Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Circular column

My Mother had me when she was nineteen years old. At the time she lived in a small flat in Redditch, (South of Birmingham), and it was there that I spent the first two years of my childhood before we moved to Devon. In having me at such a young age, I think it’s safe to say that she has spent the majority of her adult life feeding me, cleaning up after me, helping me with homework and most importantly, embedding into me that I should never, ever get any tattoos.
She had her first tattoo when she seventeen years old. It’s a vibrantly coloured parrot on her right shoulder blade. I remember a photo of my Mum when she was pregnant with me from the family photo album where it’s visible. Since her first, she has had another six, resulting in seven tattoos in total dotted around her body…all of which she now hates. Her least favourite is on her chest and she has tried everything under the sun to try and remove it; creams, laser surgery and skin treatments. But nothing will get rid of it.
She had it done when she was twenty-seven and she regretted it immediately. In attempt to remove it she had five sessions of laser treatment, which is when short pulses of intense light are passed through the top layers of skin, and then absorbed by the tattoo pigments. The pigments then break down into small pieces and are then naturally removed by the body’s immune system, therefore ‘removing’ the tattoo. Unfortunately the colour of my Mum’s tattoo was green and yellow, which are the hardest of colours to remove by laser. This meant that five sessions later, and £350 down, the black outline had disappeared yet the vivid greens and yellows remained. She was told that if she were to have any more laser treatment she would just be wasting her time and money. For a few years after the laser surgery she bought ‘tattoo removal’ and ‘scar fade’ creams and used them as directed religiously every day, yet still the tattoo would not fade.
As a last resort my Mum and I drove all the way from Plymouth, four hours up to Southampton to try a new kind of tattoo removal. This is where the skin is ‘grazed’ and the body natural pushes the ink out as it heals. When the scab drops off, the tattoo is supposed to drop off with it…however despite the £90 and fifteen minutes of intense pain, the tattoo is still visible and much to our despair, her skin reacted badly to the treatment and she is now scarred for life.
It is for these reasons that my Mother has told me never to get any tattoos…however although I do take her concerns into consideration and I feel as though her past experiences have influenced my thoughts towards tattoos, I’ve always known I’d wanted one and still to this day continue to crave them.
I had my first tattoo done about six months after my eighteenth birthday. Two of my friends were tattoo artists and so I went to the place they work to have it done. I decided to get the outline of a swallow behind my ear. Sailors used to get swallows tattooed on them to represent a safe return home and swallows also hold connotations of freedom. I therefore felt it relevant, as I was soon to be leaving for university. However, soon after I felt myself wanting to feel the excitement and anxiety of getting a tattoo again and wanted to hear the buzz of the tattoo gun. I therefore returned to my friends to have more done to the swallow behind my ear.
My first tattoo now shows a swallow in red; blue and yellow with my Mum’s name ‘Sandi’ written above it and an anchor on a chain hanging down. The anchor I thought would be a good representation of Plymouth, the first city I new and grew up in which is a naval city. I wanted my Mum’s name on me because firstly, she is the most important thing to me on this earth and secondly because she to has a swallow, (on her thigh), which is carrying a scroll with my name written on it.
A few months later over summer, I travelled all the way to London to have my second tattoo done by a well-known tattoo artist who had been highly recommended by a friend. It took me a while to find the studio down ‘Frith Street’, Soho, but eventually I did and it was a single door leading down into the basement of a house. Downstairs it looked clean and bright, and I was led through to the back of the building where ‘Zam’ the tattooist had his own private workspace. It was then that I had my second tattoo, ‘InVogue’ in script across my wrist. It was very painful, yet took no longer than five minutes. I was in love with it immediately, and although my Mum says I will regret it one day, I don’t think I could ever regret such a lovely piece of art!
Since then I have had another swallow on my foot which was impulsive and although I don’t regret it as such, I don’t feel proud of it like I do my wrist tattoo. It just goes to show how careful you have to be when choosing what to get, as it’s on you for the rest of your life! Since being at university I have only had one, which is on my finger and says ‘Ssh!’ Despite hating tattoos, even my Mum laughed…probably at me and not with me!
I think that tattoos are part of my identity. Tattoos give people a chance to express their thoughts, feelings or passions through art, which will be on their body forever. So, despite my Mother’s determined protests, I will continue to get tattoos as long as I have thought long and hard about the design. Tattoos are just something that I enjoy.
If Mum’s misfortune with tattoos has taught me anything it is that I shouldn’t get any on my chest or on any other places where it will be difficult to cover them. I am truly devastated that my she has been scarred for life, however as long as I am careful and learn from her mistakes, I’m certain that I will not have to go through as much pain and regret as she has had to due to tattoos.

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