Recently, I was sitting in my local coffee shop and was approached by an older woman who was probably mildly (or maybe severely?) demented. I live in a Maryland area suburb of DC right now, and a lot of the other people who live here are conservative and religious, and I believe she was probably both of those as well. She was very interested in my tattoos, and was muttering about them when she asked, “are you married?” To which I answered, “yes.” I think she was looking for me to say “no,” so that she could let me know that no man would ever want to marry me with all 11 of my tattoos making me so unattractive, but since I answered that I am in fact married she then asked me “why do you have so many pictures on your body?!” All I could think to say was “because I like them.” My partner was actually sitting behind us during this whole conversation, in one of the comfy chairs (I prefer to sit at a table) and he heard the whole thing and I could see him laughing the whole time. If only she knew the true story of my life and our marriage!
I got my first tattoo, a black cat on my ankle, not long after my 18th birthday. My parents would not consent to me getting a tattoo at a younger age, even though I asked them for permission several times. They were worried about my health, the pain, and yes, the way society would view me as a woman with a tattoo. My mom was convinced I would never be able to find a job, but I did prove her wrong several times on that one. I don’t think either she nor I could have predicted that my tattoos would end up making me the sort of money that I make today! Not that it’s my tattoos alone that are tantalizing y’all, and I have definitely heard from some of you that you see me in spite of them ha ha. Word to the wise on that one: it’s info you can keep to yourself! Along with armpit hair, bush or shaved head comments. Or really any comments on anyone’s body and aesthetic choices! I mean this in the kindest possible way, but it’s just not something I care to hear about.
Whether it’s my tattoos, my hair in some places or lack of hair in others, make up or no make up, or any of these aesthetic choices I have made about the appearance I project into the world, I made them for a reason. Since this post is about tattoos specifically, I thought I would share some of those reasons:
I love the way tattoos look on other people, and can remember being fascinated by them from a very young age
My body image hasn’t always been great, and tattoos were a way for me to take control and change my appearance in positive ways that felt good to me
I find the process of getting them painful, yes, but also therapeutic
I actually do want people to judge me as being different, alternative, unique, and queer
I like art, and I like giving artists money
I care very little about my employment or marriage prospects, and I want people to know that’s where I stand
I LIKE TATTOOS, simple as that
I suppose my point with all this is just to say that the reasons behind my tattoos are personal and I don’t have regrets. I will very likely be getting more, even though I keep saying the pain is too difficult for me to deal with now that I’m 100 years old (38). But I do have plans to get a back piece that represents the four seasons, expanding out of the snowflake I have back there that represents my love of winter and the time I spent living in Sapporo. And, even more controversially, I am planning on shaving my head and getting a scalp tattoo because I like the way that looks! No other reason.
If you’re like me and you like tattoos but haven’t gotten one yet out of fear of pain or judgment or anything else, I definitely encourage you to consider getting one. But also support your decision not to, if you do decide not to. If you don’t like tattoos then why are you reading my blog?! Just kidding. But I would ask you to consider the way that female and queer bodies have continually been policed and controlled throughout time whenever you feel like sharing your aesthetic opinions on my body or others. Consider my tattoos a message that I cannot and will not be controlled.
(I’m very mad about how the formatting of this post worked out, but I can’t figure out how to fix it so there’s another aesthetic “choice” you can kindly choose not to comment on!)