The Story of My Ink

Maybe you’re wondering why the title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with Crockpots. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey! Where’s the next part of that story?!” Maybe you haven’t even been reading along and in that case, you have no expectations for today.

I never thought I’d be happy to not have someone following.

I talked to a friend last night who gave me these unbelievably kind words:

You don’t owe anyone anything.

And so, while I love you all dearly, she was right. I can’t write the next segment today. I’ve been dreading it all week. I’ve been up all night thinking about it. It has put me into such a dark frame of mind, that I think giving myself a week to breathe is the best possible thing I can do. Will I finish it? Sure. Just not today.

And that’s okay.

Normally, I’d be worried by now. I’d be pacing around thinking, alright, now you have to come up with a new game plan. You’ve got to write something else. What the hell are you going to say?

But I have more awesome friends who commandeered some of my posts last evening and asked for the tale of the tattoos. I always find it interesting, this idea that there is a story behind the ink on my skin. I suppose I’m rather jaded about it all, and without trying to sound like the bully of the tattoo world, I’ve seen too many things like this:

Girl walks into tattoo parlor. She says, “What’s the cheapest tattoo I can get?” 

Guy comes in with $50 and says, “Just put on something for that much.”

People staring at the pictures on the wall and saying, “How much is that? Yeah, I’ll get that.”

Girls lined up to get the same tattoo as all their other friends, because their friends have it, so they want it.

16338_103783859640047_3567523_nSo maybe that tribal armband really does have some significant value for you. Or maybe you got it because you thought it looked cool. I’m wondering if I gave my opinion on these things if I’d get my first hater comment. -Shrugs-

Been there, guys. The day I turned eighteen I set out on a mission: Do All the Newly Legal Activities. I bought a lotto ticket and cigarettes. I mumbled and complained that there wasn’t a presidential election going on so I could go vote. I got a bit tipsy (not legal) with some friends and headed to some seedy tattoo joint where I basically pointed at a picture of an alien on one of those big plastic, swinging art boards and said, “I want that, but with wings. I want it to fly.”

That tattoo means nothing. It had no significant story behind it. Some guy who proceeded to tell me about the seven children he had with seven different women tattooed it on my hip while I bit the back of my hand in pain hard enough to leave a bruise for days. People who have tattoos will tell you, there is something addictive about that pain. I mean, either you get a tattoo and hate the entire experience so much you never want to do it again or you get tattooed and all you can think about is saving enough money to do it again. I fell into the latter category.

Only a few months later, Triple A  took me to a parlor for my next one. Finally, I was going to have a tattoo with meaning. I was going to join the crowd of people who walk around with stories inked into their skin. Except my story sucked, and I didn’t want a tattoo.

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The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune’s spite; revive from ashes and rise.
-Miguel de Cervantes

Triple A and I had a “thing”, a saying. It wasn’t an “I love you” or some collection of pet names. He would say, “You belong to me.” And I would reply, “Always.” It sounds pretty, when you say it like that. It sounds like a sweet endearment. It doesn’t sound like the underlying threat it was. Those words, repeated again and again in my head, were a frightening combination. He had them tattoo the word “Always” on my arm. I was labeled. It was the equivalent of a branding. I had become livestock. Property. Owned.

I wasted no time at all getting that mark covered up after we separated. As soon as I had the money saved, I went in to my local tattoo parlor and said, “Cover it up. Please.” It’s a small town. They knew my story and I told them what it had meant, why I needed it gone. Erased. Eradicated.

Let me just say, my tattoo guy was awesome. He said one word, “Phoenix.” Rising from the ashes. Change. Growth. Rebirth. It was perfect. I sat back with something close to nirvana as that gun moved across my skin and wiped away the proof of who I had been, what I had done.

I had a bible verse slamming through my head, a verse I turn to often, regardless of my lack of belief. I grew up in a Christian household. These verses were ingrained into my very being. 

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. – Phil. 4:13

It became my mantra. The words pressing through my clenched lips again and again. It gave me the backbone to scrape away the sludge that was left behind from the last few years. I was wiping the slate clean in the permanent dark stains of red and black. The sting of the needle, the buzz of the gun, the pinpricks of blood that welled, the numbness in my fingers: it was a cleansing of epic proportions. I was new. Changed. A Phoenix.

206592_204583326226766_6395787_nSo then I went back and got flowers tattooed around it, because they were pretty and I didn’t like the empty white span of my skin around the Phoenix. See what I mean? This whole dance of deep meaning to aesthetic beauty is a constant in tattooing. Sure, some pieces have intense meaning. Others? Hell, they just look good.

But there are repercussions to getting tattoos, especially ones this large. I had to cover them for work. I lost opportunities for work, because of them. People look at you different. We’re in a generation where tattoos are not only accepted (for the most), but are insanely popular. However, that’s mostly in the tiny, hidden variety. When you turn every inch of skin possible into a canvas, you start to attract attention.

I tutored for a long time and I will never forget the woman who came into the college sobbing, because she couldn’t find work. I sat there, watching her fall apart across the desk from me. She had passed her classes, but no one would hire her as an accountant.

I’m going to assume it had less to do with her abilities or qualifications and more to do with the gigantic spiderweb that was inked across her neck. It was impossible to miss. Impossible to hide. And unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in the set parameters people have in mind when they think of certain professionals like bankers, real estate agents, lawyers…accountants. That’s just the nature of the world. If someone asked you to write a description of a stock broker, would you describe them in a business suit with a smoking skull tattooed on their hand? Probably not.

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But I wasn’t going to be an accountant. I was going to write. So, I started a literary collection that is no where near complete. I fell in love with the Dothraki language and culture in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. The first time I watched the show and saw the scene where Khal Drogo does his speech, my heart began to race, my palms were sweaty. I was leaning forward in my seat, gripped and completely lost in the moment. I didn’t even read the subtitles. The speech was so powerful in its delivery that I UNDERSTOOD it. The final line, “Asavvasoon” was the promise. “As the stars bear witness” (translation). Powerful words. Intense. I loved the way it rolled off my tongue. I went out and laid back on a table topless while the tattoo guy kept saying the word over and over again and shaking his head.

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I finished my second book, got labeled as a feminist, and rushed to the parlor to get a femfist tattooed on my arm. I circled it with the line “Out of the ash I rise” from my favorite poem, Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath.

I wanted more. I started compiling ideas like an image hoarder. I scratched lines in books under phrases and quotes that struck me. I started talking to my tattoo artist about my writing, about what it meant to me, about the process. He helped me develop these pieces.

That first moment when a story comes into your head. The way it takes over and it’s all you can think about and you stay up all night running through the possibilities, excitement permeating through your pores. The utter Possession of it.

The structure sets in. You start building the world, the characters. They take shape around you and suddenly it’s like you have vomited out the very core of yourself and the pieces are up and walking around, living, breathing beings from the deepest recesses of your psyche. You are the Architect of everything.

1277872_651854771499617_395627962_o1277885_651854768166284_1662637219_oThat calm that settles in. The turning of the page, your lips moving, the story seeping out. The release of it all. You are the Storyteller. It is yours and you are giving it, finally.

He got all that for me. He gathered what I was, what I felt, and put it on my skin where everyone else could see it.

And be confused by it, because the idea that I’m going to take what’s in my head, make it pretty, and expect people to understand it is ludicrous.

And it hurt like hell. Just saying. The thigh is a pretty painful place to get tattooed. I sighed in pleasure and at one point promised to kiss my tattoo artist when he wiped a cool cloth across my skin. The husband laughed as I moaned like a slut with every pause of the gun.

So do my tattoos speak? Sure. They have stories, some important and meaningful, some silly. Does anyone else get the story just by seeing them? Not normally. I either get compliments or complete avoidance. Small town thinking, I certainly don’t fit in here. It’s been made painfully clear entirely too many times.

I left the last college I was at, because regardless of my talents, my intelligence, my overall friendliness (I really am a pretty nice person, dammit), I was ignored. Ostracized. I was the only person there with bright dyed hair. I never saw anyone with tattoos. I was one of only fifteen “nontraditional” students. I was one of about five who didn’t live on campus. I was older than some of my professors. I had children. No one wanted anything to do with me.

I remember the first day on campus. It was a family day, where everyone was there with their parents checking out the campus and the dorms. I was in a sea of khaki pants and polo shirts. And there’s me. Purple hair, tattoos. A husband with dark, tanned skin and long black hair that was partially shaved. A daughter with purple streaks in her hair. A son with a Mohawk.

People stepped off the sidewalks to avoid our path. The day I left that school, heartbroken and angry, the husband showed up and helped me do that walk. He yanked his shirt off, let all of his tattoos shine bright and drew everyone’s attention away from me.

He’s pretty awesome like that.

I mean, when you see a collection of skulls and flames, of demons and quotes from Revelations, and words like “evil” tattooed on someone, it makes an impression.

People see the husband and say he’s intimating. Frightening. They think he has a bad guy attitude.

I laugh at that. While the husband isn’t anyone to take shit off of anybody, he’s not all that they think. He’s got a vicious tongue and the wit to knock someone flat on their back and send them running away in torrents of tears, but they always deserve it. He doesn’t do it for just the hell of it. He’s actually a pretty big teddy bear at heart.

People see his tattoos and they tell a story. It doesn’t seem like a pleasant one, and honestly, the husband’s story isn’t pretty. But he’s not what they see. He’s this:

Which is why I married him...

Which is why I married him…

Herstory Lesson: Tattoos are a permanent tale on your skin, but don’t expect the rest of the world to be able to understand the story they tell.

Featured Here: My Tattoo Artist, the one and only Irish Buddha

irishbuddha

56 thoughts on “The Story of My Ink

  1. OMG, I love the phoenix piece especially.

    I want to get a memorial tattoo for my grandmother when I turn 40, but now I think I want to do something for myself in the meantime.

    (your story, your life, your timeline to share…if ever. We still love you and understand.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I want to be less fat 🙂

        It would be an upper arm piece (hey if I am going to go for it, I’m going all-out) so would like that area to be a little better developed than how it looks now.

        My brother, who is pretty much covered in ink, got a similar design on his leg. If I can find the pic I will post it on my FB page or the blog sometime this week.

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        1. My only suggestion (and if you have a good tattoo artist they will say the same thing) is if your weight fluctuates, don’t get a design that wraps the area completely. That’s why I won’t go all the way around my thigh. Those suckers change shape all the time and it is the one place I am guaranteed to pack weight on. With only having it on the side, I don’t have to worry about some design getting all whacked out.

          And I would love to see the picture!

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  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Your tattoos are beautiful, but the stories behind them are even more so. I’m sorry about your school experience (heart squeeze!) but you obviously have a gorgeous family around you who support and love you. I’m SO happy you shared this! And OMG the flowers around the Phoenix…..le sigh. I love a colorful arm on a woman. Especially my sister wife. xoxo

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  3. Love the thigh. Epic. had me a tale to tell on my back but my money ran dry. still a dream i want to accomplish one day.
    My first was to be stubborn as a bull and get me one on my arm. easy when you are a Taurus 😀 Had my mum run after me with a cheese grater to get it off after she found out.

    I love tattoos, but yes you should think before you ink. and why do people always go in summer?? LOL.

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  4. Ooh and before I forget.I am stealing your banner 😀 for some use.:P
    Love the new look..and your picture. wow
    keep smiling, you rock.

    and as for the crockpot. take your own time. It has to come naturally. Cheers

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  5. Wonderful tattoo stories. And the new web design is very appealing – it feels welcoming. And same for the new header and picture. It doesn’t scare me to visit anymore. And, as a bonus, for some reason my old laptop seems to like it better too – much less freezing up (sometimes used to have to reload it 4 or 5 times to actually get it to work). Great post Laura!

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  6. I love your story! I admire people who can sit through sleeves of ink. I wish I could. I have three on my back, two really; one cover up story similar to yours. But the pain was so great, I can’t muster the courage to go back for more. Your husband. What an absolute doll. That gesture of taking the heat off of you. True Love! *sigh* Thanks!

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    1. My tattoo artist asked the other day what else I was going to get on my thigh. I believe I responded with something along the lines of, “You will never fucking touch my thigh again…I love you…but no.” That shit hurt.

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  7. They’re your tats and your story. Who cares how the small minded see them.
    Love the story of your tattoo artist coming up with the Phoenix!

    (Hope writing this post gave you a nice distraction from the other one.)

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    1. It did! I had a lot of fun with this. My tattoos had never made me self-conscious until that college experience, but I’ve gotten a little better in the self-esteem part now.

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  8. Balls. This LITERALLY just reminded me that I owe someone else some info on my ink. I dunno why it didn’t jog my memory before.

    ANYWAY.

    LOVE this. And your tats. And your photos.

    And the story of the jaw clench and all the fun we had with that 😀

    And your husband’s protective wonderfulness makes me SMILE! As do the pics of him with the kids.Gorrrrrgeous montage of a wonderful family.

    GO GO INK!

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      1. *grins* And you said…?

        It was hilarious. I have NEVER been that tired and zommish on VidChat with ANYONE (apart from the time I fell asleep in the room, but that was an accident) so consider yourself privileged – it’s not just anyone I’d let see me *quite* that crazy…

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        1. I said, “Of course.” I’ll let his imagination run with my activities of daily life. No need for him to know I sit around in sweatpants, write all day, and attempt to clean house.

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          1. Poor man! That could be dangerous.

            Wellllll I’m sat here in exercise gear, NOT showered, NOT cleaning, trying to avoid the need to go grocery shopping and do some chores and I JUST WANNA WRITE!

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              1. But the shop was closing. So I showered and shopped and the writing got better in my head as it went along 🙂

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                  1. I had to keep thinking of it – keep holding on. It’s evolved even since I began writing! LOVE this. But am also aware I’m meant to be writing something for tomorrow but this HAS to be written

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                    1. I haven’t even started my writing for tomorrow. Normally by Monday afternoon I am set for Tuesday and Wednesday. But…yeah that’s not the case this time.

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  9. Ahhh finally made it back here to finish reading and comment! Loved seeing the photos of your family– adorable. It’s hard to imagine how much you stick out in a small town. I think that prim and proper people are more likely to stick out where I am, ha. You stories and explanations for your tattoos are awesome– I have a hard time when someone wants to really quickly know “what” my tattoo is and “why” I got it, especially when it’s in a check out line or a drive thru or while walking down a sidewalk. All that really matters in the end is that WE know, I suppose. And to hell with anyone else’s interpretations.

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    1. I can’t stand when people ask me while I’m checking out at the grocery store. It’s never ending. And then they want to know when you got it, who did it, are they any good…Or god help me…show me all of theirs.

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      1. YES. And I have so fewer than you so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for you. I like when some old rough and tumble guy is like “hey girl, I like yer tats.”

        Also! I forgot to say before– I looooove the new design. Very very much.

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        1. Thanks! I know what you mean about the “rough and tumble guy”. It kinda warms my heart when some old guy is like, “Darling, those sure look nice.”

          When we went to the hotel the other weekend an older couple stopped me (dripping water in my bikini in the hallway) to look at my tattoos. I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my entire life. Hi, I’m freezing and almost naked in the middle of a hotel hallway, please stop me here so we can discuss my ink. -facedesk-

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  10. I adore this post. I have just started following your blog, so i had no expectations of today, but Ink rocked my world today. Thank you so much for sharing. I loved this story of all your body art. I fall into the it hurt to much to ever do it again category. I have a rose on my arm with my dead mothers initials over the top and my best friends initials on the bottom. While I think tattoos are really neat, I’d prefer to look at them on other peoples bodies than get another one of my own. LOL

    Again- thank you for sharing this story. It was a wonderful read and I loved the pictures.

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    1. I’m glad you had no expectations…that means I got to surprise you! Thank you for your comments. I understand…it is painful…but I kinda, sorta love it 😀

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  11. Your words just took me into your world… wow wow wow! You are beautiful. And I don’t know your story- but I do love the verse you repeated over and over again to heal. I wish you had linked a post to what you were talking about that you were to follow through on. Maybe I missed it? I will go roam!!

    I am going to assume that you are at peace and happy now, which I am SO relieved about. Your tattoos are YOU- so they are absolutely positively gorgeous. There’s always something that isolates/rejects us from the world… always. I suppose it’s how we handle it, perceive it, and most importantly rise above it.

    I’m glad you have found your comfort place, your home in both who you are and where you are and WHO you are with. SO lovely.

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    1. Actually the link is there, in the first sentence on the word “Crockpots”. Hope you enjoy reading that story as well, though it’s already a three part one and not nearly finished 😀 Thank you for your kind words and comments. It took a long time to be comfortable in my own skin, with and without the tattoos.

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  12. Laura, your legend status just went stratospheric! That was every bit as good as I was hoping for, you rock…you both rock, actually. Thankyou for telling your stories, Legend. Love Loyalty Honour and Respect REDdog

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  13. I don’t have a tattoo and I’m sure I’ll never get one. Just not the thing for me. I guess I’m more of the khaki pants kind of girl. BUT, hearing the stories of what people’s ink means to them is just epically cool. The stories, the history, the passion … it’s amazing. And, I can tell you that I was totally sucked in to your story. (And changing that term of oppression to the Phoenix … the most profoundly perfect transformation. That.)

    I find people’s reactions to others based on appearance interesting. I mean, we’re all sending messages in how we choose to wear our hair and clothes, etc. Those things are telling in a way, but they don’t tell the whole story. I LOVE the pics of your hubby–smiling with a warm and kind face. It’s a shame that there are people who would shut themselves out from his obvious warmth based on a predetermination they’ve made.

    This is my first time on your blog … and I’ll be back! I’m a new fan!!

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And hey, “People with tattoos don’t care if you have one or not.” I saw that somewhere and thought that pretty much nailed it.

      You are completely right on people’s reactions to appearance. We all do it, no matter how hard we try not to “judge a book”. That first moment of meeting someone leaves an impression. One of my closest friends said that she was intimidated when she met the husband, but then said, “But anyone seeing him with the children would know better.”

      Isn’t it amazing, the things we hide away from the world?

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      1. You know, I realized after I hit Post Comment that left out some relevant info when I said I don’t have a tattoo and that I’m mostly a khakis kind of girl (because you’re right, who cares!). I’m comfortable in my skin and with this, but I’ve always felt like I’m mostly a plain Jane. I thought I was really going for it when I got just one ear double pierced. (The back story was that my mom could only afford to pay for one set of ear piercings and my sister and I both wanted to get our ears double pierced, so we split it. Seriously, that was my big move. Ha!) But I’ve always thought people who live passionately and “on the edge” with fun and funky hairstyles–and tattoos–are just so cool. That they’re so in touch and deep with emotion that it’s like an art they wear … because they have to, because that expression and feeling just have to be a physical part of them. So I think it’s amazing. And when the Girl always picked out crazy colorful outfits with all kinds of patterns when she was little, I loved it. Watching her express herself through clothes was so joyful for me. And, when she was 10 and wanted to get purple streaks in her hair, I loved that too. She still loves doing funky things with her hair … she tells me her vision, I try to help it become reality.

        Looking forward to reading more … because you strike me as the kind of writer who HAS to get the words out. And I love reading that stuff.

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        1. I loved the story about the ear piercings (and LOVE when someone says they are comfortable in their skin. I think that is so brave and important.). My mom took me to get my second piercing. We were halfway home when my brother made some comment about mom being “too old” to get another piercing. She flipped the car around, went back, and immediately got her second piercing.

          And you’re right about the style: whether it be clothing, tattoos, hair color/cut, or even make-up. It’s all a form of expression and being able to say it on the outside can help bring like-minded people together.

          Like

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