I’m not interested in superficial conversations in the grocery line or at the gas pump.
It feels like you’re staring and encroaching on my space, and I recognize the judgment on your face when you ask.
Just because you can see my tattoos on a summer day, it doesn’t mean that you and I should talk about them—they are definitely not for you.
I’m incredibly private, though my markings are public. Don’t ask unless we’re friends, tight, or you are genuinely interested in a complicated story. However, none of this matters if you are totally gorgeous—then I’d be happy to talk to you.
I can only think of one time when a stranger asked me about my tattoos, and it was welcomed. I was sitting in an outdoor hot spring in northern New Mexico on a fall day. The water, coming out of a rusty pipe, was drenching my head and running down my neck. That’s when I saw him come down the stairs into the large pool.
He was striking. He had beautiful skin, which made the elaborate snake coiling on his chest all the more dramatic. I attempted to make eye contact with him, but he went to the side of the pool without noticing.
I closed my eyes and went back inside into my tired body and soul. I opened my eyes, and he was right next to me, pointing to my arm with interest. He admired me, and we started a conversation.
He was a vibrant man with a smile full of potential and prominent teeth. His eyes were warm, enveloping, brown, and perceptive. His earlobes were well-shaped, and they moved when he talked.
Right away, he told me about his quest for deep self-love. He explained that he knew what unconditional love was because he had experienced it with his children—he wanted to know that same love for himself.
We talked about our kids, our abortive marriages, and the ugliness of divorce. He even gave me some stern, almost fatherly, advice about my own impending divorce.
We were getting ready to leave the tub after having boiled ourselves in a lengthy exchange, and he asked if he could give me a hug. I leapt into his arms without thinking. I closed my eyes, adjusted my cheek onto his warm shoulder, and held onto him with my heart and my legs.
He watched me get my towel, and we said goodbye at sunset. This man totally lit me up.
I was delighted.
I had a genuine, spontaneous encounter with a man, and the opener, in this case, was ink.
Tattoos are a life story scrolled into the skin. They get a lot of attention, but that’s not the intention. They are symbols beheld by the recipient—a moving artwork for a lifetime.
We adorn our bodies with messages and memories, sometimes comical or sentimental. It’s not waiting-in-the-line-for-Starbucks conversation material. Talking about them is intimate and should be treated as such.
We are not on display.
Don’t assume anything about a tattooed woman except that she is brave in a world of dangerous opinions. We are your intriguing sisters and daughters.
Allow the mystery.