Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Strategies and alternatives for coping with fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and other chronic illnesses

Tattoos: Skin as Commemorative.

Posted by wendyburnett on March 14, 2010

Have you ever considered getting a tattoo? Do you have one or more? If so, why?

In a few cases, the answer will be, “I was young and stupid.” In others the answer will be, “all my friends were getting one, so I thought I would too.” In even more cases, the answer is, “I was drunk.” None of these are valid reasons for modifying your body for life. These are the people who end up, at some point, regretting their decision and wanting to have the tattoo removed. It may be because they did it on impulse, or because their lives have changed so much that the original reason they had it done is no longer valid in their life (think names of former lovers here,) but the actual reason is that they didn’t really THINK about what they were doing.

On the other hand, among my friends who have tats, the answer to that question is usually that the tattoo commemorates something important in their life.

Body art is rarely just “pretty;” it usually has a very personal, very emotional, meaning behind it. Tattoos can be memorials to important people in your past, commemoration of important events, a statement of a core belief, or even a declaration of self-acceptance or identity.

These tattoos don’t result from a spur-of-the-moment decision; but from months, or even years, of consideration. They are carefully designed to express the wearer’s feelings about what they commemorate, and are rarely removed or regretted.

I plan on two tattoos, eventually. If I can ever afford them. One is too personal to share here, but the other, that’s a different story altogether. I’m going to get an Old English “S” on my right shoulder blade. It will be positioned so that it will only show when I wear something like a tank top or bathing suit so I can choose when and where to display it, and it will match the one on my husband’s left shoulder blade.

Before you point me to the first paragraph where I make the comment about former lovers, let me say that my reasons for getting this particular tattoo will still be valid no matter what happens to the relationship. It has very little to do with my husband personally, but a great deal to do with how and where we met. We met at a place called “The Sanctuary,” and the Old English “S” is a symbol of that place, and the love and support that we both found there.

I found much more than just my husband: I found Papa, the man who became my mentor and my chosen parent. I found Bob, Papa’s life partner, and someone who taught me how to let go and have fun again. I found Tory; who, when we had no place to go, gave us a safe haven where we could lick our wounds and try to rebuild our lives. I found a family to replace the birth family that abused me, I found healing for old wounds, and I found acceptance.

The Sanctuary doesn’t exist any more, except in the hearts and memories of those who became a part of it, and the tattoo will honor the gifts that I received there. It will be a memorial to those we have lost, and a reminder of the love and joy we found there, both with each other and with the friends who have become closer than family.

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2 Responses to “Tattoos: Skin as Commemorative.”

  1. Wendy, this is lovely. It certainly casts a whole other light on the issue of tattoos. I’m glad I read this.

    My elder son and I had a brief tattoo discussion this past weekend. He mentioned that he had engaged in a conversation with a woman who ran a tattoo parlor, when he went to a particular part of the city with friends. Her comment to him: If you’re even considering a tattoo, think about what you want, and if you still want it a full year from now, then it’s a good idea. If not, you’ll regret it.

    That seemed like good sense to him. (I’m glad.) And it sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought. A bit different from the peer pressure and drunken antics that often “inspire” the tattoos that lead to regrets. Especially among kids.

    Cool post.

    • Thanks sugar. I’ve wanted a tat since I was about 15, but I also knew I didn’t want something that I’d regret later. I’ve spent 36 years finding the right one, and someday I hope I’ll be able to get it.

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