Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Tattoos Truly Mean

Photo by YH Photography
I have loved tattoos since I was 13. I knew that one day I was going to get one, but my family opposed so strongly and I was too afraid of the consequences for a little self expression so I hid my tattoos from my family until they found out. I can't even remember how they realised. But they did. They still make occasional comments and get into debates about the implications of tattoos so here's a blog post to end all discussion.

Tattoos are my souvenirs of life. They tell my story. Moments, captured in ink. I do not believe in only getting symbolically meaningful tattoos because all tattoos are meaningful. Even that tattoo of your ex's name. Because it is a part of your life. That right there is proof that you loved deeply and maybe foolishly, but you loved. Even that weird tattoo. Because I'm sure there is a story behind it and it might even be funny. Even that misspelt tattoo. Because it is just like you to be careless about something so permanent. Even that tattoo you got while drunk adds up to who you are. Even this, even that. And what's the problem with getting empty but aesthetically pleasing tattoos? Aren't they decorations, in the end? Humans oftentimes try too hard to find reason for things that could simply just exist. 

My first tattoo holds no meaning at all, except to mark my rebellious days and impulsive ways, I was 17? It was the last day of 2007 and I walked into the tattoo studio and said "I want a tattoo before 2007 ends" so I got a floral design with stars and a crescent moon. Hurt like a bitch but oh so pretty. I was too young to know better and too stupid to care and I loved it. And all those feelings are permanently inked on the inside of my hip. 

My second tattoo is a phoenix. It is extremely significant to me, and also highly personal. I do not appreciate it when people who are not close to me, ask me what my tattoos mean because you are asking me to reveal a part of myself. It makes me uncomfortable. Usually I say "nothing", but "it's kinda personal" is me being polite. But here, I'll tell you what it means. I wanted a phoenix because I found strength in the mythical bird which rises from the ashes of it's own destruction. It means that nothing can destroy me but myself, and even when I do, I will always find my way back. I wanted a back piece because I remember making fun of other people's tattoos with my father. We were at a wedding, and there were a bunch of girls with tiny dragons and my father said, "Gal, look at that. Is it a lizard?" and I said, "I think they are dragons." "Dragons?! Small dragons, more like lizards." "Trueee. If it's something as majestic as a dragon, make sure it's all or nothing." It was then I realized that one day, my phoenix would cover my back. Till this day I can still remember how it felt, sitting at the table, laughing with my father. See, these are the bits and pieces of life that makes a significance. Don't get google dictate what your tattoo means.

I have the universe in a star above my right elbow. Everyone is a universe of complexities. We only know what we are shown. Alternately, the universe is made of galaxies, galaxies are made of stars. We are but one in a seemingly infinite universe of human beings, stretching over generations, but I am present, I am here. It reminds me to be humble without feeling inconsequential because sometimes, when we think about how small we are, we forget why anything should matter at all. It matters, because we do. Stars make up the universe, despite how small and insignificant each one may be, without them, the universe is nothing. 

I got "Ave Atque Vale" because I liked the sound of it - I found it in Infernal Devices and fell in love. "Always" is a beautiful belief. Matching tattoos with the ones I love, because they are a part of me and always will be. 

One thing that everyone fears is regret, which is why they claw and fight by nook or by crook to give their tattoos some great significance. My father told me as much, "What are you going to do when you want to remove them one day?" but the problem is, I never intend to. Tattoos are the beautiful battle scars of my youth.

But I have touched up tattoos and covered another, because they didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. Blowout tattoos are disappointing, especially if you are striving for minimalism, so always try to find an artist who specialises in the style you like and make sure you are able to communicate effectively with them. But even then, nobody is perfect and even the best tattoo artist might make mistakes. The best thing you can do is go to a reputable tattoo parlour. Never let price be an issue, don't compromise quality because it's going to be on you forever. 

You may dislike tattoos and that's okay. You don't have to love mine. And I don't expect you to agree with me. This is just my perspective for now and one day it might shift. But everyone should have an opinion, and the ability to respect the opinion of others.

Speaking of opinions, I'm not sure about other people with ink, but it makes me super awkward when people who have seen mine, tells their friend that they have to see my back. It is the shit. If that someone is a guy, they'd go ahead and say, it'll put yours to shame. But it is just embarrassing for me. It is not a competition. I am not an art gallery. My tattoos are mine and I do not appreciate being paraded like just because I have ink, suddenly I am public property. People who pull my shirt up or dress down? Chill, be cool. 

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