Well, I did it. I have joined the inked masses. I am now “tatted.”
At 42, I have my first intentional scar.
It is a tattoo. And I love it.
My friend Katrina came for a visit this past weekend and we marked the occasion with matching tattoos on the inside of our right hip bones. Small, almost identical Celtic symbols reflecting our belief and commitment to constant renewal and transformation in this life. Difficult times come and go; nothing is for certain but change. Fighting it is pointless; embracing it is liberating. Tattoos, like our friendship, are permanent.
And it was another shared First for us.
Katrina and I met in elementary school and became friends when she called — with the generous lead time of approximately 30 minutes (I clearly wasn’t her first choice that day) — and invited me to a family picnic function. I said yes and scampered out the door, and the rest, as they say, is history. We quickly became the best of friends, which confounded my parents and frustrated hers (yes, the tattoo wasn’t the first time I’d flexed my muscles as The Bad Influence). We were different enough that our circles of friends rarely overlapped, but similar in all the ways that really matter.
As we grew up, we took our first drink together, snuck out for the first time together, drove a car for the first time together (nice job running over that tree and getting a flat tire, by the way), and navigated first dates and boyfriends together. We dated friends and even cousins. When she got hurt, I turned the full force of my Irish temper on the poor idiot boy who dared to damage her. When my household became nearly unbearable during my parents’ divorce, she stood silently by me and weathered more time in our home than any sane person who didn’t have to be there would have signed on for.
And then there were the bumps….
The times we’d argue and stop speaking. The times we’d venture off with new friends, only to discover that they never quite felt the same as we did together. The 13-year-gap that left a hole in both our lives and left us to muddle through our marriage issues without the support and comfort of each other. When I heard from her for the first time after all those years, it was like nothing had changed between us. Which was a good thing, because both of our worlds were falling apart.
So, once again, we weathered the storm together. By the time we reconnected, my marriage had already blown apart and I was picking up the pieces of my broken heart from my first post-marriage relationship. She was trying to figure out how to disengage from her toxic marriage to a mentally unstable, abusive man. The last two years have been rocky in a lot of ways, but it seems as if the worst is behind us (I say that tentatively and with all due respect to The Whammy). And so, it seemed appropriate to mark the occasion.
Plenty of cultures use body decoration to signify important transitions, periods of personal growth, or battles overcome. We have spent the last six months debating the artwork we would have carved into our skin. I located the tattoo artist and booked the appointment. We each climbed into his chair without any visible scars from our most recent battles and emerged marked women.
Upon her arrival home, Katrina’s 12-year-old daughter Carolyn informed her that tattoos are stupid and people only do that to rebel against their parents or their ex-husbands. Carolyn’s attitude is not unique. She is not the only person to react with disgust or distaste or annoyance at our decision. But fortunately, we didn’t do this for anyone else.
We did this for ourselves.
We did it to acknowledge all that has passed and all that lies in front of us.
We did it to remind ourselves that we made it through some of the worst stuff life can throw at us.
We did it together.