I’m planning to do a lot of things this year and one that most people would never expect is to finish getting inked.
It’s a stigma. I’m tattooed but, I’m not a criminal, gang member, prostitute or a sailor (that one makes me laugh) and no, I didn’t get them done by my cell mate in jail. LOL!
On the other hand, I am a young mother, soccer mom and a working member of society with no criminal record and live in a quiet, small family neighborhood.
Well, my tattoos are all in inconspicuous places and are only visible if I choose to show them.
For one, my family isn’t too fond of them, in fact, nobody in my family has any. Like, at all and have never considered getting one. My mother especially. I actually hid my first one from her up until she was helping me get ready to go to the hospital when I was in labor with Gabriella. I got my first one when I was 17, so I concealed it well for quite a few years. I’d say it was more out of respect and I didn’t want to disappoint her. She’s very religious and I understand the whole, “your body is a temple” scripture.
But, when it came down to it, it was my choice.
So why permanently mark my body?
I know the typical answer is expression.
And that is partially true.
For me, to be completely honest, it is an expression of what I’ve been through and more so closure. Each piece that I have means something to me.
I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Wanna see them?
Well, I’ll start off with the singles. I got this one in ’06. It’s a tribal heart with my eldest’s name, Gabriella, placed over my heart. At this point, I had no idea if I wanted to have more kids and I was graduating college to enter into the workforce. I thought it was just going to be my little Peanut. To be honest, this is the only one that I’m not happy with. I adore the name it is beautiful and especially in significance, but I don’t like how the heart turned out.
Hubby and I got our wrists forever etched with each other’s names in ’07 I believe. His on the left and mine on my right, so when we hold hands they’d face each other. Yes, if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a die-hard romantic and a big sap and I am THAT certain and confident of our relationship.
Now my back is a work in progress, hence that is one of my goals this year. To finish my back.
This is where I carry my past, behind me. There are a few tattoos I had prior which have been worked into the back piece. My first tattoo was the cliché Japanese symbol, though typical, it meant a lot. My adolescence was a battle and only strength got me through. Hence the ‘strength’ kanji. I also heart the Japanese culture very much and you will notice that Hubby and I’s tats are Jap-inspired.
The koi fish represents perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. It is also a Japanese legend that if a koi succeeded in climbing the falls of a river it would be transformed into a dragon, which the dragon is a symbol of aspiration. It also stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals.
Just as humans “swim” through the “ocean of suffering” without fear just like the koi swims through the water represents courage. In Japanese there is another word to describe love and that is koi, its is the love for the opposite sex or a specific person. A strong, passionate and romantic love. It also represents good fortune.
The pink cherry blossoms also have significance, if you know anything about them they are absolutely gorgeous (they are one of my favorite flowers) and smell otherworldly, however they do bloom for a short time before they fall to the ground. To me, it is a reminder that life is not forever–it is transitory and we are only here for a short time. As delicate as this flower is that’s how delicate life is and it should be lived to the fullest.
I decided to make my koi a female to represent me and wrap the whole piece around my strength kanji and best of all, Hubby drew it for me. The other writing is in Thai and I always leave people guessing as to what it means.
Now the big piece that I added to my back is a Phoenix which Hubby also drew out.
It’s still a work in progress and I need to finish the tail, which is quite a piece itself. I also need to get it retouched and the lines fixed. If you look closely, you’ll know what I mean.
So, why the Phoenix?
A little background first, it’s a mythological creature that is said to live for 500 years. Once it grows tired, it builds a nest of aromatic twigs and sets itself on fire. Three days later it rises from its ashes anew. The flight of the Phoenix represents rebirth, grace and virtue.
In essence, it is a representation of what I experienced in my life and it’s a long story. Hurt, suffering and pain… Until I grew tired and decided it was time to be “born again” and now I am flying free. With makeshift plumes and feathers of fiery orange and red, made anew to start a new life and navigate through it with grace and virtue and leaving everything that happened behind me and in the past.
Now a question that I get asked often is did it hurt?
My answer is kind of hard to understand. Yes and no. The Phoenix piece actually took about a 3.5 hour sitting with no breaks, I found that the outline is least painful and the shading over shading is what hurts (and bleeds) more. I also find the after care actually hurt me more than the tattoo itself.
So yes, it hurts, but I seem to have a high threshold for pain and I just sat there really. It’s also a lot of mind over matter too. Actually almost ALL of it is and how much you are willing to handle.
It was funny actually, a guy was in the shop waiting for his appointment and he’s like “Holy sh*t, I got my back done and I was screaming the whole time, how the hell are you just taking it?” I just smiled and said, “I don’t know.” Actually all my tattoos didn’t really hurt for some reason. Thick skin? Hahaha! I don’t know.
I scheduled my next appointment and summer got in the way and then time passed and I kept rescheduling and 2 years went by. Then we decided to have another baby. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and time really hasn’t allowed me to finish getting inked but it’s on the agenda for this year. That is if Mimi isn’t still breastfeeding. I started this piece in ’07 and I think it’s time to finish what I started.
This is also on Hubby’s agenda, he has a whole sleeve and is planning on finishing it. Also, adding a half a sleeve to his other arm which is also half-finished. I think he plans on doing his back and the girl’s names too. Not sure. He drew them out himself too.
Being tattooed comes with a huge stigma, but in the end–it comes down to personal choice and for whatever personal reason a person may get one is always different. No matter how silly, most times, it means a lot to a person.
I’d suggest really researching your tattoo, Google rocks for this and making absolute sure that you are ready for it.
I don’t show them off all the time, not because of how I’m viewed. I really don’t care, but I know when it’s appropriate to do so. That often goes with the venue’s attire actually. A place that is formal requires appropriate clothing, not a tube top. Also, shawls are super awesome. I do get stares but, I also get more compliments and a lot of questions from people who I never expect. They tell me that they are thinking of getting tattooed and have a ton of questions and of course want to see my tattoos. I honestly don’t think it’s that much, some people are covered.
Most people at work don’t know I have tattoos (they do now if they see this and some already saw them peeking through my scrubs and have asked to see them all. LOL) and some days, I simply forget I have them to be honest. It’s something I carry with me and when I choose to share them– I do. To me it’s not a big deal and yes, there is a lifestyle association but thing is, if I hadn’t told you, you would never know.
Now I have a question for you guys, has your opinion changed of me because you know that I have all these tattoos? (I can take it!) Do you guys have any of your own? Willing to share what they are? Have you passed judgment on people because of them? Let me know!
Til then, cheers m’deres!
Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela and partner and best friend to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.