I was always told by my elders not to have a tattoo. Tattoos have long been seen as some form of defiance, working against the norms of a ‘nice’ society that are all respectable. Tattoos are seen as rebellious. That’s kind of how I saw them, and somewhat why I wanted them.
Then as I got nearer the age when I could go into a tattoo parlour and have one done legally, my mum had one. This seemed to me almost like permission. My mum has a tiny tattoo on the base of her back that she had for her 40th birthday. It’s a little dolphin with a splash of water at its tail. Nothing fancy, but something she wanted and felt that, at 40, she could allow herself to have.
I had my first when I was 18. It wasn’t the most thought through idea, and it certainly wasn’t planned well enough on the day. Where I originally wanted to have it done, in Sheffield, was fully booked for the day. But my old best mate, Kyle, and I had to have it done that day. So we jumped on the train and went to the place my mum had it done in Rotherham. Biggest mistake. I chose a good luck charm, a four-leaf clover, to have on the base of my back. It was a spur of the moment choice which I made based on wanting my University life, which had just started, to go well. Mistake one – i now hate it. My second mistake was the place I had it done. It was a pokey little place in Rotherham town centre, where the person having the tattoo had to go to a tiny room in the attic with the tattooist who then stabbed you with needles in a dirty looking room. I got an infection shortly after and my tattoo was never quite right. It’s healed now, but it’s a little raised above my skin still. It was a bad enough experience to put me off for 3 more years.
When I was 21 I broke up with my partner of almost 5 years. It was a big thing for me to do that. It showed I was strong enough to be alone and it was a mark of a new life. Tough for me, but something I had to do. So I did. When I did that I found a new lease of life and felt like a bit of a risk taker. I did a lot of things that I’d never done before. I experimented. One of the things I experimented with was tattoos. I began to get tattoos with hearts on them.
My first two hearts, a small wrist tattoo and a little heart on my tragus, signified my own heart. One was empty and decorative, the most visible. The other was hollow, a mere outline, which was closest to my brain. It just showed how I felt emotionally. They seem like pretty designs, and they are, but I did have these two for a reason. My hollow, empty heart showed how I felt in my head about being single and alone. The other, full, decorative heart is how I displayed myself to others. I was fine. But I was also not fine.
My others came from this idea. I have since had many hearts tattooed on myself. I have both wrists done, the back of my neck, my left ankle and my right foot. The more heart tattoos I get, the more full I feel. The next heart tattoo I get I want to be the biggest. I’m so happy and comfortable now; I need it to represent that.
Don’t get me wrong, not all my tattoos are symbolic or arty. I have a huge Aerosmith tattoo just below my neck heart. It’s beautiful. The wings of the logo go across the top of my back. The swirly logo writing is difficult to decipher, so it simply looks like a beautiful angel design. Of course, I merely had this tattoo because it was beautiful and I love the band. I can associate with lots of the lyrics and I think Steven Tyler is hot. I also have a Mickey Mouse head tattoo that I had done in Florida on International drive. This symbolised the 10th time I had been to my favourite place on Earth. It seemed appropriate to have this tattoo at this time. It was also one of the best holidays of my life with my best friend, Hannah Byrne. It felt right to have it done.
I am obsessed. I love tattoos and I find them to be a creative outlet, not only to show how I feel, but to express what I want people to think I feel. And of course, they’re beautiful.