Today’s Daily Prompt asks, “Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?”
Towards the end of my teenage years, I dreamed of getting a tattoo. I wanted to pick the perfect design. It had to be just right. It should signify something about my deeper personality, and represent who I really thought I was.
Those are lofty expectations and I sort of paralyzed myself into inaction. I’m sure my mother was secretly relieved.
It wasn’t until I was almost 28 and leaving Ireland to return to Canada that I carelessly chose a tattoo at the last moment. I wanted something permanent to carry with me forever from Ireland.
But strangely, I didn’t choose anything remotely Irish.
I chose the four Japanese symbols which together – allegedly – mean “protector.” I had them tattooed, very small, at the top of my back, centred on my spine. I thought it was smart, a sort of play on the “watch your back” idea.
I’m told that if you look at it quickly it looks a bit like a bar code, which wasn’t really the look I was going for, but the tattoo artist did have slightly shaky hands. Probably the first sign that you’re in the wrong studio, but there weren’t a lot of choices in rural Ireland.
The thing about tattoos, I’ve noticed, is that they become addictive. Once you have one, and realize that the pain is short-lived, you begin to look for a design for the next one soon after.
I had my second one done in Ottawa. I desperately wanted a tattoo and so was scouring books and the internet, looking (again) for the right one, the one that would signify something important about me.
I was in a card and paper shop and came across an ex libris sticker which was decorated with a little ink drawing of a fairy sitting cross-legged on a knoll, its back turned to show its wings, and holding a large book across its lap, its head bent reading. I had the fairy placed halfway down my spine, centred under the first tattoo.
For a time, I had second thoughts about the selection. But I’ve come to appreciate it now as something that does reflect my personality.
My third tattoo I got in honour of my son who was, at the time, four months old. It is an aquamarine blue star, about an inch wide and bordered with a navy line, placed on the inside of my left wrist. I always called my son my little star and thought that when I returned to work after maternity leave, it would be nice to have something to remind me of my first months of motherhood.
My fourth and final tattoo represents the four elements. It is a four-pointed star, with each point a distinct section and a separate colour; pale blue for East, red for South, mauve for West and forest green for North. The sections meet at the centre, where there is a small line drawn in a circle, and another circle runs behind their points, about a quarter of the way down. This last tattoo is at the base of my spine.
Sometimes, I think I would like to get another. I had once thought I would like to scatter the constellations across my back and I’ve always wanted to copy a Moorish design from an old market or temple.
It’s strange, though. Most of the time I forget that I have any tattoos, mostly because they are placed out of my line of sight, but also because I just don’t seem the type of person that would have any. At least, I don’t think I do. I have a respectable job, for which I dress respectably with my tattoos hidden away, and a pretty straight-laced lifestyle. To look at me, you wouldn’t think I would have four of them.
But I like my tattoos, when I think about them. They bring back fond memories and, now that I consider them, I realize they do achieve all those lofty expectations I had hoped they would. They reflect who I am and who I have been, my past and present interests, and the most sacred and constant aspects of my personality.
More thoughts on tattoos:
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