“We’ll beat a tattoo, at twenty to two”
Pardon me while I indulge in a bit of navel-gazing.
My first tattoo taught me that tattoos aren’t a fixed point. Even if the ink itself has remained on my back hip for fourteen years, my life, my perceptions, my values have changed. Sometimes I think my tattoo is pretty silly, sometimes it’s a big giant JaydotSymbol of who I used to be, a person worth remembering even as I move on from her life into something greater.
In the end, my tattoo is as permanent as the mole above my right eye or the giant australia-shaped birthmark on my butt. I mean, they’ll probably all be there the rest of my life, but my feelings about them will always change, and it’s far more important that I accept them, that I accept myself, than it is that I love them every moment that I’m alive.
And that’s really what my tattoos are to me. A memory. A feeling. A mark on my body that’s just an integral part of who I am, even as who I am changes over the years.
Fourteen years after the first one, I’m getting a second tattoo.
Coincidentally, today is the anniversary for my first marriage; I’d’ve forgotten, but my ex wished me a happy anti-versery this morning. Good-naturedly. We’re friends. But considering that I spent nearly the entirety of that marriage trying to be obedient, to be the good wife (a role I was patently terrible at, but that didn’t stop me from trying), it might be appropriate that today I go to get a Non-Compliant tattoo (based off a design from Bitch Planet, which may only be three issues in but I already love it more than anything).
I want the tattoo on my left wrist. I plan to put it over the (now barely visible) scars that still remain from when I’d cut myself in high school. This, too, could be meaningful. Not to cover up the scars of who I was, but to add to them. I used to cut myself because it was a means of control, a thing I had power over that I could do. It felt good to cut, not the actual act of self-harm, but in terms of no longer feeling lost and terrified and stressed. It was my body, I controlled it. It was a release to express that through cutting.
Cutting is fucked up, kids, but in my experience it was a symptom, not its own disease. I cut because I was fucked up, and I’d’ve probably been a lot better off with therapy than with prying the razor blades out of my shaving razor, but I had a dad who didn’t believe in therapy (a stance he has fortunately done a complete 180 on), and I did have shaving razors. So I developed my own coping skills.
Here I am again, laying ink into my body because it’s my body, because I can do what I want with it, because if I want to ruin my skin with ink then I’m going to do that, no one can tell me no. Because I am, in the end, non-compliant.
Never have been.
But here’s the thing about tattoos. About symbols. About life. They only have as much meaning to you as you give them. So I can go to the tattoo shop today with all the gravitas of everything written above and get this tattoo as a grand gesture, and then by the time the tattoo heals I can feel completely different about it. I could feel nothing about it. There’s even a remote possibility that I’ll be gravely dissappointed in it. For me, though, that’s the whole point. It’s not about having some immutable fixed thing inked into my body, it’s about developing that relationship with my body. About knowing that my body is there to care for me, and that I care for it. That I mark it as an act of self-love. Because it is mine, its flaws and its features, whether I’m born with them or added them later, they’re all mine and I love every last inch of me regardless of how those inches lay.
Because I am Non-Compliant, but I am also wholly mine.