why I'm (still) getting tattooed
A year ago I published an open letter about why I first got tattooed. But I expected too much from it, more than any letter could deliver, and was disappointed.
A year ago I was learning to see myself in a body I'd changed drastically in five months — shaving my head, getting tattoos. But I learned the hard way that I'd changed this body in hopes of escaping what it was.
I thought the changes were healing my relationship with a body that had never felt like home. And they were. But underneath, I hadn't let go of the hope they were somehow unlocking a status of “beautiful” that felt, for most of my life, unattainable yet necessary. Ultimately, “beautiful” was too narrow a construct. Again and again, "beautiful" had proven itself too white-washed and rigid for my body. I had to learn to live beyond it (a lesson I suspect most women learn long past their twenties).
A year and several tattoos later, my upper back is a whirlwind of colors. The recklessness, the whimsicality of it all is evident, breathing in art that'll stay with me and fade over time as my skin ages.
Getting tattooed has come to mean clothing myself in art — parts of me I never learned to accept. Perhaps I’d save a lot of money and regret if I'd channeled all that expectation of healing into therapy. But healing happens in a lot of ways, and isn’t the only thing we’re striving for. We also strive to be more realized, more expressed.
That my tattoos betray a struggle with body dysmorphia is self-evident. Yet it doesn’t bother me to share this struggle, to wear its evidence on my skin for the rest of my life. Somehow it’s comforting. Like a poem, the residue of my experience. It’s a sign that I’ve been moving through a disorienting, restless season (a.k.a. my twenties) as best as I can. It’s a sign that I've been alive. A year ago, I didn’t want that.