Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tattoo Tuesday V.80

Name/Blog name: Nancy Lili of The Monster's Flashlight

Age: 21

Occupation: I copyedit a bi-weekly art e-journal, "...might be good" . I also run a fun side blog about Austin, Texas with my friend, but that doesn't really bring in money , and I pick up technical writing gigs whenever I'm dead broke, which is often. What else? (I work a lot.) Oh, I just finished organizing this poetry conference for Latinas and I write book reviews for The Rumpus . I'm also going to start being a teacher's assistant at my university pretty soon.

Age of first tattoo: 18, my 18th birthday. I probably would have waited a few more days to get the exact same tattoo-- something I'd always wanted-- but I was angry at my dad for some reason, and I thought a tattoo was the perfect way to get revenge. (I was young and dumb.) Somehow the anger gave me the balls to go through with it. It was a small tattoo of a Scorpion on my right foot because, you guessed it, I'm a Scorpio. I am the definition of a Scorpio.

Favorite tattoo:
I honestly never even think of my tattoos after they're on my skin. I love each one, but there's no way I could think of which one would be my favorite. I've tried choosing, but I can't.

Featured tattoo/location: A woman holding a bird with two pairs of birds flying away, and it's on the inside of my left arm.

Artist/shop of featured tattoo: All of my tattoos have been done by Lupio at Blindside Tattoos in Austin, Texas.

1) Tell us about your featured tattoo- is there a background story or special meaning? Why did you choose this particular piece of art?  

 First I thought I wanted to get a tattoo of a flock of birds. This is around the time I was reading and re-reading "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer, and there was a passage in the story where an old man hears the flutter of wings again for the first time in a long time. I cried when I read it. There was something so infinite and passionate about it. To me, that passage and the flock of birds represented a new beginning, a love of beauty, a love of the little things in life, as well as a little something about the continuation of life, about migrating and moving. I eventually decided a flock of birds was too American Eagle for me. Somehow I decided to incorporate my mom into the tattoo-- my mom's the lady-- and it became about moving on in life, but forever remaining with love.

2) Do you have any other tattoos?  If so, what do you have and where?

I have a cathedral on the outside of my left arm. It's of a sketch by David Fullarton. That tattoo is about apathy of beauty-- somewhat contradicts the bird/lady tattoo, but I liked that. That contradiction is a bit like life. I also like that it looks like the birds from the bird/lady tattoo are going to fly over the side of the cathedral. (This is the tattoo that forces complete strangers to stop and talk to me.)

On the back of my left arm is an anchor with the word "without" running across a scroll on it, it's of a print work by my dear friend and artist, Cassandra Warren. To me, this tattoo is about not having a home, not calling any one place home. It's also a little bit about heart break. When I saw the print Cassandra had made of the anchor, I knew instantly that I needed it on my skin. It spoke to me. I love it a lot, but I'm always bummed when I realize it's difficult for me to see. I love being able to look at my tattoos whenever I want, and this one is tricky for me. Unfortunately, this is the tattoo I forget I have the most often.

On my shoulder, I have an outline of an elephant in orange. My best-friend from high school and I got matching tattoos. I think it's a cute and fun tattoo. I love that it's all in orange, and that most people don't think it's real or realize I have it. However, about a month after getting this tattoo with my friend, we completely lost contact with each other. Nothing went wrong.. We didn't grow apart or anything. We just separated. I blame the tattoo.

I also have a sailor-esque tattoo on my right thigh that says "read or die." It's my only joke tattoo. I got the idea from a pseudo-tattoo that was being sold in a toy store. When I told my tattoo artist I wanted it, he kept drawing really elaborate hearts and scrolls with really fancy fonts-- all of them beautiful. It took some serious convincing for him to give me a rough, quick-looking tattoo. I figured, since it's a joke, I didn't really want anyone to look at a beautiful tattoo and think I was serious about what it says. Yes, I support reading, but there's no way that if you don't read you'll die. The logic of the tattoo is warped. Plus, it's the opposite of tough, but still tough. 

3) Do you plan on getting more?  

I do want more! Only two or three more, but I need to stew on what I'd get and what it would look like a bit more. I don't want to jump in to anything. I'm pretty set on getting some word or phrase in the Goosebumps font and I'm also pretty set on getting something on my left thigh, but those are all the specifics I have right now.

4) How do your family and friends feel about your tattoo(s)?  Have you run into any adversity or negativity because of them? 

All of my friends are fine tattoos and have tattoos as well. I live in Austin, Texas. Even our doctors and professors have tattoos. It's no big deal. If I'm in another city-- or worse, another country!-- then I get side-eyed and rude comments about how I'd be prettier without tattoos, but it's always the typical stuff, and it doesn't bother me. I've never had a work problem with my tattoos or anything. I usually try to hide them until it slips beneath a sleeve or something, and then everyone in the office finds out, and I'm told to not hide my tattoos.

My parents, however, are from ol'-timey Mexico. I knew they'd be upset that I had tattoos, so I didn't tell them for two years. I just hid them all the time. (It was easier to do than I thought.) I finally told my mom because I was going to wear a strapless dress at a family wedding and she was going to see it. It broke her heart. She was heavily depressed for at least a month. She thought she failed at raising me. She wouldn't look at me. She said she had no reason left to live since she failed me so badly. There was no talking her out of it. She still winces when she sees any of my tattoos and asks me to cover them up.

I never told my dad I had tattoos. Once my mom knew, I stopped trying to hide them. About a year after I stopped hiding them-- and my mom didn't tell him anything because if I was going to get in trouble, then I deserved it-- my dad asked what I had on the inside of my arm and if it was a bruise. I showed him. He looked at it. Didn't say anything. Frowned. Later, this is when I had half inch plugs, he asked me when I got plugs; I told him I'd had them since I was fourteen. He couldn't believe it. (I was twenty at this point.) He was shocked. Then, he didn't say anything about the plugs, but he said, "I don't like your tattoos." And that was it.

5) Any advice for those interested in getting tattooed but haven't gotten one yet?
Don't get "wall art." Don't steal anyone's tattoo from the internet. That's just wrong. Also, be sure to do your research on several different tattoo artists. Know their work well. Don't let just anyone tattoo you. Also, I know it sucks to wait until you're 18, but wait until you are 18 and get a legal tattoo. If you're younger, you may not know this or realize this, but you are more dumb. You'll probably regret whatever your younger, dumber self chose for a tattoo. (My first tattoo offer was when I was 15. Some friend of friend had made his own tattoo gun. I was going to get a skull with a bow on top right above my pubes. I am forever grateful I didn't go threw with that.)


  1. I ADORE the birds and woman tattoo. So beautiful. I love the block sillouette.

  2. pretty tattoos!! that cathedral is rad. (:


  3. Noice.

    I waited till I was 23 for my first tiny tattoo then over a year later before I started a sleeve. Thank god I didn't get one when I was 18, the ideas i had then...*shudder*

  4. She has a good point. I got a less than beautiful tattoo at 16 in a NYC basement. Now I think it is funny, but for a while I was mortified.

  5. love 'em, especially the elephant. i wish i was brave enough to get one, but i always talk myself out of it.

  6. I love the cathedral! It's really beautiful! Also, the elephant is really awesome! I love that it's all in orange and it is a very fun tattoo. Lovely! <3

  7. Love the detail in the cathedral and the heart tattoo is really cool(even though it was a "joke" tattoo). Nice work.

    Life in a Fat Head

  8. I love her tattoos and I really really love the unique meaning behind them all! The elephant is cute, and since elephants never forget I have a feeling the friendship will eventually come back around :)

  9. This was a great post. I've been following the blog for a good minute and this is the first one that really touched me in a not too serious but still moving kinda way. Loved the tats and her words of wisdom on getting a tattoo at the end :]]

  10. i can't believe you were able to hide them for two whole years!
    very pretty though- all of it.