Tattoos and time machines


Every time I undress in front of my gran (which is not that frequent- I don’t just go around removing my clothes in front of others willy nilly), she has the same reaction “You have those things all over your body! Doesn’t it hurt to put that thing on your body?” My gran is almost 87 and even though she loves to tell the story of how her mother had tattoos (yes, this blew my mind as well) she finds mine quite alarming. I must remember to elicit more information about my tattooed, whiskey drinking great gran with my own grandmother the next time I see her but for now we’ll leave that as mystery.

I would like to blame my mother for my tattoos, she objected for the longest time before suddenly doing an about turn in deciding that for my 20th birthday she would pay for my first tattoo. I’m not sure if she came up with the idea because she was confident that I wouldn’t go through with it (unlikely as she was well versed in my well-developed bullish stubbornness) or if she figured that I just needed “to get it out of my system”. In any case, some thirteen years ago, my mother came with me and happily paid the bill for what would be my first tattoo. She comforted me through the pain (bloody hell did it hurt) and instead of lambasting me for my stupid choices and for the self-inflicted pain, she instead chose to tell me that I have a really high pain threshold (a massive complement in my family where bearing pain is seen to be a modicum of strength).

Looking back, this version of me would not get that same tattoo that I did all those years ago (I’m thinking bigger and with more movement). But seeing that tattoo on my body reminds me of who I was at twenty and all reasons I had, at that time, to get the tattoo I did. I remember the angst only a twenty-year-old failing engineering could feel. It felt like I was drowning in an ocean of broken dreams and unfulfilled potential. I remember thinking that I was letting everyone down, including myself. But I also remember the steadfast belief that this would not be my defining moment. I knew that I would “rise from the ashes” so to speak and that when I did, it would be magnificent, it had to be. To wish away the pain and sadness from that time would be to undermine the courage I had to get through it. I see that pain, I feel the burden of insecurity when I see my tattoo, but I also see strength, resilience and determination.

To show for a life lived with hedonism, I have my share of regrets. None of those regrets are the things that mark my body, be it my scars or my tattoos. Each and every one of my tattoos is a time machine, allowing me to remember myself at different parts of my life. Allowing me to revisit the things that moved me, that inspired me, that tried to ruin me. They are my stories, they are a reminder of the things that have shaped my life. I am grateful for my time machines and for the experiences they share with me.

Maybe, when I’m seventy I’ll look at my body with regret and woe. Maybe when I’m seventy I’ll be that woman rocking her bikini on the beach, loving every inch of her skin and herself.