Welcome to my life, (another) tattoo.

Every year when  my birthday or Christmukkah* rolls around, my often-changing wish list always has one item the same: tattoo money.  Tattooing isn’t cheap if it’s any good, and, while I may be biased, I’m pretty sure all of mine are pretty damn good.  And, I have more than a couple of them.

Opened this envelope up this weekend.  Thanks, Mom!

The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever thought I’d be as tattooed as I am today.  All through high school, I eagerly awaited my 18th birthday, when I planned to get my first tattoo.  But then, 18 came and went, and I remained un-inked.  Then 19, 20, 21, 22…I’m not quite sure why I didn’t end up getting one right when I could, but I think I just simply didn’t feel strongly enough about one image to have it permanently imprinted on my body.  (Also, my high school/college sweetheart was adamantly against it.)  Finally, at 24 (after breaking up with aforementioned sweetheart), I decided to finally move away from my hometown to go to grad school in Boston.  Finally, I felt like it was time to get a tattoo.  I had read somewhere that sailors would get a swallow tattoo when they left port on their maiden voyage, which resonated with me.  So, at age 24, right before my “maiden voyage,” I got the outline of a bird tattooed on my right ankle.

The first.

It took all of 10 minutes and my dad stood nearby, photographing my pained, grimacing smile.  Afterwards, flustered by the adrenaline rush, I tipped the artist with a lottery ticket** and flitted out the door.  A few days later, when I went back for a tiny touch-up, the minute the needle touched my skin, I blurted out, “oh, I’ve missed that!”  I guess I should’ve realized then that this would not be my last tattoo.  I’ve never had a particularly high tolerance for pain, and even now, cannot handle needles in any other capacity.  But for some reason, here I am, nearly six years later, with tattoos on my upper back, right arm, left arm and shoulder, left wrist and ribs.

Fresh and swollen left arm on NYE 2010.

For me, my tattoos feel like storytelling.  Each one is a memento of a very distinct moment in my own story; like a snapshot of how I was feeling at a certain point in my life.  Sure, maybe in ten years, I won’t be that into my bird tattoos.  But I can’t imagine regretting them, because they were where I was at a certain point, and a piece of how I got to where I am now.  I have the word “home” on my back because that’s what I was looking for, and what I wanted to keep close, at the time.  My olive branch reminds me of my trip to Israel.  And the semicolon on my wrist was my 30th birthday present to myself; a symbol of a pause in a continuous sentence, but also a bringing together of separate segments into something long and complete.

So will the three plants on my left arm – St. John’s Wort, mulberries and roses – have the same meaning to me in ten years that they do today?  I have no idea.  But I’ll always be able to look back and see a little picture of my mindset at thirty.

It’s not backwards in real life, I promise.

Color done this weekend.***

Plus, I do get more than a little satisfaction knowing that I have the strength to (repeatedly) do this thing that used to scare me.  And when people ask me, “did that hurt?” I say, “of course!”

* I’m the agnostic/vaguely JewBu child of a Jewish mama and a goy dad.

** To be fair, I’d already scratched it and knew it was worth 25 bucks.

*** Credit to the amazing Dan Bythewood at Regeneration Tattoo.


Photo-A-Day 2

day two: words

A tattoo I have that not many people see very often.  The capitalization is intentional; my husband’s middle name is True.  (It’s also the name of a song by the Texas Governor, a band he used to play with before we met.)