I never considered having a tattoo. And then I got divorced.
There’s little doubt Western societies have influenced how we view people who’ve inked their bodies. Before tattoos gained any attention, it was the sole domain of sailors and dockyard workers. Since the 1950s and the dawn of Rock and Roll, the bad-boy image of tattoos grew more notorious. Other rebels of the day-bikers and prisoners-further drove the tough-guy narrative.
Until the 1970s, women were mostly absent from the tattoo scene. Men dominated, both as artists and as those sporting tattoos. Women started getting ink done as the craze spread across the Western world in the early 70s. The trend first started to gain traction among the lesbian community. This perpetuated further discrimination against women with tattoos.
Mainstream acceptance started when movie stars, famous athletes, and celebrities took to having ink done. The tattoo designs and styles went through stages and crazes of their own. From earlier tattoos of skulls and crossbones to the adoption of the Polynesian tribal images, styles and crazes have evolved. Today, the ink business is established as an art form. The new technology that has gone into the pens, needles, inks, and safety features, has given artists freedom to express their talents.
I got inked shortly after my divorce.
I’d been out of rehab and clean for over six months when my Son and I decided to both get a tattoo. We each designed our own. They were both of a cross-his with the word “Believe” and mine had “Psalm 91”. We went down to the local tattoo artist-a biker joint-and got inked. For us both, it was a defining moment. There was a greater significance-to the decision and the instant-than the chosen piece of art we were inking on our bodies.
Every person has their reason for getting inked.
The decision is rarely a flippant one unless lots of alcohol is involved. There are many sad tales of tattoos that have gone wrong due to being intoxicated. But for most people, having a tattoo done is not a light decision. Knowing what to have done, where to place it on your body and who to choose as the artist, all need to be considered.
I am happy I got both my tattoos on my back-where I can’t see them. My Son wisely got his in the centre of his back. I had mine done on my right shoulder blade. The artist, bless him, placed my cross at an odd angle. I designed a second cross with John 11:35 to balance it out on my left shoulder blade. Giving the artist a second chance to correct the imbalance was an error in my judgement.
I’m not sorry about the ink I’ve had done. Although they are not great works of art and lie crooked on my back, I’m glad I’ve got them. Their significance and presence are dear to me.
My Son went on to get his one whole arm inked. It is a story that flows from the top of his shoulder, runs down his bicep, across his triceps and half-way down his forearm. It’s a beautiful story about his love for his family. Were it ended halfway down his forearm, he has now continued the story with his new little family.
A great friend and mentor of mine always said rugby players with tattoos across their whole arm looked like they were hit with a wet newspaper!
I guess getting inked will always have its critics, but for the rest of us rebels, rock on!
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏
Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on February 26, 2021.