I’m letting the ink sink in.
Fresh from the gun, my newest tattoo is all crisp lines and delicate shades, standing out in bold relief until it heals and peels.
My 13th tattoo is an art noveau interpretation (drawn by the lovely Sarah and fine-tuned by the talented Rocio) of the Atropa belladonna plant, also known as deadly nightshade. It’s one of the most toxic plants in the western hemisphere. Children have been poisoned by eating as few as three of the shiny purple berries.
If you’re a Burton fan, you’ll recognize it as the plant that Sally uses in The Nightmare Before Christmas to poison Doctor Finklestein and make her escape.
But the plant’s poisonous nature is not really the reason I’m going to wear it on my arm forever.
“Belladonna” is Italian for “beautiful woman”. Drop the first three letters and you have my name — which means “the woman” in Italian.
I got the first part of this tattoo — a single belladonna flower and leaf — when I visited Italy for the first time in 2005. Boy and I got (non-matching) tattoos in a little shop near the Vatican. The tattoo artist’s name was Materazzi Maurizio. He had papered the walls of his small shop with posters of homoerotic Roman centurions, and he spoke only two or three words of English, which was about as many as I spoke in Italian.
We managed to get our tattoos without mishap, and the belladonna flower on my right arm has been a favorite ever since.
But in recent months it’s started to look lonely to me, and I thought that letting more belladonna twine up my arm would be a great way to celebrate my birthday.
To me, the belladonna tattoo signifies a time of coming into my own, of settling into my skin and embracing the woman that I’ve become, thorns and all. I like the duality of the beautiful woman/deadly nightshade nature of the word. There does always seem to be a bit of poison in the beauty.
Bella donna. She’s who I’m learning to be.
-Lo, who isn’t afraid of the needle.