Permanent Marker

Mood: head above water | Drinking: fountain soda

poppy

My first tattoo came on the heels of a breakup.

I didn’t do anything as reckless as inking a broken heart over my left boob. Just a tiny rose, thorns attached, hidden inside my left ankle. It was barely worth the 15 minutes of needle time, it was so small.

But I felt a bit rebellious, a smidge dangerous, a dash mysterious, and I wore it proudly, shunning socks in the chilly Midwest springtime — the better to show it off.

I was all of 23 and teetering on the brink of an identity explosion. I was a late bloomer when it came to so many things — my first kiss at age 19, my first drink at 22. But once I got started, I really made up for lost time.

I had spent so much time during my college years making good grades instead of discovering myself. By the time I hit age 23, I was ripe for discovery. The layers peeled off so quickly, one after the other, until I reached the bare and brazen core and got a good look at the girl I was, and the woman I wanted to be.

Somehow, that whole process involved some permanent ink.

I can’t say that my parents were too happy with the little pink rose, but it was nearly unnoticeable. Of course, the winged angel that showed up between my shoulder blades, and the spike-and-wire heart that appeared on my right ankle shortly thereafter were a bit more disconcerting.

Thirteen years later, I think my identity has been pretty well established, although I feel the need for constant improvement upon the woman I am. A tad more patience would be good, for one thing.

I wear the story of my becoming on all my appendages, now. A catalog of words and art that is as much a part of me as the heart that pounds beneath my skin.

The original rose is gone now, consumed by a black ink dragon, appropriately named “Rose”. The angel on my back remains, though as you can see, she’s no longer alone. I’ve kept the spiked heart, too, and scattered more black lines on my arms — a symbol for healing inside my left elbow, a bird on my shoulder, belladonna on my right arm, and my latin motto on my wrist. Boy and I shared a symbol on the eve of our wedding, stained into our lower back and now, for me, joined by two of Hilary Knight’s Beauty & the Beast birds.

I don’t know if the catalog will grow much bigger. These things are hard to predict.

I’ve heard some say that people get inked only to improve their self-esteem. I can’t, of course, speak for anyone but myself, and for myself I say these marks are not an improvement, not even a decoration. They are not there to make a statement.

My tattoos exist only for me. They are my map, my compass. A memoir. I’ll never forget where I have been, nor yet where I want to go. I bear the memory in my skin.

Tattoos are not for everyone, and they are a choice that should be made with care. Get that Tasmanian Devil smeared on your left butt cheek today and you may find yourself wishing for a laser tomorrow.

But for me, tattoos tell a story. And I’ve always loved a good story…

-Lo, who hopes it will be an epic tale of love and adventure.

P.S. Personal experience with the following tattoo artists allows me to give them the highest recommendations:

Jesse Tuesday  *  Laura Satana  * Rocio Arteaga  *  Marx Barry

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