Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Meaning Behind My Tattoo

Hello. My name is Cindy Brown and I have a tattoo. You can judge me if you want to, but I'm the President of something, so there's that.

It's true. I'm the President of the local Toastmasters club and I love it and I love my members. It's a public speaking and leadership club, in case you weren't aware. I will talk about my Toastmasters experiences another day, but today I want to talk about the Toastmasters' reaction to the concept of a woman with a tattoo.

I don't even remember how it was brought up. The topic of discussion isn't important here. All I remember is approaching the podium at the tail-end of a very short discussion based on a member's mention of a woman with a tattoo. The Toastmasters reacted to this idea with disgust.

"A woman with a tattoo? Never!"
"No, no, no. That's just not right."

Several disparaging comments followed. There was laughing from the members and a general feel of that's just gross and wrong filled the air.

I suddenly felt as though I had been hit with a baseball bat right in the heart as the words whispered out of my mouth so quietly that I'm not even sure if they heard me, "Heeey, I have a tattoo..."

I decided to save my opinion for a future speech topic, but it really gave me pause. Would they have made the comments and laughed disgustedly had they known I had a tattoo? Would they have said those things and reacted the way they did? My guess is that they would not have, but alas, they were either unaware of my tattoo or had forgotten and I found myself suddenly... hurt.

They obviously didn't understand tattooed people at all. I have as much value as you do, I thought. Then, how dare you?

Anyone who knows me is privy to the knowledge that I used to "hang with the rough crowd," as someone once put it. A tattoo was never something I judged a person by, however. It was always their character that caught my attention, not the tattoos they did or did not display. I've had artsy friends with artsy tattoos, Christian friends with Christian tattoos, a principal with a war tattoo, friends with funny, scary, and memorial tattoos, and on and on and on... and I couldn't care less. It is not a disgraceful thing to me by any measure.

I felt my peers' judgement was harsh and unwarranted. I also knew they would love me no less if they knew and would feel terrible for having offended me. Insert foot in mouth? Perhaps they would. Perhaps not. Perhaps it would spark a friendly debate, which would also make me happy.

I appreciate the artistic value of any tattoo. A tattoo is not something to decide on lightly. I wasn't young and impulsive when I got this tattoo. I've had it for a long time, but I was in my early thirties before I got my first tattoo. I only have the one, but I say 'first' because I do plan to get others in the future.

The face you see above isn't a random kitty. It is a representation of a cat I once had. Laugh if you want to, but this cat was like a child to me. It was before I had children and she was my everything. She was my baby. I loved her like no other pet. When she died, I cried for 3 solid days. I was heartbroken.

When I decided to get a tattoo, it was an easy decision for it to be dedicated to her. Although you cannot read it now, it says, "Mazie 5/01," which was when she died. I designed the paw print myself on the computer and did not even realize I had done it wrong until somebody pointed it out to me post-tatting. However, I found a way to justify the missing digit because I did have two other cats, one black named Lucy and a white cat named Jane. Due to an accident, Jane was left with half a tail and only three legs. Jane was awesome, too. I once saw her climb the tallest tree in the back yard and then cartwheel down like a rappelling mountain climber just as a horrible storm approached. I swear, I have witnesses. She rocked.

They were great cats, too, but they were no Mazie. Mazie would lay in my arms on her back like a baby. I would stay in an uncomfortable position for hours just so I wouldn't disturb her. She would sleep with me nightly and sometimes softly touch her paw to my cheek as if to say, "Oh, mama, how I love you." I adored her.

I had her cremated through a local service provider when she died. They put her ashes in a small wooden box in a cute little pink bag with a pretty silver ribbon and some colorful dried flowers for decoration inside. I kept her ashes until just a few weeks ago when I finally felt it was time to let her go. As I walked the beautiful path down to the creek, I tore a hole in the pink plastic bag and let her remains fall onto the earth and into the creek as I went. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Goodbye, sweet Mazie.

Back to the tattoo. I forget I even have it. It's on my lower back and I'm only reminded when someone references it if it pokes out above my jeans as I bend over to do something. Do I regret it? No. It was very meaningful at the time. But especially in light of the fact that the colors have faded and the lines are blurred and the pretty script text is undecipherable, I wouldn't mind if weren't there anymore either.

I actually had a tick attach to the tattoo's eye once and the resulting itchiness caused me to scratch it to the point where my poor bedraggled Mazie tat now has what I call the "stink eye." She isn't very pretty anymore.

I will not get a pet tattoo again (no memorial Great Pyrenees on my booty after Buddy dies, sorry), but would love to get a Christian based tattoo and some artistic ones as well. Whether I decide to keep them where I can conceal them or not has not been decided. Will my Toastmasters recoil in horror at my blatant display of body art? I don't really care. Not to sound like a song from 1963, but hey... it's my body and I'll do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to... you'd tattoo too if it happened to you... bomp bomp ba da bomp.

Do you have tattoos? Tell me the story behind yours. I find each one fascinating.