I have been asked numerous times what made me get my tattoos or piercings. In truth it is a complicated answer. Let me start with my fear of needles. I am deathly afraid of needles. I skipped out and lied about tetanus shots twice in my life. I had to have gas before the Novocaine in the dentist office. I have a true and legitimate fear of needles. When I say this people look at me as though I have this huge banner above my head that says liar.
Truth is, I am afraid of needles. For me tattoos and piercings are reminders of facing my fears. I can look in the mirror or down my arms and legs and know that I am strong enough to withstand the minimal pain a shot will cause. This is the primary reason for it. There is a secondary reason as well.
I grew up very conservative and very religious. I did not know anyone with tattoos and having your ears double pierced was a novelty. I remember having a superior attitude when my sister got her first tattoo. The fact that it was Casper the Ghost did not help. (I hate that cartoon, but it was not for me I realize.) My husband and his family made snide comments about tattoos and piercings and I went along with it. I remember shortly after my husband left me, I started to entertain the idea of a tattoo. One to remind me of the years of misery, I suppose.
I got my first tattoo in 2001, I think. I settled on a small seahorse on my left upper arm. He is very colorful and I always tell people it is because the male of that species carries the young. The truth is I have no idea, other than I love the sea and had not seen a seahorse tattoo before. It also helped that a bartender mentioned a seahorse tattoo would be cool. I remember walking into the tattoo shop and asking if they had ever done a seahorse. He had one on file, but he had an appointment coming in soon. He asked me to come back. I think the fact that I told him I have the money and the balls right now and I will likely never have both at the same time again. I sat in the chair and remember him telling me the other seahorse he had done was in a bad location and did not look very good. My location was a much better choice and he was much happier with the result. My only regret was having him make it smaller.
I got my second tattoo in 2005 while my partner at the time was in prison. He had many tattoos and piercings. I loved the look of his ink and piercings. My second tattoo is an original designed for me. It is a huge sailfish on my left calf. To this day I love looking at it. In fact I shave almost daily because I want to show him off. My third and fourth tattoos were by the same artist. One is a cowfish he designed for me. I need to find him soon to finish that one and the other one that were done at the same time. The other one is a nautilus, which is placed on my left bicep and makes my arms look beastly. When I lift weights my bicep looks way bigger due to the placement of that tattoo.
I got my first lip ring after my second tattoo. My partner was still in prison, but I really loved the look of his lip ring. I wanted one the moment I saw one. I had 5 piercings up my ear way before any of my tattoos. Unfortunately most of those have healed over. I really want to get a big corkscrew piercing in both of my ears. After we broke up, I decided I wanted another lip ring in the opposite corner, this is called snakebites, but I added another one on the left side just to be different. I have three rings in my lower lip now, which I really do love. I also pierced my nipples, but that is for a very personal reason.
My fifth tattoo is the first non-sealife one. It is huge chestplate of a chainrail with a chain around my neck. It is my first bicycle tattoo. I got it so that I can see everyday that I am lucky to be alive and to remember that life is a gift. It really does change your perspective. My most recent one is on my right forearm and is of the headbadge of the bicycle that I rode across the country. Ultimately I want an octopus on my back with the arms wrapping around my thighs. Tattoos and piercings are very personal and expensive. For me they all mean something.
I look back at where I came from and who I am now and I can see the transition. Those struggles that everyone goes through in life help define us. They help us figure out who we really are, if we take the time to understand the meaning and reactions. I am most happy right now. I may get strange looks and I may never get those high paying jobs, but I am happy with who I am. When I go to sleep at night, it is with a clear conscience and knowing that I am who I was meant to be. I will continue to mutilate my body as so many people view it, yet I will only see the beauty that I can release with each struggle and each time I face my fears. I know I am a different person, now that I am the one that is under scrutiny all the time, I accept people at face value. I do not judge nor do I have prejudices about anyone. People are just people and it is not my place to put a value on them.
I know that my next piercing with be the corkscrews in my ears, the one after that will be a short corset on my neck. I have accepted that many people will look at me with the same disdain I once had for people like me. I know that I can be the change I want to see by accepting those that will judge me, and use my looks to open up dialogue for those that do not understand. I have had many people talk to me about my chestplate, when they hear the story their attitudes often change. What I want to talk about is not me, but that life is a gift. I can actually see the light flicker in some as they understand it is not just about self-mutilation, but about a story. I think that is the greatest strength of body art, the story.