“Are you ready?”
“Here we go.”
After that, all I hear is the hum of a simple machine meeting ink and then making it’s way to mark my flesh. That first pin prick piercing my skin is like a mid-morning jump into Lake Michigan on a misty may morning, jarring. Then my endorphins kick in, I consciously decide to relax my body, close my eyes, thoughts wander, waves of pain come and go, and for the next four hours I am alone. Uttering only brief statements like “Yah, I’m good.”
Getting tattooed is fulfilling. From the first idea of what image or words you want, to choosing an artist and a spot on your body, setting a date and time that seems like it will never come, and then the moment arrives and your body is etched with an indelible image. My tattoos have a wide range of meanings, from representations of moments in my life, to lyrics from favorite songs, and pictures that I think look “cool”.
One thing I enjoy about tattoos is that they catch people’s attention – conversation starters. Unlike Mae, who takes every opportunity to share her thoughts, feelings, and ideas with neighbors, family, and people at the post office, I can be reluctant to share “who I am”. I understand that she is a child and fortunately has fewer inhibitions, “Yes, Mae that is a booger on his nose.” but I hope that part of her remains, it’s a quality I admire. She proudly displays her accomplishments, let’s people know how she’s really feeling, and isn’t afraid to express her point of view.
I’ve gone through waves of sharing and holding back in my life. My teens and twenties were marked with periods where I wanted people to know everything about me – quickly. Then my thirties came and I have held back a bit, I became more selective about who I share what with and why. Only making sense of the fact that this is when I got most of my tattoos. Perhaps, I wasn’t sure how to express who I was through conversation anymore so I decorated my body with parts of me that I want people to see and ask about. A thought, feelings, interpretations, likes, and dislikes all rising to the surface of my flesh for the world to see.
My Papa Sense tells me:
Our daughters may not tattoo their bodies. Each of us expresses ourselves differently. As long as Mae and Haze are comfortable with who they are and what they stand for, it is only important to us that they share themselves with others, how they do that is up to them. I hope Mae continues to feel confident enough to outwardly express her views with words. I hope that if Haze is shy, it may just be a three-year-old phase, but if she is, I hope that she finds art, writing, or any other way to show the world that she is a conscious participant and has a voice.
It isn’t always easy, especially while getting to know people later in life, to know where to start. I have slowed down and I am learning to let people get to know me gradually – understanding that relationships are a process of growing, not a race to understanding. But, I am glad that I have a few conversation starters up my sleeve to give me a jump-off point when I can’t find the words.