Bumper Stickers and Bentleys

A little quote has been floating around Facebook for a couple of days. It’s from Teresa Giudice of “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” On a topic about getting a tattoo, Teresa said, “Would you put a bumper sticker on a Bentley? I don’t think so.”

Tattoos can still be such a taboo subject. They are still often associated with rough crowds, bikers and uneducated types. Yet it’s surprising to so many people to learn that their friend/co-worker/boss/minister has one. Or two. Or more. And I can see how the quote from Mrs. Giudice fits many people in at least one of two ways:

1. Why put something so “tacky” on something so beautiful?
2. Don’t you know that thing’s never going to come off, at least not completely?
3. Are you going to still like that when you’re 80 years old and your skin is sagging? And what are you going to tell your grandkids?

Well, I have an answer for those questions, at least from my point of view.
1. It’s not tacky. It’s art and it’s an expression of who I am. It doesn’t take away from my beauty; it adds to it.
2. Yes, that’s kind of the point. If I wanted to avoid scars that will never completely fade, I would have never had my surgery . Each mark tells a story, and I chose to add this mark to make sure I never forget it.
3. When I’m 80 years old, if I’m not still into whatever I had tattooed onto my body, it’ll at least remind me of where I came from, and how I’ve changed. Regret doesn’t change the past. And as for my grandkids, I’ll share that story with them.

I have 2 tattoos. Yup. Ask me sometime if you’d like to see them; I’m not ashamed. One of them is a butterfly on my lower back (I got it there so that I could work in an office and not worry about having to cover it up if policy demanded it); it is a symbol of my belief in reincarnation (yes, I’m Christian. If you’d like to discuss that, let me know).

The other is a symbol of my faith as a whole; to be specific, of my denomination: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is on my left shoulder-blade; again, so that at work I can keep it covered. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I follow my company’s guidelines on body art.

Tattoos have long been used as symbols of status, belonging, origination and achievements. Surgical scars, scars from injuries, even freckles tell that. And yet, no one is chided or thought of less for having them, even if some of the scars came from a conscious decision (see my link to my surgery above). These symbols just happen to be permanent. They’re not something that can be taken off when it’s not convenient to be worn, like a wedding band (those suckers get slippery when you’re washing dishes). I’m not saying that everyone should get a tattoo. I’m just saying that as a proud bearer of two tattoos, I know that I will enjoy these permanent additions to my body. And I will remember the decisions to get them and the paths that led me to them every time I am asked about them.

Because in my mind… It’s not a bumper sticker on a Bentley, it’s an engraving on a wedding band.

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