I wanted a tattoo. I needed to have something on me that was a permanent show of the person I love , in a way that spoke to my soul. I can’t explain this need. I think people either love or hate tattoos. I certainly wasn’t overly keen on them when my sons bagan coming home with various bits of their bodies decorated and coloured but I could admire the artistry and the quality of them.
When my youngest daughter came home one day and my toddler grandson kept telling me Auntie Ellie has a butterfly on the tummy’ i honestly didn’t imagine she had got herself inked at the age of 14! That discovery goes alongside me finding out she had had her tummy button pierced only when the infection exploded and her school shirts were in the washing covered in the most disgusting gunk!
The one stipulation I made that the tattoos should have meaning and beauty and not simply ugly marks or words of hate and ignorance.
I got my first tattoo on my 50th birthday as a present from my sons ( their friend was a gifted tattooist) I had left my first marriage of over 33 years and full of determination to embrace this new life now I had found the courage to break from the past I was tired of being safe and boring, I wanted to make a small mark of defiance and celebrate being me at last. In control, that my body was now mine to do with as I wished and no one could tell me I couldn’t do something . I found it naively shocking… I thought people would look at me differently. They might imagine me to be more outgoing or have hidden depths of naughtiness (I don’t).
A tattoo for me was a promise to myself that I would become the inner me that had been stifled for so very long, I would be bold and fun-loving and devil-may-care, rebellious in a sexy way, and maybe even not sort my rubbish into the correct bins or eat just desserts on a sSunday. Stay up all night listening to music or even watch slightly risque programmes on the Tv without feeling ashamed and embarrassed.
Yes that first little tattoo on my foot gave me a new identity but now I wanted another. Not for me but to declare to the world that my darling husband might have gone but my love was permanent and indelibly etched on my skin and heart.In a way perhaps I wanted some physical pain to match the pain in my soul. Our love had become painful but still beautiful and enduring.
So what to get? I had agreed with my daughter ( who now has a beautiful and thoughtfully compiled selection of skin art) that I wanted the words from ‘our song’ and we booked the appointment.
Ellie had had her unique art designed after much collaboration with Hattie, a wonderfully talented and artistic tattooist who had drawn up Marie Antoinette with Ellies face and incorporating minute details specific to what mattered to Ellie.
I was to have ‘ and nothing else matters…’ words that are meaningful and personal, along with a tiny feather which symbolised a TV programme serenity that Andy loved.
We made our way to the ‘parlour’. Now these places to me are akin to dens of iniquity, like bookmakers and pubs, places that a Lady shouldnt frequent. I walked in feeling a little bit naughty and full of devilment. It was tastefully decorated , clean, pleasant, friendly and with no drug induced opium smoking harlots littering chaise longues. My bubble burst!
We chatted in hushed whispers , goodness knows why as we were the only customers. I can’t begin to tell you how kind the tattooists were, knowing this was a memorium piece and my fragile state of mind they had kept our appointment times private and whether it was to save me from embarrassment or to save their customers from being subjected to a crying hysterical middle aged fat woman crying over a little tattoo and ruining ther image Im not sure but I am profoundly grateful.
The pain was…bearable. I’d forgotten it would hurt until the moment I sat down.Then it hit me but I was stoic and barely flinched when he washed my arm with spirit. I gritted my teeth as he applied the stencil designed for me…and then the noise began. Like a dentist but worse because I had chosen this! Actually it really didn’t hurt that much and I treated it like a blood test…don’t look ,it isn’t happening, focus on something in the room and chat insanely about anything!
It was done in next to no time, it really is quite small but very lovely. I admired it and had a few tiny tears. I choked back and focused on my daughter whose piece was huge and going to take another couple of hours!
As we left Hattie came up and hugged me , tears pouring down her eyes at how much this had meant to me knowing my story. She cared so very much and I left feeling surrounded with care and with a part of my love story etched for all to see…