I'm Not Like Them (Female Body Image), New New Americans, Tattoo Stories

October 11, 2013

I think I’ve always had an obsession with badassery.

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I think I’ve always had an obsession with badassery. I’d say the first sign of this was at four-years-old, when I asked my mom to throw me a Harley Davidson themed birthday party. Adorned with temporary tattoos, and sitting on the back of my grandfather’s Softail Heritage, I felt like the coolest kid in the park.

So, when I first saw Wil’s flyer that called all tattooed, bi-racial, and body-positive females, I knew that we had been brought together for a match made in internet heaven. I am 23-years-old, with a mother who is a red-headed, green-eyed beauty, and a father who has dark hair, dark eyes, and brown skin. I’m often asked, “What are you?” If they must have the answer, I tell them that I am a combination of my parents, who are a combination of a lot of things. I am mixed. I am curvaceous. I am tattooed. I am beautiful. But these are all things that they can see. I wish more people would ask who I am, rather than what I am.

Growing up, my mom nurtured my need to be different (even in middle school when I pierced my own lip with a safety pin while she was on vacation). She fought me on most things, but she took me to get multiple piercings regardless, because she knew that it was just part of my journey. And inevitably, when I walked out of the piercing studio, she would always take a good look at me and say, “Well, it’s you. It’s cute.” And nowadays, she says she doesn’t even see my piercings, they’ve just become a part of me.

My brother, a passionate and talented artist, began teaching himself how to tattoo in 2006, and I was his guinea pig at the age of sixteen. My first tattoo was the tiny little heart on my left wrist. Two weeks later, we mapped out a watercolor-esque picture of two bluebirds. When I showed my mom the photo, she approved of the 3×5 image, so the next morning when I showed her my new (huge) thigh piece, she was a little furious, but I explained that it was surely a bonding experience for my brother and me.

The truth was, I was immediately hooked. The minute I turned eighteen, I was in the shop as often as money would allow. When I made the decision to get my chest tattooed (after six long years of thought about it), my mom still tried to stop me, but I knew that it was a step I was ready to take, because getting tattoos makes me feel badass, and having tattoos makes me feel beautiful. To me, it’s another physical embellishment, except it’s better than the typical embellishment, because it’s personal, and permanent.

The more tattoos I’ve gotten over the years, the more accepting my friends and family have been, but it hasn’t always been a breeze. Sometimes the tattoos attract negative attention, which is just a price that I pay. The thing that bothers me the most is when people assume that it’s okay to touch my tattoos. As a walking coloring book, I’m okay with showing off my art, but just like anyone else, I’d like to have my personal space respected. I think people sometimes forget that there is skin underneath those images, and lifting up my shirt sleeves or pulling my shirt away from my chest to get a better look, makes me really uncomfortable.

Another form of negative attention is when people assume I don’t have feelings about my tattoos, but they forget that tattoos have become part of my reflection.

At work, which is in a conservative area, I’ve come across a handful of older ladies who make comments to me like: ”You’d be so much prettier without all of those tattoos,” or “Guys are probably intimidated by your style, aren’t they?” What they don’t realize is that I do feel “pretty” with tattoos. Tattoos are a part of me that I don’t regret, and I don’t think these ladies would go up to a girl with a birthmark and say, “You’d be so much prettier if you covered that up,” (at least I hope they wouldn’t!). Once, a man told me that if he were me, he’d get his money back. And even young, attractive men sometimes say things they don’t realize are offensive; like, “I could never take you home to mom.”

As a tattooed female, I knew that as my image changed, the way the world perceived me would also change. However, since day one of getting piercings and tattoos, I made it my personal goal to prove negative assumptions wrong, and make people see who I am, underneath the ink. The truth is, people with tattoos are all different. I’ve met so many talented, ambitious, caring, and down-to-earth people in the tattoo world.

The reason why I took the opportunity to share my story, is so that more people can discover the value that is self-expression, which leads to self-confidence, which leads to self-respect. I love my tattoos, but they aren’t what make me badass. I love who I am, and the confidence in me radiates from every pore. My image, while it is an expression of me, will always be exceeded by my personality, and that’s what makes me badass.

Sara

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