Today for Food for Thought Friday, I’m going to look at body modifications
[e.g. tattoos, piercings, etc.]
I got the inspiration for this from my therapy session yesterday, when my counselor saw the tattoo on my forearm I guess for the first time and was like “whoah you didn’t strike me as the tattoo kind of person.”
And like, that’s only a little unreasonable. I mean, I suppose that tattoos invoke an image of like super badass types and I’m only badass on the inside for the most part. Like, I’m a pretty low-key individual when it comes to most stuff, and even my tattoos are low-key, like, most people don’t know what they’re all about, and that’s because I don’t share that openly with everyone.
So anyway, I’m gonna talk about body modifications and such today.
Starting with myself, I currently have 3 tattoos and 2 body piercings.
My tattoos are:
1. an open birdcage with a bird flying away from it just inside my left hipbone on my lower tummy (idk it’s a difficult place to describe, but like a somewhat typical place for a basic girl to get a tattoo, ya feel). I got that one when I was 18 and it’s just black ink on my skin.
2. a rising sun with the words “The sun will forever keep rising” on my right shoulder/upper back. My good friend/roommate during my junior year of college, Shannon drew this one for me. This one is partially in color (the sun part is shaded with orange and yellow) and I got it when I was 19.
3. a compass rose on my forearm with only the N label for north. This one is “upside down” in tattoo terms because it’s facing so that I can read the N for north instead of the rest of the world (I think this is a weird convention bc like, don’t humans mostly get tattoos for themselves? maybe not? maybe that’s just me?) And I got it when I was 21.
And I’ve got my right nostril and my upper navel pierced (bc apparently you can get the bottom part of the belly button done or like get both or get like 4-way belly button piercings, but that sounds like it would hurt idk if that’s what you want, then rock on with it). Currently, I’m wearing a yin-yang stud in my nose and my belly button has a barbell with a red gem on the bigger bottom ball and a light/bright green (it’s Peridot colored if you know what that is) on the smaller top ball (Christmas colors, of course!).
So my piercings are just like things that I did when I was 20 and 21, respectively, for fun because I’ve kind of always wanted a nose stud and a belly button ring, and they only cost $25 each because there’s this place in my college town of Frederick where they do $25 piercings (it used to be only on Mondays, but now it’s every day, and they do $25 because the guy who does the piercings has been doing it for over 25 years, not because it’s a shady place).
But I put a lot of thought into anything I’m going to have permanently etched in ink in my skin. (Yes, in. The ink goes in between certain layers of your skin and just kind of chills there)
One time I was in the dining hall and a girl I barely knew came in and was like “wanna see my new tattoo!” and then presented her foot with a brand-new tattoo of a silhouette of a cat. We asked about it and she was just like “I went in for a nose piercing and the guy was like, ‘no, no, you should get a tattoo’ so I just got this. I like cats!” And I was like “whoah, that’s really cool” because like I couldn’t get a tattoo on a whim because I would freak way out. But she could and it’s really admirable to have that abandon in life (to a certain extent, and this situation falls within reasonable bounds of just randomly getting a tattoo–it was a cute little cat and like the odds of realizing 30 years down the line that you don’t want it anymore are pretty minimal).
But I digress.
Each of the 3 tattoos I have represents something of meaning to me and has a special meaning to me; and each of the dozen or so tattoos I’m planning on getting throughout my life also has special meaning to me and I will continue to consider each of them until I’m like 100000% sure about getting each one of them at the same time as I have enough money to do so (a lot of them are only on hold because I’m saving up for them)
The first one, with the bird, represents a difficult time I went through in high school and takes inspiration from a song by Jack’s Mannequin (those who know me know I’m moderately obsessed with Andrew McMahon and everything he creates musically) called “Broken Bird,” which was a bonus track on their last studio album, titled People and Things. This song really spoke to me when I first heard it and got me through some tough times at the end of my high school career and brought me into a happier place early my college career. I got the tattoo during winter break of my first year as a Christmas present from my mom. Specifically, this one is an homage to the line “broken bird, now you’re free” in the song and I’m going to end it there because the world doesn’t need to know all of the background for it.
The second one, with the rising sun, apart from being drawn by a good friend for me, is a message of hope. It is also a reference to a Jack’s Mannequin song, “Keep Rising,” also off of People and Things, and actually directly quotes the song. I got this during winter break of my sophomore year in college to represent a positive attitude that I was working on developing and to remind myself that the sun will, indeed, keep rising for (my) ever.
The third one, the compass rose, is not a reference to a Jack’s Mannequin song. Crazy, I know, right? Compasses and navigation are just something that I’ve always had an affinity for. Like, I own a somewhat large brass compass and have a decent few pieces of jewelry that feature a compass rose. I learned orienteering as a kid in Girl Scouts and the entire concept of being able to find your way with a simple magnetic needle and a piece of paper [note: the piece of paper must be a map] was super appealing to me. I mean, when I first learned orienteering, I was just in an open field at camp, but it’s still really cool and too many people don’t know how to find their way with a map and compass. I also took orienteering my first year in college and actually did use a compass and map to find places in the woods which was super exciting. This one also has another layer of meaning aside from just that I know how to use a compass to figure out where tf I am. The fact that it’s pointing North for me, instead of for everyone else, means, to me, that no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, I need to be making the choices that are right for me, not for others. Which is also a large part of why it peeves me so much that it’s considered upside-down. Like, how dare you suggest that getting something permanently etched on my skin as a reminder to myself is somehow wrong, or that I should only get things tattooed on my body for others is backwards [or, more literally, upside down]? I’ve worked too hard to refocus my life to be about me instead of others to let you tear that down, so fuck off. I get asked about this one a lot because it’s obviously visible to people on a regular basis, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood to talk about it [read: when I’m working at Target], so I’ll say “it’s pretty and I like it” or ask why people are so curious about what I’m doing with my own body, which I’ve heard is frowned upon. But anyway, the real reason is the doing stuff for me part, not just because it’s pretty (although that is a nice feature of the work that my artist did). And I got this one on Halloween during my senior year of college; I went with my two roommates to get tattoos done together and we all sat in the booth together and took turns and it was like an adorable roommate bonding experience [and no, we did not get matching tattoos, because we all wanted different things and respected each others’ personal choices in the matter]. We then went home and threw a Halloween party at which none of us was supposed to consumer alcohol [I can’t remember if they did or not, but I didn’t because I’m a party pooper and a rule follower and also don’t like alcohol]
And there are like at least a dozen more that I want to get, mostly related to Jack’s Mannequin/Something Corporate/Andrew McMahon/[in the Wilderness] lyrics (wow, what if he read this and thought I was a total creep or something–I’m not, I just really love what he writes, his lyrics are top-notch, just listen to “Fire Escape” by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, his current band and most recent single and you’ll get it probably). But some are also not, like I’m planning on getting a dogwood flower on the back of my right elbow and a black-eyed susan on the back of my left elbow to represent the two states where my heart feels most at home (the dogwood is the state tree/flower of VA and the black-eyed susan is the state flower of MD–I don’t know what I’ll do if I find another state that feels like home, since I only have 2 elbows, but that’s a worry for another time). So, yeah.
And now on to the food for thought part:
People act like body modifications such as those described above are the mark of a hooligan or something, but they’re not. Like, some people want to wear their emotions and/or art that they really feel on a deep level, and that’s totally rad. Sure, it’s not for everyone. Some people prefer to decorate their homes or cars or a canvas, but some people want to decorate their literal body, and that’s cool. I like decorating my literal body with pretty pictures that mean something to me because I feel like it’s an effective way to show my story, which I can share as much or as little of with people when they ask about it. And piercings are like, so harmless for the most part. Sure, they kind of permanently alter your appearance (even if you take the thing out, the holes will probably never fully heal–just look at my former earlobe holes and you’ll know) but they’re cute and fun and people should do what they want to do with their proverbial $25.
And there really isn’t one type of person who gets tattoos or piercings. All kinds of people can, will, and do get them.
So yeah. You do you, boo.
The Fierce Feminist