My father always told me if I ever got a tattoo he would “peel it off my skin with a cheese grater”
I got my first tattoo in Alabama when I was 16. My mother, Barbara, drove me and I wanted to get it in a place my dad would never see it so I, as many a first tattoo’e tend to do, got it on my hip. It’s a little cross that I picked out of a book and due to some strange law in Alabama, since I was under 18, I had to trade pants with my boyfriend so they would come down low enough on my hips that he wasn’t tattooing me “below my pant line”. At the time I got it basically so I could show my sissy friends at Chattanooga Christian School how much I loved Jesus while also remaining incredibly hardcore. It totally worked, that is until Sarah Williams got a tattoo of a four leaf clover on HER hip and my dinky cross was all but forgotten.
On my 18th birthday, yet again accompanied by Barbara and a boyfriend, I got a fish hook tattooed on the inside of my lip because I thought it was funny. My boyfriend got my initials tattooed on the inside of his lip because he thought we were soul mates. We broke up 3 months later.
When I was 19 a good friend of mine passed away in a car accident. At her funeral they told us that she had been studying Latin in the car and they found a flash card with the word “Virtus” on it at the accident. My best friend from High School, Olivia Scudder, and I both got tattoos that say Virtus in cursive. Mine is on my back and hers is on her foot. In latin Virtus means strength and courage, it is usually used to describe the bravery of a man. In a certain way I felt like that was Katy’s way of telling us everything was going to be okay, and that we were stronger than we could ever realize.At 20 I had just moved to Chicago when another dear friend of mine passed away. Her parents were missionaries and she spent a great bit of time in Papua New Guinea as a child. Just before she passed away she had a huge back piece done of a few birds of paradise flowers, so when my friends Heidi and Suzzanne came to visit me we all decided to get tattoos and I chose a sketch drawing of a bird of paradise for my ribs(the actual bird, which the majority of the species are found in Papua New Guinea) and Heidi got the house number of the house she grew up in on on her ribs. The actual act of getting the tattoo was the most excruciating hour and a half. I was in so much pain I almost wanted to tell him to stop. But I remember so vividly when it was over and I got up to look at it I burst into tears, it was so beautiful and such an act of catharsis I just stood there sobbing. Something about it reminded me of how proud I was to have been a friend to Marie and how beautiful she was, and will continue to be in my memories and through that tattoo.After dealing with those losses I decided I needed to get away from everything for a while. I felt so stuck and so confused about what living was supposed to be about, especially since there was so much confusing pain to work through that comes along with it. I think I had lost the ability to be moved by anything, and to me if you lose that, you’ve lost everything. I decided to pack up and move to Prague, which I quickly realized is the answer to many an existential crisis ridden twenty something. During that time I discovered how to feel again, and boy DID I, I made sure to feel EVERYTHING. I walked down the streets getting lost and so mixed up in everything and everyone, leaving little pieces of my heart in dark corners and romantic bridges all over the country. I fell in love with a boy that I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with, I sat on the edge of my seat in an old theatre and saw Casablanca for the first time and it felt like and old friend, and I took a trip to Paris alone for Easter and stood with tears rolling down my face at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
As cliche as it sounds, I found my heart. Before I left Jaime had given me a little matryoshka doll with a note in it to accompany me on my travels and we named her Flora. When I got to my apartment in Prague I realized the subway stop closest to me was also named Flora. And I thought that was DIVINE. Upon returning home I knew I wanted something to keep with me forever to remind me of that experience, so that if I ever started feeling lost again I could look down and remember exactly where I was and exactly who helped me get there, namely Jaime Smialek and Humphrey Bogart. I decided to get my first ever fully visible tattoo, and there was no doubt in my mind it was going to be of Flora. I also decided to get some Czech text underneath her that says “budeme mit vzdy v Parizi” which is a quote from Casablanca that translates to “we will always have Paris”. It’s my favorite tattoo I have ever seen on anyone, not only in execution but also how much I cherish its meaning.
Last year I was on my way home from work when Jaime texted me and told me that Heidi was over at the house and that her and Ross had broken up. None of us saw it coming and I quickly veered off my path to acquire some supplies. I showed up at the house with 3 magazines, some ice cream, and a bottle of Evan Williams green label. We talked, we drank, we cried, we watched Beyoncé videos, and we got tattoos. We went to white wizard (which in retrospect sounds like a totally racist establishment) and all got eensy weensy hashtag tattoos. Jaime’s is on her shoulder, Heidi’s in on her ribs, and mine is on my knee. I can’t tell you the meaning of the tattoo but I can tell you we paid $20 and he used a “super tight three” needle, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE. #supertightthreeforlife
Side note: Heidi and Ross got back together like a week later and are still “totally in love”
In March I got an outline of a seagull in flight tattooed on my inner elbowish area which is the logo for Stanislavsky’s theatre in Moscow and also represents a Chekov play entitled “The Seagull” (go figure). I got it because, you know….theatre.
At the same appointment I also got a little red string tied around my pinky. And, I know what you’re thinking, NO it’s not to remind me of something. I believe that God has chosen people that we will meet and connect to in our lives and that there are little strings that he ties around us so that we are destined to meet, and that when we get our hearts mixed up in people we tie little strings to them connecting us to them forever. There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that I love that says, ”An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.” I just love that thought God connects us together and makes sure that we affect one another, so much so that the string he ties around us “may stretch or tangle, but never break”. Its a little faded, but I don’t think i’ll get it touched up. I kind of like the idea that it sort of looks like i’ve given away little pieces of my string (or at least thats what i’m telling myself, because that shit HURT.
And last (for now) I come to, the infamous stick and poke. I say infamous as a result of the pain and all around ridiculousness that ensued around said stick and poke. Jaime and I are fans of five things; whiskey, tattoos, each other, being badasses, and Husker Du. So what better to commemorate our common interests, I ask you, than giving each other (kind of) matching prison style stick and poke tats of a Husker Du bell symbol while completely whiskey drunk?! Husker Du, for all the uninformed, is a rudimentary matching game meant for no one over the age of seven. It also happens to be mine and jaime’s favorite past time. Mine is crooked and off center on the lower part of my calf, and jaime’s is just all around fucked up on the outside of her hip…kind of. Did I mention we were drunk?
I like the idea of tattoos being little glimpses into the timeline of my life. Even though there are some that, if I were to get now, I would change or maybe just refrain from getting at all (ex: hip cross) I think its almost like a permanent visual journal entry of a certain place I was in my life. Something I felt so strongly about I wanted to have with me forever. I realize there is a certain stigma attached to tattoos, especially women with tattoos, but I can’t imagine not having them. When you make the decision to permanently mark your body with something it becomes a part of you, not just physically but emotionally. I have this weird fixation with trying to show off my personality as honestly as possible through my physical appearance. This may be the only child syndrome coming out, but if I don’t feel like I look different from the people i’m around or “stand out” in some way I get very, very uncomfortable. I was telling Jaime this morning that if someone ever described me as “cute” I would just DIE. I want to look crazy, terrifying, interesting, sexy, like ive been swallowed by a giant sweater, ANYTHING literally anything but “cute”. I think I take comfort in my tattoos for that reason, they show people i’m thoughtful about my life and have taken control of my body to show off a little glimpse of my heart.
Fuck ladies who lunch. We are ladies who ink. Cheers, ya weirdos