On being a tattooed childAugust 11th, 2012 | Posted by in amelia
Inspired not a little by this piece about a Mother devastated by her son’s tattoo, I thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences of being the tattooed child of someone who really, really hates tattoos.
My wise cousin pointed out that this narrative seems to be more about a Mother’s grief at learning that her child is no longer a child, and Katy Rose added that over-reactions are a part of the human experience.
When I came home with my first tattoo – a very small hip tattoo – I showed my Mum pretty quick, because I did feel a little bit guilty at doing something which I knew she’d hate. It didn’t come as too much of a shock, I don’t think, because I had been talking about getting a tattoo since I was 14, and I got the tattoo at 18, after my first year of Uni. (Maybe I was 19, actually.)
She said that she was going to lie down in a darkened room, and that was that. She continued to lend me her car, and talk to me, and never once cried in my face. After my fourth tattoo, she said she’d had enough and wouldn’t continue paying my tuition fees (But did I know about this premium bond which was about to mature which was the exact same amount as my tuition?) and I shrugged, because I still wasn’t left out of pocket, and she still knew that I’d be provided for and able to continue attending Uni without having to suddenly source over £1,000 of my own.
My point is mostly that no matter how much my family hated my tattoos – or hated the fact that I was getting tattoos – they never, ever said anything even approximating this to me:
“If you’d lost your arm in a car accident, I would have understood. I would have done everything to make you feel better. But this – this is desecration.”
They might have thought it, they might have thought about disowning me, or dragging me to get them lasered off, and I wouldn’t blame them for that. But if my Mother had actually said to me that she would have rather I’d lost my arm in a car accident than get a tattoo – I would probably have disowned her first.
I don’t care who my Mother cried to when I got a tattoo, I don’t care what she said about what she’d like to do to me, or which bits of me she’d like to cut off, or if she made a plan to drug me and perform a rudimentary skin graft operation in the basement – I care that she never said any of this stuff to my face. She dealt with her issues in a way that worked for her, whatever it was, and she let me know that she was upset, and it probably was a massive fucking deal for her, and maybe our relationship did change in a ‘She’s been to Uni for a year and come back with a tattoo, things are changing around here’ but at some point she accepted that I feel like I have ownership over this body and life.
Reading this narrative, and also knowing that plenty of kids get kicked out of their homes for getting tattoos or piercings, I’m pretty grateful that my Mum did what she had to do in terms of lying down in darkened rooms and cutting me off (without really cutting me off) to get it off her chest, and then got over it and carried on figuring out our relationship without telling me that I’d ruined her life/reputation/mental health.
A couple of years ago she even dragged me out to display my tattoos to my heavily-tattooed cousins and sounded almost proud. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?