I want another tattoo.
Yes, that’s “another.” Do you know 40 percent of adults in the US under age 40 have a tattoo? Like most women in my demographic, I was inked before I hit my 20’s. I have only one tattoo, a spiraling sun on my lower back. It was drawn by my best friend. Naturally, she sports a moon in the same anatomic location.
When I walked into the tattoo parlor the first and last time I was depressed, a college dropout who worked part-time at a restaurant where I would soon be fired. I had been recently dumped over the telephone by a bipolar barista. I didn’t know it then, but the tattoo symbolized my desire to both expand and regress. I wanted a bigger life than struggling to pay rent, struggling to date crazy people. It was a life I knew I could have, but I wasn’t quite capable of it yet. I also wanted to go back to childhood, to the safety of my parents, to a life of certainty and ease. The sun has faded now, but back then it was a flaming orange and yellows. It promised warmth, passion, abundance, as well as a connection to a woman who is a sister to me, who I grew up with.
my sun tattoo. required flexibility to photograph
The tattoo artist didn’t pick up on any of this either. To that burly man who looked like he could be a member of the Hells Angels, I was just another stupid teenager who wanted a sun tattoo. He almost rolled his eyes when he met me, but he obliged. Stupid teenagers paid rent for many tattoo parlors in the late 1990’s I imagine. I laid on my stomach in near silence, my shirt hiked up and my shorts pushed down as the tattoo needle buzzed and he changed part of me forever.
I never regretted this sun. It remains well-covered in most any social situation and I don’t see it very often, but its still there, a faded version of the flaming orb it once was.
This time, I want a tattoo in a visible location. A riskier proposal if you have graduated from restaurant jobs and are now a health care provider in a major academic medical center. Ink on the lower back can be ignored if you regret it later, but a tattoo on the forearm cannot.
And why now? I think I want to look different. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but loss has marked me on the inside. My grief is woven into the fabric of my being. And what I have gained and loved and been blessed with has marked me too. An arm tattoo is a way of showing that I am different on the outside as well as on the inside. I am not the same person I was on the day I was born. I will not die the same person I am now. Life is an unfolding, and tattoos can serve as roadmarkers along the way.
I’m not sure I’ll go ahead with a second tattoo. I’ve been thinking for months and I still have some more thinking about it to do. Age makes a girl more contemplative. But who knows? Maybe it is time for another roadmarker.