“Why?” – That’s the most common question I get by those who aren’t afraid to ask. Not surprisingly, it’s also the question that most of my son’s friends ask me when they first meet me: “Why do you have all of those tattoos?”
… It means showing my son that there is nothing wrong with being an individual, with making daring decisions in life, with attacking life with vigor and pursuing happiness with a sense of unbridled veracity.
I’m a pretty normal mom as moms go. I get my fourth grader up every morning for school, help him with homework in the evenings, take him to baseball practices and games, and relish the time we have together where he still wants me around. He’s 9, and I know that pretty soon he might be too cool to want his mom coming to eat lunch with him and his classmates every Wednesday (a ritual that he strongly upholds, making sure to remind me every week). I don’t feel differently than any other mom, but I know that at least initially, I’m often perceived differently because I have lots of visible tattoos.
Thanks to the onslaught of reality shows about tattooing, tattooed people today are far less prone to be viewed with the same sense of taboo as before. Certainly younger people on the whole, shrug their shoulders at the sight of a tattooed person, and things are certainly changing (in my opinion) for the better.
Still, negative perceptions exist, and I’ve heard them all: Once at a political conference, a lady informed me that she would be ashamed if I were her daughter because of my appearance. Similarly, a man once told me after a discussion about current events and financial policy that he was shocked I was able to carry on a conversation of that ilk. Ironically, he himself had tattoos. And then there are the things that go unsaid – the furrowing of brows, grimaces, and prolonged looks do not go unnoticed.
A couple of years ago, I brought my son to a college football game. As we were finding our seats, I noticed an older couple, maybe in their sixties, glaring at us. The feeling resounded that my mere presence, along with the fact that I had produced offspring, was offensive. Their eyes darted from me to Liam, both perturbed, and concerned for my son. How in the world could someone like me be a good mom?
I started getting heavily tattooed after I became a tattoo artist in 2008. My son was three at the time. The decision to permanently change the way others perceived me was one I didn’t take lightly. I knew it was a decision that would change my life, and possibly my son’s. Would others’ perceptions of me change the way he was treated?I started to take precautions: I began to cover up my tattoos when meeting doctors and teachers for the first time. (I was asked by a doctor one time how I had tattoos while also being smart. Apparently the two were mutually exclusive in his mind). I made sure I smiled a lot and initiated conversation with other parents, lest my appearance scared them off. I learned that while my appearance may initially evoke assumptions by some, I could work to counteract it, and for the most part, I was, and still am, successful.
With all of these additional things I have to consider, I guess the question remains: Why did I get all of these tattoos? Undoubtedly, my life as a parent would be easier if my skin was tattoo-free. Why go through the trouble of having to work harder than others to make sure my child and myself are viewed with the same respect as others? Is it not irresponsible? The conclusion I’ve come to may be surprising for some: I would not be as good of a parent without the decisions I’ve made to follow my quest for individuality.I believe part of being a parent means setting an example for your children. For me, it means showing my son that there is nothing wrong with being an individual, with making daring decisions in life, with attacking life with vigor and pursuing happiness with a sense of unbridled veracity. I got tattooed most simply because I like how they look, but more deeply because they gave me a stronger sense of self, a roadmap of my adventures, and a fearlessness that I have used to pursue my interests.
Tattoos may not be the way my son finds these things, but if by observing my example, he will never wonder whether it’s OK to be his own person, or questions any desire to boldly find his own way in this world, whatever that may be, I feel that I will have done my job as his mother. And that is worth all of the looks and stares in the world.
Leah Farrow is a tattoo artist at Arcadia Tattoo in Huntsville at Campus 805. In her spare time she paints, spends time with her family, travels, and reads. She loves Red Sox baseball, Auburn football, spending time with her preteen and 1 year-old, and thinks you can never underestimate the power of a good bowl of mac and cheese.
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