This is a subject that I never thought that I would broach on here.
Six years ago, when I started this site, I never thought that I would be write this post because I never thought that it would apply to me.
I never thought that I would get a tattoo.
My thoughts about tattoos were actually pretty clear: I liked them. I liked many tattoos that I had seen quite a bit. In most ways, a tattoo felt very me, as I choose to live deliberately, and am a free spirit. Yet, I kept getting stuck, as there was nothing–no symbol or picture–that I felt compelled to have on me. I entertained the thought of a feather several times, but it never felt right.
Also, my parents are not fans. And that has always meant something to me.
(At one point, when the idea of ink started to percolate for me, I asked my sister if she would get a matching tattoo with me. “Can’t we just get a fabulous matching piece of jewelry?” she asked.)
And then, things happened.
When I had my son and my world turned upside-down, so did my view on most things.
I recognized the fragility of life. I was also forced to (at least partially) accept the hardest truth that I no longer had the control over my body that I had once taken for granted.
It was during the winter of 2013/2014 that I decided definitively that I wanted to get a tattoo. Not only was I going through enormous life changes, but I had also found the thing that I knew I wanted to get:
One word. My last name.
I wrote it enough times until it was perfect, and I decided that I would get it in a discreet spot, so hidden that no one would see it, even when I was in a bathing suit.
I would get it on my side, under my bra line, so that it would always be covered, but simultaneously very close to me. I kept the little index card with my writing in my wallet, laminated and protected.
In March of 2014, when I was 28 years old, I went down to South Street with my husband and best friends and got my signature etched permanently under my skin.
This day was very special to me, as I did not get my tattoo alone. Because this is not my story to tell, I will keep the details of this next part vague, but I had the honor of getting my tattoo with a dear friend, who was celebrating 10 years of remission from cancer. I now refer to this friend as my “blood brother”.
Being there together for this momentous occasion only heightened the excitement and strengthened the specialness.
My Fox tattoo is perfect. It is just the right size and in the perfect spot, and as soon as I got it, I wanted to show it off. I had been so careful in finding a spot that would keep it hidden that I actually had to work to find clothing and undergarments that would allow for it’s exposure.
While I still kept it concealed most of the time, I did let it show for several band gigs, as we were “Fox and the Hounds”, after all. And I was a rock singer. I could do it. (You can catch the tiniest glimpse of it, here, but likely wouldn’t see it if you didn’t know to look.)
and if you can’t see it there, as it is very small,
here it is. Mom and dad, please don’t kill me for showing the world. This does not define me; and in any way that it does define me, it is in a good way. It speaks to the part of me that is open and free and passionate and proud. And it is the name that we share.
I got my second tattoo a year later. This decision process was just as thoughtful, and I chose to get the tattoo on virtually the same spot of my body as my first, just on the other side; the spot closest to my heart. It is a way of expressing my children’s names (it is their their nicknames, which are both French) and my soul-friend wrote the script for me, so this piece is brimming with meaning and import.
I am not sharing a pic of this second tattoo, as I do choose to keep some things, like my kids’ names, private.
And then, last August, my husband and I went to Montreal for a 3 day getaway. It was my first time in Canada, and from the moment our plane touched down, I felt connected to the city.
It instantly got under my skin.
On our cab ride from the airport to the hotel I started to feel it, and after one drink at the hotel bar we took another taxi to a famous restaurant for dinner.
It was in that taxi that my mind was made up.
“I want to get a tattoo here,” I told my husband.
But, this time I had not put in the weeks and months of thought into the decision. I had not picked what I wanted, nor did I know where. I just knew that it was right.
We had a 15 minute ride to dinner and on that ride I tossed out suggestions. I wanted it to be a word or words, not an image, but I couldn’t pinpoint what I wanted, and when it comes to something like a TATTOO, you generally want to be certain.
“I really wish that I could get a Hemingway quote. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so’ from The Sun Also Rises is kind of perfect, but isn’t it, perhaps, trite? I don’t know,” I sighed.
And then it hit me.
My beloved Poppop, about whom I’ve written so many stories, has had the same nickname for me my entire life: Pretty. And it isn’t just a nickname he uses sometimes or in passing. It is the only thing he calls me. When I go to visit him at his law firm, as an adult, he walks around, introducing me as “Pretty” (not as Rebecca). And so it made perfect sense to me. It was inspired by my favorite piece of literature and my favorite Poppop and Pretty it would be.
Except, we were in Montreal and in Montreal they speak French.
And so, when we arrived at the restaurant, I asked the hostess if she had a pen that I could borrow. I took one of my business cards out of my purse and I started to practice writing out the word in cursive until I had it just right.
jolie. Pretty, in French.
Getting my jolie tattoo was my favorite of all of the tattoo experiences. We found the perfect shop
and it was beautiful and I can still remember how it smelled, which was intoxicatingly good. I had to wait for Simon, my artist, to finish a piece before he was ready for me, and so I watched as a young couple got matching “forever” tattoos on the inside of their wrists. Simon’s writing was so delicate. This was it.
He helped me to pick the spot for “jolie”, which is on the same side as “Fox”, still on my side but higher and more towards my back. It is visible if I wear a racerback tank and I like that.
The actual act of getting the tattoo was pleasurable; it was if the stars aligned as he drew a more beautiful version of my own handwriting onto my skin. It was intimate and profound.
After it was over and we left the shop (sadly, as I could have lived in there) we went to a cool store that was a hybrid of a book/toy/home decor shop, where we found gifts for the kids. I was walking on air.
Here I was, the next day, so happy. The bicep tattoos were temporary, and from a very cool art installation in old Montreal. But, if you look closely, you can see my precious “jolie” peeking out from the side of my tank.
That is the (current) end of my tattoo story for now. There is one more thing that I want to get, and it came about so organically and it is perfect, but I am waiting until the time is right.
So, for now it is me and my three.
And a bunch of knowledge that I have picked up along the way.
Five things that I now know about tattoos:
1. They are permanent. Like, really permanent. Duh, right? But, it is really important to consider that when you are making a decision that will impact the rest of your life. So, I would advise strongly that before you get inked, you think really carefully about what you want to say or express and if that is something that you could ever possibly regret. Picture yourself walking down the aisle at your wedding. Picture yourself walking down the aisle at your kid’s wedding. And as an 80 year old on the beach in a bathing suit. If you think, “Well, makeup could always cover it!” then I suggest you think about it some more.
Or else you could end up with the “Bacon A” like Tom Sandoval. And no one likes a fiery bacon A.
(Oh, and it goes without saying, do your homework. Make sure that if you do get a tattoo that you do so from a clean, reputable place that is licensed, where they don’t just give you a fresh, sterilized gun, but also that they don’t double dip the ink. I don’t know enough to advise you about all of the health and safety aspects of a tattoo, but I am reminding you to be wise about anything that could potentially bring you permanent ANYTHING–from embarrassment to health issues.)
2. They hurt, but, for me, 75% less than I had expected. Perhaps it is because I am a badass, but my first two tattoos were on the sides of my ribcage, which is considered a most painful spot, and I was OK. On a scale of 1 to cesarean section, a tattoo was like a 4.
3. You can get a tattoo and still be buried in a Jewish cemetery. I completely understand the negative connotation that some have with tattoos and could not be more respectful. I will not force you to get a tattoo. I will not flaunt mine in front of you. But, it is a myth that I will not be able to be buried next to my loved ones. My beloved Uncle had several tattoos and when he passed away, he was able to be buried by his mother in a Jewish cemetery.
4. Tattoos can be sexy. They can be liberating. They can provide one with a sense of control. They can give you a powerful high. They can be just for you. They can be something that your parents don’t like and you, at 28, or 29, or 30, or 40 can do anyway.
5. People will have their opinions. In my case, I have yet to be shamed for my tattoos, but, to be fair, I know my audience. Or, I did. I guess I go big, as I went from keeping my tattoos somewhat hidden to now showing them to an audience in 140 countries across the world. I guess if you’re going to do it…
I have not been totally open about them–until now–and so you should prepare yourself that some people will not like your tattoo.
But, that should be OK, because this is for you, after all. My kids know about my tattoos and my daughter likes them. Do I think that my tattoos will increase the likelihood that my daughter will get a tattoo (or more) of her own? I don’t, actually. I think that my parenting is what would determine that. I encourage her to do what feels right for her in her life, but, of course, to be smart and thoughtful and careful.
So, now my cat (or Fox, as it were) is out of the bag.
I wear my art proudly: my family’s name and the name of my beloved angels;
the sweet names that I call my children;
the nickname bestowed upon me by my grandfather.
These are things that I celebrate now and that I do not think I could ever regret.
And if I did, I guess I could always give Tom Sandoval a holler.
So, do you think differently about me?
I do. I am proud of what these words mean and so I think that I am more brave and more strong for having gotten them.
You don’t have to like them, but I hope that you accept them, as I hope that you accept me.
Maybe I am being Pollyannish, but I am feeling confident that you will.
Isn’t it pretty to think so.