I was talking to a friend about my new tattoo this morning. And he asked me a question that i really had to think about:
I’ve heard other people answer that question. “It’s artistic expression.” “I wanted to honor an event/person important to me.” “I like them.” “Why not?” … But none of these things is my reason. And i think there is a good chance it isn’t their real reason either. After all, tattoos are expensive, painful, and not always socially acceptable. Seems to me that it would take more than “But i really like Dumbledore. He inspires me!” to get his portrait tattooed on your boob (The one on your body, not the one you dated for 3 years.)
Given that i am about to dedicate most of a day to being needled, i started giving the answer to this question some hard thought. Why AM i doing it? For the fourth time, no less.
The answer, when i dig deep, is both selfish and therapeutic. I get tattoos because it is essentially inscribing my body with a serial number, marking this body as MINE. Just MINE. Not yours. Not his. Or his. Or his. MINE. I have claimed it, decorated it to suit me, placed my mark upon it so no one can ever again take it from me. I OWN IT. ME. GET IT????? ME!!! MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry. I got carried away.
But this is important stuff. From the literal perspective of being molested or abused, to the more foggy vision of a society that dichotomously imposes both chastity and sexualization; as a woman, it takes bravery to take a stand, make a choice, reclaim what is ours. Whether flappers showing their knees or Kate Hepburn wearing pants, history is resplendant with women making choices about their appearance that disquiet others. I suppose you could argue that, in a sense, you are marking it so no one else will want it. And i do believe there are some who are so injured and broken that they do. But most of us still have vanity and pride. We don’t want to be ugly. We want to be special. Unique. OURS. And when someone comes along that is worthy, they will think it as beautiful as we do. But they will always know that our body is OUR home, OUR posession, OUR self. And if they get a piece of it, it is by OUR choice. And the ink is proof.
I will never be a woman totally covered in ink. I’ve spent a lifetime learning to love my body as it is, and that would defeat the purpose. And it’s not my style. Even when i paint pictures, i like to leave a lot of white space. That being said, each tattoo does change the way i look at my body. It becomes more MINE. My thoughts are broadcast outwards so anyone astute enough to my wavelength can see how my mind works. But even if they “get it”, my body doesn’t become any more “theirs” than any other work of art. They are just able to appreciate it on a deeper level.
Each of my tats has special meaning to me. My first one was designed by my daughter as a gift. One is a rendering by a girl who was working hard to draw instead of cut. One is a sweet reminder of the softer parts of my childhood. Today? Today is a reminder of my force within. Strength, beauty, magic. My artist “gets it”. She has brought it to life. Now there can be no dispute as to who i am and what i am worth. It is displayed in a mural on my back. A blood and flesh and ink declaration of content and ownership. The manifest of my bodily ship. A delineation of the soul inside the skin. My soul.
Maybe to some, a tattoo is just a tattoo, and a cigar is just a cigar. But i like to think that i am not alone in my “why”. I like the idea of a sister- and brotherhood using the art form as a way to break a chain. To stake a claim. To draw our line in the sand. This body is no longer a generic Honda Civic. It is a custom car, built of God/Goddess/Universe’s love and painted with flair and personal style. It isn’t for sale or rent. I have the only key. And you have no say in which roads it travels. This body, this unique and wonderful work of art, this is mine. All mine. And now the world knows.