Body Talk: My Tattoo Collection


Rihanna's stars? Proof that tatts can be totally gorgeous.

Everybody knows the saying “the body is a temple,” but a few years ago, I started wondering why mine couldn’t be eye-catching like the Lotus Temple in Delhi, or bright and colorful like the Kremlin in Moscow? After all, the saying doesn’t go “Your body is a one-bedroom apartment and your landlord doesn’t let you paint or hang things on the walls.” It was that kind of thinking that led me to get my first tattoo, and then another and another and another one!

My first tattoo is a tribute to cherry blossoms--who can resist them? Not this cat, for sure!

Aside from my ink, I’m a pretty average girl—with my brown hair and pretty simple taste in clothes, it’s always been easy for me to blend in. And since I tend to be more quiet at first when someone meets me, I think a lot of people have seen me that way—as just an unassuming, maybe even bookish girl. It wasn’t until I got my first tattoo in the summer of 2005, a smattering of cherry blossoms on my upper right arm, that I felt myself lifted from the sea “average” and into my own realm of individuality.

The Cardigan: Every tattoo'd girl's best friend (at first!)

I loved the way the flowers looked, but I purposefully got my tattoo in a place that I could hide so that employers and coworkers wouldn’t have to know my secret. I covered up at first, but then after a few positive experiences with people thinking my ink was really cool, I grew more confident and started choosing blouses and tees that showed off and complimented the pink petals on my arm.

I was also afraid that my mom would disapprove, or think it was a waste of money (they’re expensive!), but she was really supportive when she realized how happy the tattoo made me. Now, if I was getting a tattoo on my face, that might be another issue, but for now? She’s cool with my self-decoration.

Of course there are some unwanted stares, and some weirdos who will come up and think they can touch your tattoos just to see if they’re real. But in general, when people see my tattoos, I think they end up respecting me more. It sounds strange, but I think being able to sit under a needle for hours at a time impresses people who have never done it. They also see me as a bit less conservative than they’d originally pegged me for. People don’t like to be wrong in their assumptions, so it’s always fun to challenge their expectations.

Just a taste of my ink!

But my love of tattoos isn’t just about me getting attention. Sure, I enjoy watching the look on a new co-worker’s face when I slip off my cardigan for the first time to reveal a collection of brightly colored tattoos—but for me, my tattoos are more meaningful. Every one I have tells a story about something important in my life. Like paintings in a museum, the tattoos on my skin are both public statements of self expression and super personal symbols that help me reflect on the things I care about. I’ve got twelve as of now, and although they’re expensive and some people find them controversial, I have no intention of quitting the ink anytime soon.

Do you have any tattoos or have you thought about getting one? Does knowing somebody has a tattoo make you think differently about them? Tell us everything in comments!

Posted in: Being Yourself, Body Image, Uncategorized, Your Life
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  • Samyscream

    i have 2 tattoos & i love them its a way i can show what i like & take it with me forever so ill never lose it. My Mom doesnt really like them but she bought me my first because she knew i would get it anyway. I plan to get more in the future when i can afford them. i love when ppl come up to me & want to see my tattoos & want to talk about them.

  • Kat

    just so you know, i love the way you put this. and the first paragraph, i just quoted and put as a status on facebook. 🙂 <3 but any way…

    i grew up with tattoos being the norm; both of my parents have 6 as of right now and have had or gotten most of them in my lifetime. then watching shows like miami ink and la ink (what about those amazing female tattoo artists, ay?!) on tv, made it my dream to tattoo. i'm currently in the process of getting a tattooing apprenticeship. 🙂

    that being said, i obviously love tattoos and look them as a person putting their life story out there for everyone to see. i think it's a very under-appreciated art form. i currently have 5 tattoos but there will be mannny more to come. i've honestly written pages upon pages of going into huge detail and personal stories explaining each one but i'll summarize them here. haha
    my first tattoo, i got when i was 16 years old. i worked for one month in the summer as a telemarketer; just long enough to pay for my first tattoo. it's for my dad. he has been playing guitar since he was 6 and i have been learning since i was around that age too. i also play drums and have been singing longer than i've been talking. my dad and i play music together allll the time; he plays guitar while i sing. when my mom was pregnant with me he used to put a guitar on her belly and play and sing. (i know, awww! ^.^) so needless to say, music is a huge part of my life. and my dad's my hero. he also builds custom guitars. he is making a business out of it as it's only a side project as of now but he builds them all by hand from scratch and sells them for pretty big bucks and some pretty legit people have played them (sammy hagar from montrose/van halen/the wabos/chicken foot, etc.), the guys from 3 doors down, the guys from alterbridge, and the guys from shinedown. so i got a tattoo of a guitar that my dad built the year i was born on my right calf w/ a banner wrapped around the neck and body that says "Daddy's Girl" in my dad's handwriting. 🙂

    my second one basically originates from the same idea of how much music means to me and how it brings me peace. it's just a treble clef w/ the base rounding out and it has a peace sign in it. i got it on the back of my neck when i was 17.

    when i turned 18 my dad, brother (who turned 16 3 days after i turned 18), and i all got the same tattoo. you know the band Disturbed? well yes we like them a lot, but have you ever heard/seen their first album "Believe?" well it's amazing. very spiritual. and talks a lot about soul searching and looking for religion and accepting/coexisting with people of different faiths, color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. so the symbol is from that album cover and it's basically a bunch of religious symbols (a cross, a 5-point star, a 6-point star, and a crescent moon) all mashed together into one symbol that stands for the idea behind it. i have it on my back between my shoulders, my brother has his on his right inner forearm right under his elbow area, and my dad has his on his right arm sort of between inner bicep and outer bicep right above the elbow area (it's nestled between the 2 other tattoos he has on that arm.)

    only about a month after that one i graduated high school and my high school art teacher who i've been close friends with since i was in his class in 7th grade, had just started tattooing and he tattooed "Nessun Dorma" on my foot; it was so cool, the 4th tattoo i got was the 4th tattoo he'd done. any way, it's a Latin phrase that means "None Shall Sleep." deeper meaning boiled way down: i am a band geek. i marched 3rd bass drum (and my band and drumline are legit; best music, best marching, best percussion, etc. at every contest and superior ratings at state contests). any way, my senior year we played a show called "Redemption" and it was basically that- music that illustrated coming from darkness or a bad spot in your life and coming out of it on the right side as a better stronger person. the last song we played (the "happy/inspirational/turn-around song) was called Nessun Dorma. there's a lot more personal story detail i could go into about that but i won't bore readers.

    and my most recent, which i just got about a week ago, is a purple and black skull cameo behind my right ear/on my neck. my fiance' and i want to get married on halloween (we're both obsessed, again, because of the deeper meanings behind halloween that different cultures and religions have that we find amazingly awesome) and that sort of became the logo for our wedding; it's on the invitations that i made myself and everything. i just think it represents "us" really well. and even if we didn't last i wouldn't regret the tattoo because it represents my views very well… i'm obsessed with halloween/all hallows eve/ el dia de los muertos, etc. so i love it.

    so yeah, that's all i've got for now. i can't wait to get more. i'd explain the next few i have planned out but this is long enough. haha

  • Beth

    I have two tattoos (so far) and I plan on getting much more! I love them and I plan on getting my next one in a month. They’re a great way of showing who you are. I have the Riddler’s question mark (yes, from Batman) on my leg representing my nerd side, my love of literature, and the fact that you never know what’s ahead of you. I have a quarter-sized 4 leaf clover on my left shoulder blade, my best friend has a matching one, it represents my friendship with her, my Irish heritage, and good luck. I love my tattoos and I cannot wait to get more!

  • Nyctimene

    I don’t think tattoos change who you are. If you’re a nice person before a tattoo, you’ll be a nice person after a tattoo and anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t worth talking to. I have several large tattoos that are visible even with high neckline shirts and no one cares. I think it may give them pause when they see them, but ultimately they realize that I’m still me and still friendly and nice and no one of the dozens of 30, 40 and 50 year old parents I talk to at my son’s school has honestly even mentioned it. Tattoos might impress the teen crowd, but once you’re an adult there’s so many bigger, more important things going on than the fact that you (or someone else) maybe has a bird or skull on their arm. 😉

  • Hattie

    I’ll never get a tattoo, partly because of my fear of needles and my dad’s possibility of flying the nest and totally going off.
    But I think they’re really pretty when the right person gets ahold of your arm,and I say that because I’ve seen some tattoo’s that have misspelled this and all that.
    I wouldn’t mind being a tattooist someday, though, and hey, might even get one (like on the shoulder,arm,wrist or hand) But for now I stick to drawing on myself in pen 😛 And sometimes people day they look like tattoos!
    And, to me, when I see people with tattoos, I see a person who has a lot to express–no matter what–and use their body as the canvas 😉

  • Kelsey

    I have a quote on my back that says “Until the very end”. The quote completely encircles what I believe in most in my life; faithfulness, dedication, determination. It’s also from a book that had a huge impact on my life, and so also means love, influence, friendship. I will never regret it, but I’ll be taking my time getting my next one! (Ouch!)

  • Neicy

    My tattoos make me who I am =) I have three right now, 2 more planned within the next year and many more after that. I have “I love you too” (with quotes) on my hip, a broken heart with a bandaid across it on my ankle and a eye on my back. I love meeting people with tattoos. Its an instant conversation starter. I’ve known many people who think badly of me because of my tattoos but at the end of the day they’re mine and I can not imagine myself sans ink =D