In four places, my skin is inked with thin dark lines, black with a green sort of tint. I have plans for many more, much to my mother’s dismay and my father’s chagrin. Tattoos are one of the controversies on the generational divide between Millennials or Gen Zers and our parents. Threats of disease and career hindrance loom in their minds, or at least in the minds of my very white and vaguely traditional parents. Every tattoo I get is a threat to my life and successful, just as my sexuality and willingness to speak out puts my safety in jeopardy. Or at least, that’s how they see it.
I’d like to tell you that this essay was born out of profound pondering on this tension between parents and their tattooed children. The truth, however, is that the thought struck me while my aunt and I tapped through her Instagram, when my eye caught on the small tattoos adorning my right wrist.
What was the thought, you ask? The thought was that my tattoos are a part of me and they make me feel beautiful. I’m not sure that this is an epiphany by any means but it hasn’t ever been a part of any conversations about tattoos I’ve ever had.
I’m not sure why exactly this never comes up in those conversations, both the tense ones with family and the sweet ones with friends, filled with excitement. Tattoos themselves are considered beautiful, elegant, and artistic, but there’s a lack of the connection they have to my sense of my own beauty.
I like the way the ink stands sharply against my complexion and the ability they give me to carry what’s most important to me in my skin. But more than that, more than even the meaning that each one holds, my tattoos are a part of my beauty. The ink in my skin is as much a part of that as my eyes or mouth or figure. It’s easier for me to love, too. I don’t find myself searching for flaws in the lines or details, endlessly looking for something that’s wrong or that I can tear apart. Instead, even the hiccups in my ink are beautiful, the product of Yasemin making me laugh as the artist tattooed my hip or a sign of the difficulty of inking my mom’s handwriting onto my ribs.
I don’t have that relationship with the rest of my body, but the tattoos give me a pathway of sorts. They teach me how to love my own physical features, because they are part of those features. Loving my quote, compass, circle, and house helps me to love my hips, waist, nose, and cheeks.