Tattoos are taboo in our day in age, but for what reason. In a world where art depicted on a canvas, structure, or statue holds more monetary value than most banks in Greece, why is it so offensive for an artist to express themselves by painting someone’s body with permanent ink? Why is it so distasteful for the artist to be inspired by their subject’s wish to engrave images or words to their requested body parts as a moment they are determined to capture forever? I don’t understand how the majority of people can’t see the beauty in them.
I know my parents and grandparents about had a heart attack when I came home with my first at nineteen. It was my first full of-age summer since my birthday falls in mid-August, and for whatever reason, my best friend and I came up with the idea of getting matching tattoos. We had talked about it for months, even looked at Google for ideas, but never settled on anything we liked. Her older brother ended up drawing on our ankles one night out of boredom, a side view of a butterfly perched perfectly above the joint between our shins and feet. It was exactly what we had been looking for. We had him draw it again on paper then took it to an artist to permanently adhere it to our skin.
The number one thing to remember whenever you do decide to get a tattoo is to do your research on your artist. Imagine if the Sistine Chapel had been painted by anyone other than Michelangelo; same theory applies. We chose a brand new shop where the prices were low, and without even looking at their portfolios, we asked them to perform their artistry. Silly, children. My artist was extremely heavy handed, pressing the needle without hesitation across my skin in the figure I had given him. The pain was not what my few friends had described, unbearable and needing to take breaks throughout the session even though my girlfriend in the other room was crushing her boyfriend’s hand during hers. There was discomfort, I won’t lie about that, but as the vibration numbed the area he worked on, allowing the uneasiness to subside, I was able to concentrate more on his work, watching as he meticulously pivoted the humming gun to trace the pattern.
As the lines took shape, I knew then and there that I may have made a hasty choice in artist. Some lines were thicker than others. One wing held more of a curve than its twin, but remember, I was a teenager with her first tattoo. The adrenaline rush pairing with breaking a forbidden decree of society had my younger self high on life. Not to mention I had done it with my best friend who, at the time, I thought would be in my life forever. It was a day I was determined never to forget, and since it was now scarred into my skin, I never would be able to erase it from memory.
Like the haphazard lines forever imprinted on my ankle, much were the days I spent that summer, without a care and doing as I pleased. My now almost decade older self looks down at the dark lines on my skin and thinks of the young, reckless, and void of adult responsibility self and laughs at the memories. The best friend who has the exact replica of my tattoo on her opposite ankle is no longer part of my life, and that summer now seems a whole world away from the person I am now, but in that moment, in that snapshot of time, this tattoo meant the world to me.
Again, I ask, why then is it so objectionable to get a tattoo? If in that moment, that piece of art now transfixed to my body depicted everything I was feeling, represented everything that meant anything to me, why is it so abhorred? As my older self, I may regret the choice in image and having it be identical to someone else’s, or the choice in artist, but never will I regret the act of pure freedom I felt as the needle gun drew a moment in time against my skin. In fact, I now have two additional pieces with plans for at least a handful more!