There are going to be people who see this and won’t approve, mainly family, but I like to think that they’ll be open minded enough to read on and learn about the layers and layers of meaning there is behind my first (and only) tattoo.
I don’t suppose anyone ever expected I would get one. Even Jon was surprised when I said I was thinking about it, and even more so when he learned I had an appointment. Tattoos mean different things to everyone; many, I think, all represent a point in our lives. Even if it is a drunken mark from a teenage holiday, a hidden name of an ex-lover or something, like mine, specifically symbolic.
I always knew I’d get one. I thought about it every time people I knew got one…would I have it there, do I like those colours, how long would I be into that before I changed my mind? Recently I’ve been focusing on the constants in my life. I feel like I’m being more true to myself than I ever have, and I’m falling back to the things that I feel define me in some way; writing, family, home, creativity, and I’m breaking away from expectations, trying to not do things just for approval and really reaching for the things I enjoy and I know I’m good at, like theatre. I feel like the tattoo is an accumulation of all that and it’s something I will always see and won’t forget to take with me and no one can take it from me (unless there is a rare occasion when I’m held captive with a chain around my right ankle and the only way to get free is by using a rusty saw; let’s hope that never happens).
The main idea behind the tattoo is an ambigram of the words listen and silent. That means that it reads as listen one way up and silent the other. I’d been inspired by the idea of including those words in a tattoo since I learned that they both have the same letters. You can’t ever really listen if you’re not completely silent; both internally and externally. This is particularly resonant to me as a fix-it person who sometimes needs a good slap across that face and to be told to just ‘shut up and listen’ when it comes to other people’s (especially Jon’s) problems. I had initially envisioned having listen with a reflection or shadow of silent.
It wasn’t until I saw a video of Facebook about a girl who suffered with depression (not that mine has anything to do with depression, it just introduced me to the concept of ambigrams), who had a tattoo inspired by a depression awareness advert, that I started to think about it more. The graffiti used reads ‘I’m fine’ one way but ‘save me’ the other. Very clever.
Every day that I walk to Jon’s school to meet him I must pass about 10, if not more, tattoo parlours on Hollywood Boulevard. I’d never trust any of them but a new one that’s opened caught my eye and made me think more about having one. It was about a month ago and coincided with the time when I was really starting to dig down into the ‘truth’ of who I am and what I want to do. I think this tattoo really is a beacon of my creativity. I contacted the amazingly artistic Danielle Merricks of Ink Den Studios in Blackpool UK, not far from my home town. I went to school with Danielle when I was younger and always said that if I ever got a tattoo it would be with her. So she booked me in and I paid my deposit…I hadn’t even told my husband at that point.
The thing I particularly like about Danielle’s style is her use of watercolour; it really is art. The arty, watercolouriness of the tattoo represents not only my creative nature but also my respect for artists and their abilities, and is a celebration of all innate talent – mainly because I feel I don’t have that much. While the actual ambigram was created with an online generator, she gave it a paint brush style texture to marry the sketchy feel I’d asked for with the flowers. The words, and the playfulness of the piece, also link to me as a writer.
I wanted forget-me-nots to be included for a number of reasons. 1) to symbolize my family, in particular my mum who planted forget-me-nots in my garden in the UK, and my grandpa, with whom I associate forget-me-nots since his passing 8 (or is it 9 now?) years ago. They are the link to my home, as is the fact that I had it done over there, and is forever with me.
2) The flowers are also that slap in the face I mentioned – don’t forget to shut up and listen!
The little wavy lines above the ‘n’ (or below the ‘s’ depending on which way you’re looking at it) are the Aquarius symbol and were added at the last minute. I’d visited a friend in Skipton earlier in the day and, during the long drive back to the coast, thought it would be a nice addition .
The reception over the tattoo has been mixed. All my friends liked the idea and the final piece. Some were surprised, but supportive. I talked to many who had already got tattoos about their experiences. My parents, of course, tried as hard as they could to put me off – I’d regret it, they said, I’d get AIDS, or Hepatitis. They weren’t willing to listen and, ironically, neither was I. After I got it my mum didn’t want to see it at first. My dad, being my dad, was interested and asked me how it felt to get it done. Most people told me it was like a cat scratch, which is more what it felt like after I had it; that raw opening of the skin. As it was happening, though, it felt to me like that irritating itch of a new mosquito bite and although there were parts where is was painful, it was bearable. Before I returned to LA mum took a closer look and said ‘it’s quite pretty actually’. I didn’t say anything but I was thinking, ‘how could you doubt me?’ haha.
I don’t regret getting it, and I don’t think I will. It represents a very specific and important time in my life and is reminder to me to slow down, trust, listen and express.