Yes, those are my legs, and no, those aren’t old tattoos.
I’m 42 years old, and my amazing friend Karen Awesom is the artist behind each of those Disney tattoos that I’ve had done in the last 18 months. I think they’re beautiful, and there are parts of each of those characters I love so much, I wanted them with me wherever I go. And those aren’t the only ink I carry.
During my last session with Karen, I asked her about her own tattoos, wondering if she was ever negatively judged for the art that adorns her body. She’s beautifully tattooed and pierced, and I love how unique a human being she is. But I knew there must be others who feel differently. Her answer? Sometimes she was judged. And I nodded. Me, too.
Right now, you’re probably either thinking about how amazing my tattoos are, or you’re wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Either way, you’re not alone. I’ve seen the looks when I wear shorts and skirts—the sideways glances and judgments as people look from me to my kids, and back again. What kind of mother is she? What do her kids think? What kind of example is she setting?
I get it… you’re still stuck thinking tattoos have some kind, any kind, of relevance with regards to the kind of person I am. And hey, you know what? You’re a little bit right. All my tattoos (and there are more than just these) have stories that tell you a little something about the kind of person I am. They tell stories about my strength, my love for my family, and my appreciation of, you guessed it, some Disney characters. They remind me of my love of hanging onto my childhood, my love of fun, my love of art, and the urgency I feel to express myself.
But they demonstrate nothing of my character, morals, or decision-making skills. Sure, you might not want to adorn yourself with permanent ink, and that’s ok, but it doesn’t make that decision any better than my choice to embrace tattoos. Gone are the days when tattoos were just for those kinds of people. Sort of funny how uptight we can be about an art form that’s been around for literally centuries across so many cultures, isn’t it?
I found this study really interesting because it discusses regrets with tattoos, and how obsessed we are with imbuing meaning into them. Is this why there’s so much judgment? Because we can’t just have a piece of body art without deep meaning? There must be some reason why she inked a butterfly on her shoulder, or why he got a bird on his chest? Not always. Sometimes art is just for art’s sake.
Yes, I’ve considered what my tattoos will look like as I age. I’ve got one that’s 22 years old, and while it’s weathered, I still love the memory of getting it done. We think we’re living in a society that no longer stigmatizes tattoos, but that’s not my reality. I get a lot of questions about my choices, mostly about why I’d get them. But why not?
I love the art I’ve chosen, and I’m an adult who can make responsible choices. Even my own mother said, “They’re lovely, but they’re… too much”. Too much what? One was ok? Two was acceptable? But 7 has gone too far?
We encourage our kids to express themselves, and embrace being different, then throw harsh judgment on those who stand out as adults. She’s too old for that outfit. Why would she dye her hair those colours? What kind of person are they? Why should I become beige to make someone else more comfortable? I love making fun fashion choices, I allow my kids to dye their hair, I’ve got my nose pierced, and my body is mine to decorate how I please.
What is this teaching my kids? I hope it’s teaching them independence, freedom, and that we’re the only ones who get to dictate what we do to our own bodies.
I’m so tired of being judged as a woman, and a mother. But it’s impossible to avoid, isn’t it? If we breastfeed or not, if we co-sleep or not, if we’re married or not, if we tattoo ourselves… our parenting skills are always up for debate.
But I promise you, the only thing my ink means is that I’m wildly in love with expressing myself. And my kids love each and every one of them.