The first tattoo I remember seeing was on my Grandad’s forearm. It was a hula girl like this one, and when he flexed his muscles she danced. He loved her. In fact, he said it was a picture of the love of his life. And it wasn’t my Grandma. Perhaps the salaciousness (sure, it’s a word) of that statement was what drew me in, but when I saw that tattoo, I was hooked. For life. I loved the way she was a part of his skin and his life. I would sit in his lap and trace the outline of his hula girl – I thought she was beautiful. And from that time to this, there has never been a moment in my life that I did not want a tattoo. I don’t know why – but they fascinate me. Perhaps it’s just positive conditioning: I loved my Grandad – he was the mildest of men when I knew him. He was a giggler and a muser. He was quiet and shy. He got that tattoo when he was about 14. I had no reason to believe that tattoos were only owned by unsavoury people.
My husband did not like tattoos when I first met him. A product of his upbringing, he thought people with tattoos were absolutely unsavoury. I was crushed and, needless to say, full of trepidation to his reaction when I said at the age of 28, that I WAS going to get one regardless of his feelings on the subject. A small one, a discreet one, on my shoulder blade.
Naturally, he followed suit by getting one of his own on his shoulder, realising of course that I had turned into neither a bikie or a woman of the night. And neither would he.
The next tattoo I got was a dragonfly – beautiful, elegant, blue and about 5 inches down my shoulder. SH didn’t speak to me for a few days because this tattoo was more public and unexpected even if it could be hidden under a t-shirt sleeve. He got over it and added to his tattoo but I understood his concerns even if I didn’t agree with them. This tattoo represents important things to me: it represents courage, beauty and strength. It is a reminder of something precious that I lost once. I love it. The day I got it, I left the clinic and the first living thing I saw was a dragonfly. It hovered in front of me and then flew daintily ahead of me all the way to my car. My heart skipped a beat.
I have had people ask me if I regret getting it. And I have to say, that I regret how people ‘see’ me for having it, but I do not regret it for a second. People really don’t expect me to have a tattoo. I’m sure there are people in my life who may never have started a friendship with me if they had seen my dragonfly before they met me. And I know there are people in my life who had second thoughts about continuing the friendship once they knew about it. But, generally I think that most people find me incongruous to the idea they have of someone with a tattoo. And that’s fine by me. I’m just saying: don’t pigeon-hole me, you won’t know what you’re missing out on.
As it is, my siblings and all their partners have tattoos (my parents don’t: they’d sooner fly to the moon which is OK too!) and our kids assume they will get ‘pictures’ of their own one day. BUT, I tell them, it is NOT something to be rushed into quickly or lightly or even done at all. That’s right. I’m really strict when it comes to tattoos.
Here’s my advice:
* Getting a tattoo is not something to do when drunk, stoned, in love or otherwise inebriated. This decision needs alot of concious thought. I would not recommend it under the age of 23, but like I say, I’m pretty strict.
*For Heaven’s Sake do not walk into a tattoo clinic and choose something from the books. Choosing a tattoo needs the same focus as choosing a name for a baby – it’s there, a part of YOU forever. Here’s a tip: look at craft stamp catalogues. Find something beautiful; something meaningful; something you LOVE. Don’t you DARE get one because it’s cute.
* Give a lot of thought into where you want it. Regardless of what you think – your body will change. My sister got one above her hip. Three kids later and her hips are bigger now, and it isn’t quite the same. Really. Bodies change and sag; fashions come and go. Think about putting it someplace that can be hidden publically if you aren’t in the mood for display. Unfortunately, interviews can be swayed by body art as can future In-Laws.
* Get it for you, not for your partner, not for your drinking buddies (seriously, NOT for your drinking buddies!) or because your best friend talked you into it because she was too scared to do it alone. Get it for YOU because YOU are accountable when someone you like makes a judgement call on your decision whether it’s your parents, your boss or that guy you like. YOU! OK?
* Honey, please don’t get the name of your partner tattooed on your body. Think of Angelina Jolie: there are no guarantees in life. My stuperstitious self cringes when I hear of people getting their partner’s name tattoo; it’s just asking for trouble.
* Finally, love it and look after it. Put sunscreen on it so it doesn’t fade or blur from sunburn. That’s art there (I hope) on your skin. Make sure you treat it as well as any work of art that you might own.
That is all.