Today on this throwback Thursday I am thinking of the treatment I receive from those around me regarding my tattoos, and the truth surrounding their origins. People comment on my tattoos a lot. They ask what they mean, if they hurt, or simply tell me they love the colors. But it is not always reactions of rainbows and sunshine. The negative vibes range from “very unprofessional” to frankly outright “frightening”. I’ve been turned down from jobs, I’ve had little old ladies clutch their purses in public, and every reaction in between. If you asked me how many times security has followed me around the store, it would be easier to say the number of times they have not.
The truth is, my tattoos are my scars and my armor.
People often ask me, what my tattoos mean. Typically followed by, “How long did it take?” and, “How much did it cost?” But the question of the meaning of my tattoos is an extremely difficult one to answer because the truth is there is no one singular simple answer. People want to hear some standard response like, “in memory of my grandma,” or “my favorite tv show,” or some other cultural relevance. Some standard answer that doesn’t require any sort of depth or awkward emotion. That is unfortunately, not the case for my tattoos. But to avoid it all, I simply make something up on the fly.
So what are the meanings of my tattoos?
My tattoos started out as my scars, but those scars hardened into my armor. The funny thing is, so many people are uncomfortable with my tattoos. They look at me like a criminal, a weirdo, a failure, (or if you are family) an embarrassment. But these tattoos they are so swift to judge, these tattoos hide an ugly truth about the world we live in. They cover up scars from disappointment, hate, and fear. Real and figurative, each tattoos represents or covers a scar. Many from assault, and others from accidents. Now, I know what you are asking, “how many tattoos exactly do you have?” I have tattoos from my collar bone down to my ankles.
It makes you wonder if I had no tattoos, just scars – my keloid scars, burn marks (chemical and fire), scratches, cuts and stabs… How comfortable would people be, if that is all they see? Well, I didn’t get all of my tattoos at once, so there were many years in between where I wore my scars bare. And I can honestly say, I am more comfortable with the looks of fear, than the looks of pity and discomfort.
My tattoos also helped me heal my scars, and most importantly, heal my soul. Getting my tattoos was cathartic and therapeutic, and as the pain washed over me, it helped me heal. My tattoos covered up my scars with bright beautiful colors and images. Making me feel shielded, strong, safe, and powerful.
My tattoos are my armor. They are my protective layer. Much like a porcupine has its spikes, my tattoos are shields to keep people at a distance. To show people I am not to be reckoned with. I am tough and I am strong with a high pain tolerance. They serve as a filter and shield from those around me. Keeping people who are narrow-minded at a distance. After all, if my tattoos are all it takes to scare you or keep you from getting to know me, then you are not someone worth my time or energy.
So what do my tattoos mean? Well, I could tell you about my favorite art style that prompted the Toki Doki unicorns. The painting that I painted and lost and recreated on my left arm. I could tell you each story behind each line and letter. But there are scars behind those cute stories. Like the time I got jumped and the scars prompted my back tattoo. Or the time I got my chest sliced open in an accident which lead to my chest tattoo. Or the chemical burn that led to my right arm sleeve. I can give the superficial answers, but they feel fake to me, because the meaning is so much deeper.
And the truth is, my tattoos are my scars and my armor. Because the rest of the truth is I am a sensitive soul. I love deep and hurt deep, and despite the damage I remain “hopelessly hopeful.”
(… and you know, don’t just a book by it’s cover. Gotta throw the obvious lesson in there…)