I had never given tattoos much thought. It just wasn’t something I ever thought about. The only time I may have given them a second thought was if I saw some scary biker, gang member in a movie, or when my grandmother’s friend got her eyebrows tattooed on. However all of this changed in the fall of 1997. I was enrolled as a pre-dental student at Southwest Texas State University, and was in the middle of Greek Rush Week. Now before I go any further let me say this about myself, I am not ugly. I am not strikingly beautiful; I think I am pretty average. What I WAS unsure of was who I was inside. I come from a small Texas town, middle income rural area with mostly white faces. However I spent my summers with my grand-parents in Houston, surrounded by mostly brown faces. This was a pattern I repeated every year until I went off to college. There I immersed myself in the local culture and I tried to find out who I really was.
Greek rush week is an exciting time for anyone wanting to join a fraternity or sorority. You get dressed up, and visit the various sorority houses and meet the sisters. You choose the ONE that you feel is your best fit and hope they offer you a bid, or an invitation to attend more parties and possibly get an invitation to pledge. The Alpha Delta Pi sisters were ALL gorgeous, tan, thin, and blonde; with a few brunettes sprinkled in the bunch. I felt out of place. Being dark and swarthy, I felt like I looked like someone that cleaned their house, not a sister. Next, were the Chi Omegas. They were mostly brunettes, and cute as buttons. I noticed though, they mostly drove Mercedes, BMW’s and other assorted luxury cars and SUVs’. I felt like a poor relation. Nothing in common with these girls, I had to work part time to pay my own tuition. The Delta Zetas had a huge house and an even bigger reputation for partying. Still not the right house for me, the girls were really nice though. I was beginning to wonder if “going Greek” was going to work out.
The Delta Gamma house was up next. My very best friend from High School, Kimberly had pledged. The house was smaller than some of the others. Rumor had it , decreased numbers were due to the house having just come off of probation for a hazing incident. Looking around at a meet and greet, I was happy to see the girls were diverse, and some were TATTOOED!! Their tattoos were flirty and feminine. It opened my eyes to possibilities for me I had never dared consider. I was pleased and excited they thought I was a good fit as well, and I got an invitation to pledge. I found myself seeking out my tattooed sisters. There were so many questions I wanted to ask. These girls were confident, funny, and intelligent. I am ashamed to say, they were not at all what I expected. It was one of my first sisterhood bonding experiences, and over tattoos! After a couple of days, I found a shop and went in alone. It was a completely foreign experience, and being unsure of myself I rushed along and chose a random design. The artist gave it a look and told me he couldn’t reproduce it but he could come close. Again I was unsure, but I went ahead and signed for it. Three and a half hours later I had a fresh new tattoo of the sun kissing the moon on my lower back. It was cute and I felt sassy, but it still did not feel like “me”, and although I was beginning to get an idea of who I am my metamorphosis was still incomplete.
It was two months later that I got an apprenticeship for body piercing at Mystic Marks Tattoo Co. The shop was owned by former art teacher, Jan Van Zandt. Following her example, I blossomed. I got a couple of body piercings, my navel and nostril, and a couple more tattoos. Her son Corey was the head body piercer and taught me the skills I still use today; but it was Jan’s bedside manner I emulated. She was compassionate when needed and firm when clients were especially annoying. I was especially impressed and awed by the way she handled women who were unsure of themselves. These women would come in and say, “I want to get a tattoo, but I’m too fat and I want to wait until I lose weight.” She would smile walk over and ask, “Who said that?” Regardless of the answer she would say,” bullshit! You’re beautiful and don’t ever let anyone tell you different or make you feel less than.” I knew this was the place for me. I began piercing in October of 1997, and continue today. Even now I have clients that say, “I want to get my belly button pierced, but I’m too fat!” “Fuck that!” I say. “You are freaking beautiful and don’t ever let anyone tell you different, or make you feel less than.” Tattoos have literally helped shape the course of my life and who I am. I have gotten more tattoos and covered up old ones. I love my artwork now and proudly display it. Every part means something to me, and I feel beautiful for it.