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Tattoos are Personal

er> Tattoos are Personal by Lisa Pajot Renard

Middle-class, married, mother-of-two, type-A, high school English teacher ...that's me. And I've got tattoos that I LOVE.

"Yikes!" say the hardcore tattoo fans, the ones who've been getting skulls put on their butts for years, "tattooing is becoming so mainstream!" Maybe...but if it is becoming "mainstream," it is also becoming more and more recognized as a beautiful and substantial art form. It is becoming more recognized as a creative personal expression. This may be bad if the reason you get tattooed is to shock and horrify other people. For those with more tangible reasons for adorning their bodies, it is cause to celebrate.

The image you see is a sketch of my first tattoo. It is located on my inner right ankle. The artist did a beautiful job!

People Get Tattooed for Lots of Reasons; Here's Mine

Body art has always appealed to me. I toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo since my teenage years, but never seriously. I had no image I wanted to commit myself to and no particular spot I wanted it put. At that point, I just liked the idea of adorning my body in a very personal and artistic way. What didn't appeal to me then was the commitment and permanence of body art. I was smart and did not get one.

When I was a young newlywed, I got more serious about my thoughts on body art. The trouble is, my husband is very straight-laced and didn't like the idea. I spent a lot of time thinking about what image suited me and where I might put a tattoo, but I knew - at that point - that I would not do it because it might displease my husband. It was important for me to be what he wanted then.

Over the past seven years, I have grown a lot as an independent person. (We are still married by the way; independence doesn't ONLY come with divorce. It is possible to be happily married and independent, but it takes work and resolve). At any rate, I have grown personally, spiritually, and I have become more and more engrossed in my chosen art form - writing. I have also launched a career teaching English language arts at the high school level and find it incredibly personally fulfilling. I have no question that I am ready for my tattoo now.

To me, a tattoo is an external manifestation of a tiny portion of our internal being, an outgrowth of the soul, a hint to others of what it is that makes me, ME. People who do not appreciate tattoos can not usually understand how personal they are. For this reason, I dislike (greatly) the idea of going into a tattoo shop and picking some cutesy, or worse - hellish - flash art from the wall by basing your decision on price, size, and how much it will hurt in that spot. I think that if you really want a tattoo you need to make some important decisions ahead of time and you need to be willing to pay for quality. You also need to be patient and not go out and do it in a drunken stupor.

People who go into the shop, pick a rose, find out it costs too much, pick a smaller heart, change their minds to a daisy, then finally settle on a devil with a halo...are not ready for their tattoo. Most likely they will regret the decision later and may end up having it removed or altered down the road.

What Does My Tattoo Mean to Me?

My tattoo is designed by me. Since I'm not a visual artist, it took me about three weeks to get it the way I liked it. As a personal statement, my tattoo represents several things. First, it is a manifestation of my commitment to my own independence. I want tattoos; I like them. I am resolved not to allow my husband's opinion, a principal's opinion, a parent's or student's opinion - or anyone else's - sway me from what I feel.

This does not make it a rebellion necessarily. It is, at its core, a declaration of ME-ness. I'm aware that the design doesn't appeal to many people; I don't care. It's for me and it's perfect.

The scroll and quill represent me as a writer, and my devotion to language arts. For as long as I can remember, I have been consumed with the written word - as a reader and as a writer. I have had articles, essays, and poetry published in national magazines. I write to solve problems, to express my feelings, to help myself think, to record my life and my children's lives, and for just about any other purpose you can imagine - personal and professional. If I had to define myself in one word, it would be "writer." Therefore, the scroll and quill suit me perfectly.

At first, I thought about having the scroll inscribed with a tiny "R" for "Robert" (my spouse). It occurred to me how wrong that would be. Instead, I opted to "write myself" into my tattoo by including my name as if it were written in ink by the quill.
This, to me, symbolizes the extent that we "write" our own lives, create our destinies, live our own paths. I write my own life every day - literally and symbolically.

The ink drops from the quill tell me that I am not finished; there is more to be written and there will - as long as I live - be ink for my quill.

Why I Chose This Spot

I chose this spot because I wanted this tattoo for ME, and not for anyone else. Therefore, it seemed silly to put it someplace I could either not see it without a mirror (i.e. my back, shoulder blade, or butt), or someplace I could see it only by intentionally looking for it. The place that appealed to me most, instinctively, was the inner ankle. I am bound to encounter this tattoo without purposefully seeking it out and, since I sit with crossed legs so often, it may actually be more visible to other people in this spot too.

Further, I have specific feelings about people who get tattoos when they are young and do not consider what their art may look like when they are, say, 70 years old. Some tattoo devotees live to be very old and never regret their fading, sagging tattooed skin. As tattooing becomes more popular, however, I suspect there will be quite a few elderly women someday who regret getting that foot-wide tribal pattern on their lower belly at 18 years old. Eighteen year old lower bellies are generally a lot firmer, flatter, and tighter than eighty year old bellies that have birthed, lived and loved, swollen and sagged.

I believe that some people (not all) who get tattoos do not understand that the tattoo will always be there, but that they will NOT always be the age, shape, and size they are today. I have no respect for these people who callously refuse to consider their tattoo a life time commitment. I want to love my tattoo at 40, 50, 60 and 70 years old.

So, it was a long story for one little tattoo ... but perhaps that best illustrates the degree to which I believe body art is so personal. If this much thought hadn't gone into it, and if it hadn't generated this much reflection ... it wouldn't have been right.

(I have a second tatoo; it's a very tiny apple on my left shoulder - obviously a symbol of my love for the teaching profession).

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 July 1998
in Tattoos

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