I’m going to put it out there. I think every tattoo is a reflection of a scar or at least a pivotal moment in someone’s life. To be sure there are the stupid tattoos that weren’t very well thought through. Or the drunken tattoos of the inebriated folk, that forever mark their hide. But I think those examples further exemplify the point. In every tattoo there’s a mark of something that has already marked the life of the person, and the tattoo is a reminder.
From experience I have two tattoos. Most people are only aware of one of them, as that can be seen even when fully clothed. But the other remains hidden. The first tattoo I committed to is on my wedding ring finger. It is of the “Icthus” symbol, more commonly referred to as “the Jesus fish”. To me that commemoration to me seems pretty self explanatory. I guess part of it was a visual reminder for myself to remain pure (with a not so pure history). Another part of it was what I thought would be a big “f*** off” sign to those who were pursuing me with wrong motives or intentions. Neither of these well intentioned reasons for my tattoo actually made too much of a difference, as life went on.
My second tattoo was due to the fact that my first tattoo missed the mark. The second tattoo was going to pick up where the first tattoo remained of little use. So I scarred my body with more ink, in a more obscure place, where only those who would know me intimately dare look. It too reflected my faith. It too had similar connections of rationale to my first tattoo, of both a cue for myself and others that I was choosing God’s way of living. Yet, in the heat of the moment, who has time to interpret a tattoo or ponder your own belief system? So this tattoo with all intents and purposes, a failure.
At one point I considered getting a third tattoo. But luckily I remembered the definition of stupidity. All this was to say that I had a lot going on for me to voluntarily bear the cost of tattoos. We are all aware of the financial cost and the possible visual costs. But there is a cost I believe that has already been bared. A tattoo was a small cost compared with the psychological cost paid before the markings.
For others we see that tattoos are about marking a time for celebration, of marking what’s important and recognising themselves as individual to others or reinforcing our membership to our tribe. But it’s my suspicion that there was a cost to these tattoos before the branding was applied. I recognise in others that their tattoo was a reminder of what was important, because it was sometimes forgotten. I recognise in some tattoos a message to others, because others are not listening otherwise. I recognise other tattoos as a mark of change, because people grew.
I try not to judge people, although I do it all the time. I may not think a dolphin on the lower back is that appealing. But I haven’t walked in that person’s shoes. I don’t know why the dolphin is important to them. I don’t know why their perceived version of beauty in that position of their body is relevant to them. But they do. And that leaves a mark.