Designing for Myself: Tattoos

Twelve years ago this month, I got my first one. That’s right, I was 14.

Anyone who knew me at that age can attest that I was at the prime of my awkward-teenage-years, had a mouth filled with braces, acne all over my face, was (and still am) a goody-goody who was worried about getting straight A’s, told on myself when I forgot to do my homework, and never wanted to be a disappointment to anyone. Now overlay this with the image of this same girl walking into a tattoo parlor (with her parents), using her Six Flags Season Pass as “identification” and sitting in a chair to get a butterfly, which friends still to this day say is a moth, on her shoulder. Hilarious, right? Now, add to that the fact that said girl was not allowed, the following day, to get her hair done for the 8th grade dance, and you have an even funnier contradiction.

My friends and I used to laugh about that a lot, that while I wasn’t allowed to look “like a little girl playing dress up,” but was allowed to look like a “little girl playing biker chick.” (Mom, Dad, I STILL don’t understand that one!) But, really, as you can barely see in the picture below, I’m not exactly Miss Tough.

Walking down Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia, PA

I so rarely see my tattoo, that I tend to forget it’s even there and couldn’t tell you the last time I “saw” it, as I generally don’t give myself more than a cursory glance in the mirror.

It’s a tattoo that means nothing, other than the crazy story behind it. And that’s enough for me. But, in the past 6 months, I’ve gotten two more that hold a world of meaning, both of which I’ve designed myself, in some way. Much harder than creating an invitation, there is no discontinuing and phasing these designs out if I grow out of them and decide I no longer like them, so I would never consider myself a professional at this type of design, but I’d love to share and explain the meaning behind them to you:

The first is on my wrist, and in complete contradiction to the one I rarely see, is one I look at, touch, and reflect on daily. Using pieces of my Grandmother’s handwriting and the infinity symbol, it’s for all the people in my life that I will love for always and forever, through time, space, and everything in between.

Infinite Love Tattoo

The second, newer one, is a small elephant on my ankle, from my Grandfather’s, I love you “as much as an elephant pulling his leg out of the mud” quote. With two drops of water coming from his trunk, for the two people in my life I’ve been devastated to lose, Benny, as I’ve dubbed this little guy, is for them.

Elephant Tattoo

And while I don’t think anyone should comment on other’s tattoos, as they are personal decisions and not for anyone’s judgment, I’d love to know your thoughts, stories, and more. For me, they’re the hardest things to design, but have the most meaning and pride behind them.

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