say. “He hated tattoos.” They don’t know how to respond.
I’m not done yet… over the next few years I add some more… a Bee that stands for Bonnie, my mom. My first ever “visible” tattoo. It took me almost a life time, I’m 34 years old when I finally get a tattoo that isn’t hidden. It feels like I’m standing up and saying I won’t hide anymore. I’ve always been so worried about “my career” and how they will judge me. But now, I have to have faith in the fact that I’m really good at what I do and people will hire me for my skills and my experience and hopefully, this bee won’t get in the way. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take. It’s probably my favourite.
Almost exactly a year later, I cover my shoulder in flowers. A floral design that has absolutely no meaning what so ever. I think it’s just the space I’m in. I’m all about roses right now…and wild flowers. It’s huge. It’s bigger than I thought it would be. I love it.
Months later, I go back, a tattoo I’ve wanted for a long long time. In my fathers hand writing, copied out an old birthday card… the words “I love you” so cheesy… on the side of my wrist.
It’s so delicate and tiny. I expect people to ask about this one, for some reason, no one has. This one is perhaps the only tattoo I regret. Every time I look at it, it reminds me he’s not here. It was supposed to comfort me, remind me of how much he loved me but all it does is remind me of how much he has missed and how much I miss him.
A few weeks later, I see a picture of a gypsy, my tattoo artists partner wants to tattoo. Pick me, pick me. And now she’s on my leg. I get a tiny insignificant dot on my finger while I’m there…
This rebel heart…
I doubt it will ever stop, the collecting of ink on my body. Some have meaning but some don’t. Some of the meaning is so personal that it’s uncomfortable to explain the meaning in the street, to strangers.
People tell me all the time, they love my tattoos, they hate tattoos, they think I made a mistake, they’ll be ugly when I’m old, they don’t get it, they wish they had the guts… and so it goes on and on.
The truth is, my tattoos are not for anyone else.
My tattoos are not about you and your feelings and your emotions… and yes, I know that people judge people with tattoos. I get it. I get the stigma attached to them.
I read a thing once that said “it’s okay to look different and weird but know that you’re always going to have to work just a little bit harder to prove yourself to people” and wow, that resonated with me. I feel that perhaps, I’ve got enough “achievements” to my name to not be insulted when people say that those with tattoos are useless, no good, rubbish, worthless, trash, thugs… perhaps it’s because I don’t see myself in these words that they don’t affect me.
I may be covered in tattoos, but my tattoos do not define my life. They do not define who I am and what I am capable of. I can live with the misjudgement of me because I KNOW it’s not true. This rebel heart doesn’t care what you think anyway…
I wear my rebel heart proudly on my sleeve!
“She had a flower tattoo on her wrist; “What does that mean?” he asked her. “Absolutely nothing,” she said, “it’s just a flower.” ― C. JoyBell C.