It’s a strange thing, to be visibly tattooed in a world that isn’t. Looking back, I never would have imagined myself as a tattooed person. Even in high school I found tattoos to be shocking and something so far from what I imagined for myself, although I’d always been intrigued and in admiration of those who chose to do so. But life changed and my interests shifted. I found myself getting more into music and gaining a look at the bigger picture of my life and how I lived it. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the idea of putting pretty things permanently on my body and now, ten years later, I find myself with quite an assortment of colorful pieces. Some of them have meanings, some don’t, but they all tell the story of this life I’m living.
I thought about it at great length before I took the plunge and tattooed my back, ribs, chest, arms and later my legs (you can read about all of my tattoos over on my blog). I’m an over-thinker by nature, so I waited until I was 21 to get my first. I knew the kind of reactions I would get from strangers; I knew that some people just wouldn’t get it and would judge me right off the bat solely based on my appearance. That was a given. There seemed to be an imaginary line of “too many”, at least where I’m from, and if you crossed that line, it confused people. Why on earth would you do that? What are you going to do when you’re 80? Small tattoos – back tattoos, ankles, maybe even a cute saying on your wrist – all “normal” in the eyes of my peers and most older folk. But go beyond that and you entered the world of deviant, a place of “out there”, a strange anomaly among normalcy.
I’ll never forget a trip I took to Disneyland with a group of friends, many years before I had any visible tattoos. One of my friends who joined us was covered in artwork from head to toe – even his throat and hands were tattooed and everywhere we went in the park, people stopped and stared. That afternoon, I watched mothers pull their children closer to them in line, saw people shaking their head at him in disgust and even witnessed a woman tell him how horrible he was to do that to his body. It was 2003 and I was 21. I’ll never forget how that made me feel, even though my friend Chris just smiled politely at them and acted like he wasn’t phased.
It phased me, though, and I couldn’t believe people could be so rude and beyond that, hurtful and cruel. It disgusted me. I thought about that trip often and when I decided to tattoo my body in places that were much more visible, I kept that day in mind.
The most surprising thing about being heavily tattooed is how it affects my day to day. My family and I live in a very small, pretty conservative town and often there are times I just want to hide. Most of the time, I don’t feel like making small talk (oh my, you’re quite a colorful young lady), getting looks (either positive and negative) or answering questions (did that hurt? how much did that cost? can I see them all?). I just want to do my thing hassle-free – shop, hang out, etc., so I dress accordingly.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve developed a tougher skin somewhere along the line; I think you have to when you have people making comments about your appearance or invading your personal space on the regular. It doesn’t bother me much these days, although that’s not to say my feelings don’t get hurt now and again. I can be sensitive, which probably isn’t the best personality type to have when you go against the grain, but over the years I’ve developed a light-hearted attitude towards it all and now most negative remarks slide right past me.
At the base of it, though, I’ve come to a point where I think of my tattoos as doing a favor for me. They’ve become almost a filter in a way. They keep me real and when it comes down to it, it allows me to see other people for who they are too. I will never understand how something on my body as simple as two roses over my shoulders could offend anyone to the point of needing or wanting to make a rude comment, but that’s the difference between them and me, I suppose. In my world, life is too short to involve myself with anyone who doesn’t have a loving, accepting heart and if my tattoos bother you to the point of sticking your nose up in the air at me, then I’d prefer if you just keep on walking by. As I see it, I didn’t want to know you anyway.
On the other hand though, there’s a part of me that needs to work on overcoming my own judgment of people. Because I’ve experienced some of the rudest stares and remarks, I’ve begun to expect it from all people. If I’m at the store and notice a woman staring at my arm, my first reaction is to stare right back, maybe even give her a “what?!” kind of look. I think over the years I developed a chip on my shoulder, which isn’t a good thing. I’m aware of it now, but for awhile I would forget that more often than not people are simply curious, or maybe they like what they see. In a way my preemptive attitude towards all of the un-tattooed people of the world is just as rude. I’m judging them for possibly judging me, making an assumption that may or may not even be true.
In the end, my motto of “live and let live” is in practice all of the time. Many people won’t get why I have chosen to decorate my skin with pictures, words and beautiful colors but the older I get, the less I care. That’s on them and we are all entitled to our own opinion. There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t loved how I look, but there have been days where I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt beyond irritated at peoples’ reactions.
What it comes down to though is that it’s my choice to let anyone’s negativity affect me. And this can be applied to any aspect of life. You can’t please ‘em all and if it’s not one thing, it will always be another. No matter what choice you make there will always be someone out there who disapproves. You just have to focus on what makes you happy and let all of the naysayers fall to the side. I’m grateful that my tattoos have helped me learned this huge life lesson. So I just do my thing and secretly smile to myself every time someone asks me what I’ll do when I’m 80 years old. Because really, don’t they know that we’re all going to be wrinkly and old? And at least my wrinkles will be colorful.