My nostrils flared at the smell of antiseptic and latex. I swiped to unlock and re lock my phone, over and over again to stare at the picture on my screen. I looked at the girl behind the computer’s hands. I’d never seen black latex gloves before and they were making me awkwardly nervous. Then again, I’d never been in a tattoo shop before, either, and that was definitely making me nervous.
Even though I was an adult, I felt like I was doing something horribly wrong by sitting in the cracked leather chair, watching as a woman I had met only moments before printed out an image that would remain on my body forever. It felt rebellious. It felt risky. It felt crazy. It felt like something my mom was supposed to ground me for.
What was I doing? I hadn’t woken up on that Tuesday morning and decided that I would get a tattoo. I had thought about it. I had searched and searched for the right one. But for someone who has been described as “the party platter appetizer of indecision”, I knew it would be a long time before I’d pick the perfect one.
Yet here I was, sweating, shaking and about to be pierced with a needle by a stranger. As the tattoo artist held up the blue inked stencil she’d whipped up, my eyes widened. This was real.
I’d always known I wanted a rib cage tattoo. The placement of the little picture was never the issue. I pointed to my right side and she placed the stencil on my skin. I then forced the poor girl to remove it, wash my skin and put it somewhere else three times. This took longer than the actual tattooing.
Finally, I said fuck it, let’s do this. She pricked my skin with the needle, minus the ink, because I’m pretty sure she knew how terrified and uncertain I was. I passed the test because she dipped it in black ink and away she went.
I let the buzz of the needle drown out the itchy, uncomfortable twing that tattooing gives you. It’s not painful in the classical pain sense. It’s just flat out annoying. I dug my nails into the padded table and listened intently as the artist attempted conversation with me. I think she asked me about Jimmy Kimmel after I said I was a journalism major. In that moment, I had no idea who Jimmy Kimmel even was.
Keep in mind that this entire time, my bladder was exploding. I think that was more painful than the tattoo needle. I nodded and squeaked acknowledgement to her as she drew on me, as I was incapable of real words. Or obviously recalling an episode of Kimmel.
Then it was over. Ten minutes. That was all. I hopped up and looked into the mirror and there it was. A small Celtic trinity knot etched into my skin. It was so simple. Delicate, even.
The artist placed a piece of sticky plastic over the tattoo and I watched it fill with blood. This is normal, she said. I paid her too much money and sat back down on the cracked leather couch.
What the hell had I just done?
A Celtic knot symbolizes the interconnectedness of all things. The trinity part represents the three corners of life; the mind, body and spirit.
For me, it’s a symbol I’ve seen since I was a child. For me, it’s my family’s roots. For me, it’s comfortable.
But the idea of a tattoo is not.
For an indecisive free spirit, permanence is not comfortable. It’s terrifying, actually. The act of tattooing is one of the most permanent things there is.
When a husband tattoos his wife’s name on his body somewhere, it’s forever. If and when their marriage ends in divorce, that tattoo is still there. It’ll last longer than their love did.
I will change my hair color. In fact, I already have since then. My style of clothing will change. My job will change. My home will change. My skin will get wrinkly and my eyes will get baggier. But that little mark on the right side of my rib cage will remain.
It might fade a bit but it will never completely disappear. It’s more permanent than anything in my entire life as of now.
It’s my interesting fact during awkward ice breakers. It’s my unbelievable truth in two truths and a lie. It’s my little piece of actualized rebellion. It’s also ridiculously basic.
And that’s where my love affair with rebellion begins and ends.