Six.

While shopping for my maid-of-honor dress this spring for Twinster’s wedding in October, I very quickly narrowed it down to two choices, but took a long time to make a decision. T and I talked about it a lot, because unfortunately, the reason we loved one dress more than the other was the exact reason we knew I couldn’t get it. See, I think I have just about the coolest mother in the world. She taught me how to be kind, and tough, and has supported me through absolutely everything. But she just can’t stand my tattoos. She loves to admonish me for them whenever they’re visible (*which truly, isn’t that often), tell me how much I’m going to regret them when I’m older, your typical parent things. The dress T and I loved was backless with a sheer cape, and while it was probably the perfect dress for me, it would have put the rib tattoo on display. Now, T wouldn’t have cared less if I showed up sporting a Mike Tyson (“Have you seen my dress? It’s not like anyone will be looking at you”), but Mama B would never forgive me if I wore something that displayed that much of my ink. So I went with my second choice, a dress that’s equally beautiful and has a closed back, and though it doesn’t showcase one of my favorite features, I can’t wait to wear it all the same.

I don’t mind that my mother hates my tattoos. Well, let me rephrase that. At this point in my life, and sporting the pieces that I do, I no longer mind that my mother hates my tattoos. I think because the first two were such carefully planned impulse decisions, I didn’t have the chance to prepare for her reaction. In some vague way, I knew she was going to be PISSED (*and she was), but at the same time, I knew that it didn’t really matter how angry she was with me for them, because I’m the one that has to look at them and live with them, and I love them a little more every day. I finally gave her a heads up before getting the third, and planned a careful speech to have with her so that she would understand both my decision to get one, as well as how well-researched and serious I was. She cut me off after a few sentences when I finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, but I didn’t push it. I know she’ll never understand or like them, and so I’ve just continued to get them, warning her along the way if I can, preparing for the renewed anger that I’m getting used to.

It’s hard to respond to people when they say things like “I couldn’t get a tattoo, I change my mind too often!!” because I think it misses the point of tattoos. Yes, they’re permanent – but that doesn’t mean it absolutely has to have some sort of higher meaning that will never change, a design you’ll feel exactly the same about from the day you get it till your last breath. I mean, the tiny heart on my ankle was the epitome of an impulse decision. Exactly seven years ago today, I was 19, living in a foreign country, and though I tried telling myself that it was too cliche to come home from six months abroad with a tattoo, I still walked into a shop that cool August morning by myself, an indecisive teenager ready to make a permanent decision. The final product isn’t the design I wanted, it’s not even the design the artist wanted, and I’ve had to have it redone once already. But here I am, seven years later, and despite everything being wrong from what I’d initially wanted, every time I look at my very first tattoo, it reminds me of a time in my life where I was bold. It calls a memory of that wild child in Buenos Aires, who did so many stupid things and a learned a lot of lessons to boot. The tiny heart on my ankle is like my little souvenir from who I was, and what I learned, exactly seven years ago today.

The designs have improved with time, and for the last two pieces I’ve stayed with the same artist, because he’s really the one person I trust to put ink to my skin now, but that feeling of a souvenir from a previous LB is true with every one of them. Of the remaining four, one of them makes me feel daring; one makes me feel obvious and loud in the best way; another reminds me that you can choose your family too; and another tells me every day to be grateful. That’s not the order in which I got them, because how each of those memories connects with which tattoo is too personal, even to mention here. But those are pieces of a previous me that I want to remember, and parts of my spirit that I never want to lose. Truly, it’s not for everyone, a permanent reminder of who you were seven, five years, even just one year ago. But whether tattoos “are” for anyone else is irrelevant to my decision to have them, because they absolutely are for me.

At the wedding this fall, I’ll wear my beautiful dress with a full back, and stand behind my sister, making sure her beautiful dress looks picture-perfect while she says yes to the rest of her life. And only my arm will be showing, but luckily it’s just the one line, so for Mama B’s fear about the photos, there’s always Photoshop. We’ll have our bridal lunch, and wedding, and then of course the Jets v. Pats game on Sunday, where husband and wife will enjoy a fierce rivalry as such for the first of many times. And then when I return to the city, I’m going to rest for one day before traveling to the Lower East Side for tattoo number six, one that will be very visible and very planned, and I absolutely can’t wait. It’s going to remind me of this time in my life, where I’m surrounded by love and the one-bedroom apartment that no longer feels so empty, and one day I think it will remind me that life is meant to enjoy.

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