My parents forbid me to get tattoos.

Note to other parents, never forbid your children from doing things, reverse psychology seems more effective!

My dad especially hated them as they weren’t feminine. My mom wasn’t a fan of them but was more of a pushover. When I was 18, I went to a friend’s appointment with them just planning to be a hand holder. The artist offered to draw something up for me. He offered me a discount and a drink and less than an hour later I had a rose permanently inked on my wrist. My parents didn’t care that much because I was legally allowed to do whatever with my body. I loved it and was hooked.

I knew that it was just the beginning of my tattoo journey. I love the self-expression that tattoos bring and it is almost like holding a piece of time on your skin forever. All of my tattoos have a story, some better than others. After my rose for my 19th birthday I got a butterfly on my lower back. I didn’t give the design much thought, made the appointment that day and picked the art of the wall. At that age I just wanted to show how sexy I was.

At 21, I got a super popular and cliche rosary on my ankle. It is my least favourite. I had made an appointment at the same place that I got my rose but when I had shown up with my boyfriend the artist suddenly had a conflict and canceled on me. I ended up at a different studio with an inexperienced artist and my tattoo was awful. The lines were crooked and the fading was awful. I was pretty upset and it hurt so much.

With my next one, I asked around to get referrals and did a bit more research. At 22, I got my daughter’s hand-print on me. It was my first sentimental tattoo and my favourite. My next at 23, was a now-super cheesy quote that in my mind, was meant to be a fuck you to my ex and to symbolize the person I had grown into being. Ultimately it became a popular Kelly Clarkson lyric and lost a bit of its charm.

My next tattoo was at 24. My mom died very unexpectedly and gutted me to my core. It was such a large dose of reality that life is really short, so while the irony isn’t lost on me that I got a tattoo in memory of someone who disliked tattoos, I did get another cheesy quote about life being short.

Ten years later, my tattoos have blended into being such a part of me I almost forget that I have them. I still don’t like the rosary and it isn’t just the bad art, it was the bad boyfriend that I was with and the emotion that came with having the artist cancel, and the energy that sticks with the memory that I dislike more.

It would be another decade before I added more ink. For my 36th birthday, my best friend and I decided to get matching tattoos to mark our love for each other. We are complete opposites so we scoured Pinterest trying to find ideas that we both liked, then sent the inspiration pictures to my friend’s favourite artist. It was my first time being tattooed by a woman. I got bit by the tattoo bug a bit and a few weeks later I went back to her to get my largest piece yet. I love elephants so I got one with a mandala and some crystals. It holds a secret symbolism that is special between my daughter and I. Elephants to me have always meant good luck and strength. The mandala represents that everything is connected and the circle of life is never-ending.

Next up on the list? Covering up that rosary. 

If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, understand that art looks and moves differently on skin. Your artist may be used to tattooing certain body types so placement may look awkward after. A flower connected to my elephant sits in my inner thigh. When sitting it looks like stretched out weird lines and only looks like a flower when standing. Research your artist and read reviews. You want someone who has tattooed multiple people and has a reputation of being hygienic. Ask the studio what their policy is for showing the design before the appointment. The last artist refuses which I understand can be an issue if someone steals their art but I personally think you should get a peek at the design permanently being added to your body prior to having moments to decide if you want to keep the appointment or pay another deposit to have another drawing made. I also recommend asking if they use numbing cream or not. If you have a low pain tolerance I highly recommend a tattoo shop that offers some pain relief.