Michal Walther
June 03, 2016 8:46 am
Getty / Willie B. Thomas

I began my ink journey at 19, without the consent of my parents. You might think, “You’re an adult, you can do whatever you want;” however, it didn’t feel like that was the case. Ever since I was a child, my parents told me that I’d be written out of their will if I got a tattoo. Of course, I later learned that was just a parental tactic. Nonetheless, my parents were still helping me financially, so it was in my best interest not to fall out of their good graces. They were adamantly against tattoos; it didn’t matter what argument I brought to the table, they weren’t going to change their minds. After numerous excruciatingly long and heated battles, I gave up trying to convince them otherwise. I was emotionally spent, and I’m sure they were, too. I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to get their approval, and simply move on, because, after all the tattoo was for me, and me only.

I didn’t want to show blatant disrespect towards my parents, so I made sure to get my tattoos in places that were easily concealable — my legs. I couldn’t wear shorts anymore when I went home, which at first didn’t bother me; however, I live in Texas, which means 90 degree weather during the spring, summer, and sometimes even the fall. I quickly learned that having to wear pants all the time in Texas was an exceptionally miserable affair. Whenever I went home or visited family, I had to be meticulous about everything I wore, even my pajamas. This became mentally exhausting, and I started living in constant fear of my parents finding out about my ink. Everywhere I went I felt paranoid.

I wanted so badly to tell my parents; in fact, there were times when I wished that they had somehow found out, because the truth is, keeping a secret takes a mental and physical toll on you. The week after my wedding, I got another tattoo; except, this time, I couldn’t hide it because it covers half my forearm. Immediately after I felt sick to my stomach as I thought about what was to come. What will my parents think? Will they write me out of the will after all? A few weeks later, I decided that it was time to tell my parents. I was tired of having to keep secrets.

My mom’s response shocked me. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but she also wasn’t angry; her opinion of me didn’t change. She wasn’t embarrassed by me, and she still loved me. For years, I had built up this idea of how it would all go down when my parents found out about my tattoos, and in all the scenarios I had created, not one of them ended happily. In all instances, the relationship I had with my parents had dramatically altered. In reality, my mom accepted them, and me. Telling her gave me the confidence I needed to then tell my dad. His response surprised me even more. He laughed a little and said, “Honey, you can do whatever you want.” He’s now planning to get a tattoo of his own.

I understand that not every situation ends like mine did. However, this is all to say that sometimes our minds work against us. I spent three years dwelling on the idea that if my parents found out about my tattoos, our relationship would never be the same. I felt that their perspective of me would forever change. However, that clearly didn’t happen. The truth is, we often make things out to be worse than they really are, and as a consequence, we keep ourselves rooted in fear. What I’ve learned is that, while it may be terrifying, airing your secrets is the healthiest way to go.