I never thought I wanted to get tattooed. In fact, I always said I would never get tattooed. Reading back in my livejournal in high school in some of those surveys I would answer "no tattoos, definitely not for me!" And I remember yelling at two of my girlfriends during our senior trip in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico about the tattoos they got at some shop. Not only was I concerned about the cleanliness, I was upset that they would do something like that to their bodies! I wasn't the girl who grew up listening to hardcore, and I wasn't the girl who grew up going to shows and was around tattoos all the time. I started going to shows when I was 18, and that was the first time I was around people who had lots of tattoos, outside of my friends in high school who had the occasional one on their back or hips.
My high school experience was full of sports and dance, student council, and lots of parties, etc. Some of my boyfriends had tattoos, Lucas got his last name huge across his back, Dale had some on his arm and on his back. But it's just funny to me that I ended up really, really falling in love with tattoos because I never would have been able to call that one growing up, and I don't think anyone else would have either.
Like I mentioned before, when I was 18 I started getting into hardcore and going to shows. At this time I was in college, up at NAU, and it was such an enlightening experience. I was in a sorority all four years, and although I still connect with so much of that, I always felt like there were certain things about life that the people around me just didn't get. I found those missing things in the music that I was listening to more and more, as cheesy as it sounds. As I starting going to more shows, I was around people who appreciated tattoos, and actually had beautiful, amazing artwork on their bodies- not just the tribal and hearts with wings I saw in my hometown of Mesa. The more I thought about it, I realized that I wanted to get tattooed. Luckily I had a good friend who steered me to the right shop and the right people.
I got my first tattoo in 2003, from Jason at Immaculate, and it was my Vonnegut piece on my back. I still remember how nervous and scared I felt to be taking this "plunge" into a totally different world. I knew I wanted tattoos for me, but at 20 I still felt insecure in my own skin at times and I wasn't sure how my "other" friends and family would react. It's weird to think back now, because that tattoo was on my back! No one would ever see it, and who cared if they did? But I was a different person then, with a totally different mindset, and I did care, as funny as it is now in retrospect!
Being super close with my Mom and Dad I was scared to show them- and like I had anticipated, my parents' reaction wasn't a positive one. They just didn't get it. They actually still don't get it, but they are loving and "tolerant" of it all now...but I'll talk more about this later.
After getting my back tattooed I realized that I actually did want a lot more, so I kept thinking and thinking about what I wanted to get. I was listening to a lot of Bane at the time, and I decided to get "live the life you love" on my right side and "love the life you live" on my other. Looking back I'm so glad I got my ribs tattooed straight away because my back wasn't horrible, and these were a nightmare. It made me realize how bad getting tattooed was, and in comparison the following ones weren't as bad. After doing these, I thought I was really ready to get visibly tattooed. The same friend who steered me in the right direction towards Immaculate and Jason really asked me a lot of questions, tried to make sure I was ready for what I was getting myself into. "Was I sure I wanted to be judged everytime my skin is showing?" "Was I sure I wanted to be an 80 year old woman with tattoos on her chest?" I thought about it, for a long while actually, and realized that this was what I wanted so I went in and Jason tattooed two roses on my shoulders. My roses turned into a chest piece, my chest pieces turned into getting my sternum tattooed, and then my wrist, my arm, my rib panel and now the back of my neck.
Sometime along the way I crossed some bridge where I stopped caring about what people thought. Even when I first had my chest tattooed I would feel uncomfortable. That's embarrassing to me, because no one should care. But I did. I am still sensitive, but it would literally hurt my feelings and depress me when people would stare at me, or make rude comments. I remember going to Disneyland with some friends a little before I got my chest done, and the way my heavily tattooed friends were treated was appalling. I never expected that to happen to me, but lo and behold, walking around with a dress or tank top caused people to stop, stare, talk, etc. And like I said, for awhile I was bothered. I went from feeling like I should cover up in public so I wouldn't have to deal with it, to wanting to show them so I could glare back at people, to now- which is a kind of apathy. Look all you want, I don't care. I don't know if many newly tattooed people go through a cycle like that but it took a long time for me to get to where I am, confident and not caring if people want to stare.
I am a high school English teacher, which is another tattoo issue in itself. When I first started student teaching, I only had to cover my chest. I found it annoying at first, but then I realized that most things I wore (ruffly blouses, button ups with cardigans) covered them anyway, I didn't care as much and didn't give a second thought to tattooing my arm. Now I have to wear long sleeved cardigans and higher necked blouses everyday, but it's not a big deal. The administration has actually verbalized to me that I can show them, but I'm not sure if they know the extent and I personally would never want to do that. The kids would be way too distracted and it would be more annoying than anything. Because my husband is in a band that so many of my students love, I see them at shows so they know that I have tattoos. So of course there's always a question about them, but I simply say, "Yes, I have some," and move on.
In terms of judgment, I live in a small town so it's a given. Being a teacher makes it a little tricky because it's so incredibly awkward to see parents and students out in the summer when all I have on in a dress and everything is out and proud! I don't care if they disapprove, but I prefer to avoid that awkward scene.
My own parents still don't like the fact that I have tattoos, but completely accept me, my sister and hubby and our friends. They really have no choice, and I think my Mom gets sad at times when she thinks back to us being little girls, but I often remind her of all the other "bad" choices we could have made! After she is reminded of that, she comes back to reality and realizes she has some pretty awesome daughters. It's also nice to be married to a man who loves them and is heavily tattooed himself. I often get the question, "What will you do when you're old and wrinkly?" Well luckily I am married to someone who will also be old, tattooed, and wrinkly! Wrinkly skin is wrinkly skin, tattooed or not. That kind of thing doesn't bother me at all. Wrinkly, tattooed skin? Awesome!
One other thing I really like is the barrier it sets up for me, almost like a screening mechanism for shitty people. I've actually had a 'friend' say "Oh I can't have her as a bridesmaid, she'll ruin the photos!" Now, it's fine if you don't want tattoos in your photos, but if your friend who you love has tattoos, why wouldn't you want them to be themselves...isn't that why you're friends with them? I know people have differing opinions on this, but I thought it was pretty shitty. Another thing that I have dealt with is going out with friends who aren't tattooed at all. A few of my very best friends are from my sorority and go to very mainstream bars. I used to hate going out with them because it was always an issue. People would always come up, because I'd stick out like a sore thumb, and it was uncomfortable. I don't care as much now a days, but I still get a little weird in situations like that.
I love tattoos (hate getting tattooed) and I am looking forward to a lot more in my lifetime. In the near future (next month) I am getting my right thigh tattooed, and plan on doing both thighs, shins, other rib panel, upper back, and arm. Once I stop working and I'm a Mom I will tattoo the sides of my neck and hands/knuckles. But that's only when I am at home and don't have to worry about covering them anymore. Hank and I have often talked about what it would be like to have parents like us, and I'm sure our kids will either love it or be mortified. It's funny to think about! I love it and I know it's not a popular thing to be so tattooed, but it's for me. The old school tattooed women of the early 1900s are beautiful to me and it's exciting to be adding to what I have. I love that I have beautiful girlfriends who are also heavily tattooed, I love seeing what they dream up to get done.
I've been getting a lot of questions about them on here, so I thought I would devote an entry to it. I would love to read the "tattoo stories" of my other friends, so if you feel inspired to take time and type it out, please do! And I know this was a lot to read, so if you made it this far thanks for doing so! I hope you enjoyed it!