My mother is having a very bad year. My father passed away suddenly last march and now my mom is dealing with a cross country move to come live next door to me in California. Life is tough for her right now but my mom is a tough woman and I know she will make it to the other side of this major life transition (my mom is 72 – she met my dad when she was 17) with strength and dignity. She is awesome that way. You know what is not so awesome? My mom hates my tattoos.
My mom knew about my mastectomy tattoos and I know I told her about my memorial piece for my sister but I sort of skipped mentioning that I had got not one but two sleeves since I figured she was on a “need to know” basis and you know…she didn’t need to know.
When I had to head out to Florida for my fathers funeral I knew it was bound to come up since I was staying in her house and Florida does not generally produce “long sleeve weather” soooo…I sprung it on her.
Not the best circumstances and quite frankly we all had enough to deal with so I showed her my ink, assured her I wasn’t crazy and found the lightest weight long sleeve shirt to wear for the rest of the week. Case closed. But later on when the heavy grief and shock had moved to our peripheral vision a bit those tattoos came back up.
My mom was worried about me. She was concerned that this radical alteration of my body was an indication of something seriously wrong in my life.
I tried to explain that tattoos are essentially a walk in the park after having your breasts surgically removed but I don’t think she bought it. I explained the significance of the imagery I chose (all family centered) and how I felt like I had reclaimed my body with this ink and felt really good about it – no dice. I mentioned this blog and how it was going pretty well – motherly pride at my accomplishment but still uncomfortable. We finally left it at her saying “you’re not getting any more right?” and me saying “yes, I am – lots more but don’t worry about it.” Uneasy truce achieved.
That was months ago and since then I have managed to be around my mom with my colorful guns out without feeling bad. She never says a peep. But I feel a little weird knowing she doesn’t like them. Not because I have disappointed her – I’m too old to need her approval (although it’s always appreciated) and she is not that kind of mom anyways (she is great at unconditional love and general cheerleading), but still.
I wonder how I would feel if my lovely daughter covered her lovely arms with tattoos. Not now of course – she is only 15 and my husband would end anyone who laid a hand on her – tattoo machine or no – but later when she is grown. I might be a little sad I think. Hypocritical? Of course. It’s not that I think she should never get tattoos but I hope that if she does she waits until she is older so she really knows what she wants and can afford the best artist. But that’s not how getting tattooed usually works – is it?
Raise your hand if you carefully and methodically planned every tattoo you have – being certain that the design, artist and placement were all absolutely perfect before you committed yourself to it? That’s what I thought – no hands. Half the fun of getting tattoos is the head-long rush you get from throwing yourself into something so lasting without over thinking it to death. Contradiction? Absolutely. Is it 100% wise to make a lifetime commitment to something that you maybe thought about for less than a day? Generally no (hello drive-through wedding chapels in Vegas – I’m looking at you)
Being tattooed – especially heavily – comes with its own sense of ownership. Because you have to own that shit. Truly. And once you own that part of yourself then hopefully…luckily…it can spread to other areas of your life and self. Do tattoos make you cool and confident? Not necessarily. But owning your choices and wearing them for all the world to see can be exhilarating.
So in a couple of months my mom will be my neighbor. We will share a driveway and a mailbox and see each other more than we have since I was 18 and moved to Boston to go to college. It will be a big change for everyone and I am looking forward to it (98% of the time).
Am I going to cover up in front of my mom? Nope. The cats out of the bag and we both decided that we loved each other enough to weather this disagreement without letting it affect our relationship. I know one day my own children will challenge me in a similar manner and my mother will have the immense satisfaction of reminding me how she felt about my tattoos and how she had to eat those feelings because that is what a good mom does. I imagine we will both have a good laugh (at my expense) over it and I will deserve nothing less.
Being a mom is not for wimps. My own mom could give Rocky a run for his money in the ring right now. She is taking a beating like a fucking heavyweight world champion and she still gets up and keeps swinging. My dad would be so proud of her. I know I am. My dad would also hate my tattoos. Luckily I won’t have to tell him about the leg sleeve I am planning on starting this year. When do you think I should tell my mom?
What does YOUR mom think about your tattoos? Please share – I would love to know!