Life lessons: what getting a tattoo taught me

I said I would get a tattoo… and I did.

Yep, I am now one of the millions of people around the world who have permanent ink on their bodies.

My tattoo, at the top of my left arm, features a stylized cat sitting on a crescent moon. It was inspired by the many versions of this that can be found on the Internet, and then drawn by @_asterrartz_. And then refined again by @electricsteeztattoos . It didn’t start out as representing anything in particular, but I’ve learned that the crescent moon is symbolic of change (the new moon) and renewal and rest (the waning moon). And I do love cats. Apparently the design as a whole is associated with witchcraft, something to which I do not object.

my tattoo

The tattoo on the day it was done.

What people think

Getting a tattoo is not unusual, of course, but it’s not something that people in my circle of friends are given to doing. Their response has been wonderful – everyone thinks the tattoo is beautiful (though some have paused just a little at the news of a tattoo before gathering themselves together and taking a good look).

For myself, I have loved the whole process. I’ve learned some things too.

  • Getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt nearly as much as you think it will. It was more of a tingling, odd feeling than it was painful. And if you get a small tattoo, it really doesn’t last long. Mine took somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes.
  • Tattoos take a lot of care and feeding. For two weeks after the deed is done, you’re not allowed to go in a swimming pool, or the sea. Or the sun. You need to rinse it gently with water, two or three times a day. And put cream on it, once rinsed. All that has meant that I have taken to thinking of the little cat on my arm as a living thing, though I can’t settle on a name quite yet
  • Tattoos peel and itch – but you are strictly enjoined not to scratch them or pick at them. I have followed this rule to the letter, but there is nevertheless a small smudging in the middle of the little cat, so I think I scratched it in my sleep. I don’t mind this minor imperfection – it reminds me that I am human, after all.
  • Tattoos are addictive. I want more. Two are planned. I had originally planned to have the words “There’s me” as part of my first tattoo, but in the endt though it would look too fussy. So that’s the next in line. And then I want something representing my love of the ocean. (And for those, I will figure out a way to protect them when I sleep).

But most surprising of all is how this little tattoo makes me feel about myself. Like many people, I’ve never had a particularly happy relationship with my body, a feeling which is only intensifying as I age. But when I see that little cat in the mirror, I don’t think how much I hate my saggy arms, or how I could stand to lose five kilograms (okay, 10). I think how pretty the tattoo looks. And how pretty my arm looks too. I smile at myself, and the little cat, and go on my way feeling a little lighter.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

Main picture: Maria Oswalt, Unsplash

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