When I was at uni, many moons ago, my bestest buddy Lou bought me a tattoo for my 18th birthday. Wandering into a tattoo shop in the backstreets of Cardiff (classy, I know), I pointed to a star design on the wall, and proceeded to have myself inked. Just below the left hip bone, so that only I knew it was there. Well, me and Lou. Certainly not my mother.
As the years went on, it became like wall paper; I ceased to notice its existence. When I met my husband, he had a half finished Koi carp on his back – a massive piece, which is not only beautiful, but must have hurt tremendously. A Chinese dragon adorned half of his chest, and more tattoos were scattered on the tops of his arms, each representing a journey for him throughout his life. It was fascinating listening him to talk through why he had each piece done and where and when and how they all linked together.
I shyly showed him my little star. He physically baulked when he saw it. ‘You’ve got a pentagram on you. An upside-down one. …? Erm…is there something I should know?!’. Only, my darling, that your future wife is an idiot perhaps? And that a star on the wall of a Welsh tattoo shop isn’t quite what I thought it was.
Of course, I didn’t believe him at first. Then I did some research, and have since then, tried to tell myself that it’s a symbol of pagan fertility. Which is still ironic, as I’m not really a fan of kids…
Anyway. You’d think that this lesson in getting something ridiculous on you would have stuck. But alas, I got another tattoo.
However. This time, I spent ages thinking about what to have and where. I did my research. I decided I wanted text this time, words by an old fave of mine, Sylvia Plath. Part of a phrase that, for many reasons, meant a lot – it says ‘And I listen to the old brag of my heart’ and ends ‘I am, I am, I am’. I just wanted those six words. On the right hand side of me. A heartbeat, echoed.
I got it done.
Although what I forgot to think about this time, was the font. So when I looked in the mirror, expecting a whisper of a tattoo, I got ‘Jam, Jam, Jam’. Wrong script for the capital ‘I’. Foolish girl. The chap I got to do it wasn’t so great at text either. Apparently it ‘wasn’t really his thing’.
So. I did some more research, on people who could do good cover-ups. And I decided to stop messing about with a little ‘star’ here and some ‘words’ there. I was going to get something proper. And frankly, I needed to to cover up my Jammy mistake. Luckily, Santa Perpetua came to my rescue. She’s simply amazing (see her work here) and I now love my side piece. It’s ink black and scratchy, with type and splodges, and, for someone who has worked in newspapers all her life I now also have some print in my skin to also underline who I am. I am. I am.
So, what of this lesson, Rule 356 of Chapter 7: Consider everything before getting a tattoo? Well, unlike me, consider the basics, like what and where and what font. Do some research on styles you like, rather than just wandering into a tattoo parlour. Check out who you might like to ink you – and if they’re good at what you want them to do. Ask the big ‘why’ question too. If it really represents you, your journey. If you really, really want one. Because its pretty permanent – apparently removal hurts like billy-o. And, of course, whether you need to hide it somewhere so an incensed parent can’t shout at you, regardless of your age.
That said, I really hope my Mum isn’t reading this post….