If you have ever seen a photo of me, you have seen at least one of my tattoos. For me, tattoos are therapy. I enjoy the act of being tattooed, and I enjoy the finished product immensely. The sounds and smells have a cathartic affect on me. I live to plan pieces, and if I was asked to choose between a trip to Hawaii or tattoo time, I wouldn’t hesitate to go under the gun. Tattoos are a private decision to make your body public, and I have come to accept that some people will always consider me a freak show – regardless of how mainstream I think they’ve become. They are curiosities for strangers to marvel at, and as an extremely antisocial person, that has been hard to get used to. My tattooed self has become my alter-ego. Tattooed me is fearless, undaunted, and acts for no one. Tattooed me can be a stark contrast to mom-me, especially because mom-me tends to stay covered up so as to not stir up playground controversy.
My art gives cover to my insecurities, keeps me protected. I feel safe behind it, I enjoy knowing that people may avoid me because of the way I look. I desperately enjoy being avoided.
I am not a bad mother, and my children have never gone without so that I could pay for tattoo time. I am university educated, married, and a volunteer in my community. Tattooed me is not a deadbeat.
I am able to dress up and look classy, even though I prefer my worn jeans and Star Trek shirts. I am a better version of my original self thanks to the art that I have chosen to display permanently. I’m fucking awesome! I don’t need tattoos to prove it, but they definitely help.
Your opinion matters not, I love everything about the skin that I’m in – and no amount of shitty comments will change that.
“But Cheantelle, what do they all mean?!”
I hate that question, mostly because I hate speaking to people face to face. I’ll type it out though, and fingers crossed everyone that I ever meet for the rest of my life reads this so we don’t have to make small talk. I’ll summarise a few of them, it would take me days to write about them all!
I have four matching tattoos with my brother-in-law. One of them is the signature of the lead singer of our favourite band (Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys), and two are goofy flash pieces that we picked out together. These pieces matter to me because he is more than an in-law, he’s my brother and my best friend, and the fact that he likes me enough to get tattooed with me is the best feeling. He is the only person I have matching art with. I have three Star Trek tattoos, because I live for Star Trek. (Surprise!) I have a Doctor Who piece, the 9th Doctor, Christoper Eccleston, with the quote “Just this once, everybody lives”. I’m a huge DW fan, and 9 is my favourite Doctor, so I feel like it’s an obvious choice. My back to my bum is a giant Harry Potter piece that my oldest daughter had a hand in designing, my right thigh is a drawing that my husband did with lyrics to a song that we bonded over (Down To The Well, Pixies), and my left thigh is a giant portrait of a naked pirate wench with an octopus hat.
My left bottom shin is a disheveled bear with a banner that says “drama bear” to commemorate that time I cheated death in 2012, and above that is a beautiful blue doe with my sister’s name. She’s my patronus (Harry Potter reference), so I thought the ethereal doe would be the perfect way to celebrate our relationship. I have poppies on the back and front of my left lower leg, along with the name of my granddad, my hero uncle, and the verse “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”.
Getting bored yet? Another reason I don’t like having actual conversations about it, it takes forever. My thumbs are about to fall off. I have more tattoos than I can count, but I love all of them. Each one represents a timeframe, a mental state, my likes at the time…they represent memories, and I don’t regret a single one.
If tattoos aren’t for you, we can still be friends – I don’t judge people based on their willingness to modify their bodies. I’m not going to preach to anyone about the history behind them, or the significance that they hold for me, I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me. I’m never looking for a tattoo fight. My morals are unaffected.
The moral of the story? I love tattoos. I love how tattoos make me feel. I love the people that tattoo me. They are the most amazing, nonjudgmental people that I’ve ever known. They’ve seen me at my worst, and they still take care of me and treat me with care and respect. I love seeing them, and wish I could see more of them. Being in my preferred shop is one of the few places where I feel comfortable being myself. I hope that everyone finds something that makes them feel good about themselves. We all deserve to feel beautiful!
Tattoos make me beautiful, what does it for you?
Autograph from my hunky dream boyfriend, Alex Turner