Monday, August 17, 2015

the tattoo: my feelings two years later

Two years ago, I got a tattoo for our anniversary. I'd spent two years explaining to Jason that I knew exactly what I wanted on my arm and that I could promise to rock it confidently for life. Two years ago I went to church on a Sunday morning, fueled myself with Subway, and sat for five and a half hours while a bearded man filled my brain with ultra-marathon knowledge and my skin with permanent ink.

I haven't regretted the tattoo over the last two years. I haven't wavered about my decision in the face of much opposition about girls and tattoos. I haven't lost my love for the art that's there and yet I haven't itched to add anything major yet. I did add our anniversary (a palindrome) in Roman numerals.

But, I have thought a lot about what I know now, and what I might have told myself -the girl with hidden tattoos- about a piece that's most certainly public. I'd have warned her of a few things, shared some facts, and rested some fears. And I realized, that might be some of you, wishing you knew what it felt like later, how the permanent ink changes your temporary. And this is what I'd say, to her, to you:

1. THOUGH THE ART IS PERSONAL, EVERYONE'S GOT AN OPINION.
They won't always share it, but sometimes they will and you'll feel ashamed in the face of their stark opposition to your skin. It's okay to just smile and nod for fear you might bite their head off.

2. NO ONE WILL ASK WHAT IT MEANS.
It's there to be seen and most people assume what meets the eye is everything. There's more than meets the eye -tattoo, person, book, picture-, we all know that, yet we don't explore that more-ness.

3. IT FADES AND YOU'LL HAVE TO GO BACK.
It took two years to go back and get touch-ups. You felt like the color had held up well, until he was done and you felt like the tattoo was all new and strange to you with its boldness.

4. YOU'LL STILL FEEL FEMININE.
Women -especially of older generations- will tell you it's masculine (even if it's floral and colorful) and claim you won't ever look right in a beautiful dress again. And, they're wrong. You'll look different than they did in a gown, but you'll pick something that brings out the beauty in the artwork and that is beauty in itself.

5. VASELINE HELPS WITH HEALING.
I know, there's fancy stuff and recommended stuff, but the biggest issue with skin when it's healing is the itchy dryness. You want to scratch and then that can pull out the pigment. So apply vaseline to stop the itch. They make it in cocoa butter scent now and, delicious.

6. YOU'LL MISS IT IN THE WINTER.
Sleeves are practical and warm and necessary in the chill of winter. You'll wear them constantly. And then spring and summer will bring the sun and you'll get to fall in love with the tattoos that have been hidden for months. It's like a present to yourself every year.

7. IT GETS HOT IN THE SUN.
Remember when you're a kid and you put black and white fabric in the sun. Then you touch it and the dark fabric is hotter because it sucks up the sun's energy. Well, that's the same with your skin. The dark shoulder gets hot. So keep it covered in sunscreen because it'll burn faster too.

8. IT WAS WORTH IT.
The pain, the time, the money. You'll love it more as time goes on, you won't experience regret, and sometimes strangers will stop you to tell you that it's beautiful instead of chastising you. Those moments are always worth it.

I know it's so hard to decide which side of the do-I-really-want-this-tattoo? fence you're on, but my philosophy is this: it's the best worn, most viewed, constantly available art one can buy. 

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