I Have a Tramp Stamp and I’m Damn Proud of It

Covering up a tattoo is like trying to cover up anything from the past.
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Gina Tron
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Covering up a tattoo is like trying to cover up anything from the past.
My lovely tramp stamp. 

My lovely tramp stamp. 

Well, I’m proud of it now at least. I wasn’t for a while. I almost paid hundreds of dollars to not be cursed with the dreaded tramp stamp title anymore.

When I was 19 I got a tattoo on my lower back, which was something I thought over for a decent amount of time. I sketched up what I had envisioned, a rainbow that is shades of blacks and grays on the left and colorful on the right with a lightning bolt in the middle. I hung it above my bed for around seven months to make sure I didn’t get sick of it before getting inked. I didn’t.

For me the tattoo represented the duality of human nature and life itself: how light coexists with dark. It also symbolized balance, which is my zodiac symbol. I’m a Libra. I know, I know, “basic bitch” shit. 

Not only was this before the term "basic bitch," it was before the term “tramp stamp.” It was my second year of college and I had calmed down considerably from the first. I partied hard my freshman year, and even ended up in the ER more than once from drugs. At the time, my choice to get a tramp stamp tattoo was one of the least impulsive decisions I made in a while.

By early 2002, I had stopped doing drugs and the drawing of my future tramp stamp had been above my bed for a few months. I began dating a guy who had a friend who was a tattoo artist and we would drink and smoke our gross cigarettes in the tattoo shop he worked at. 

My boyfriend’s friend said he could tattoo me at a discount so I took him up on his offer. It took less than an hour. It’s a simple tattoo with no elaborate shading, but that’s what I wanted. It’s kind of cheap-looking, which makes sense seeing as I paid practically nothing for it and the fact that it is a goddamn tramp stamp.

Back then it wasn’t as socially acceptable to have visible tattoos as it is now. “You’re not gonna get a job if you do,” rang in my ears from the older generation. Despite this, I loved my tattoo so much that I wished it were in a more visible spot. I would stand in front of studio apartment’s full-length mirror, with my back facing it, twist my neck back and admire the little rainbow.

My non-tramp tattoo.

My non-tramp tattoo.

Years later the designation "tramp stamp" was introduced to the world for girls with lower back tattoos. At first I would tell myself that my tattoo was different, that it wasn’t a tramp stamp because it wasn’t a tribal symbol or a dolphin or a Chinese symbol, but who was I trying to kid? If I was wearing a low cut pair of pants and bent over for whatever reason, my tattoo would be visible and a “Hey, I didn’t know you had a tramp stamp!” would inevitably follow. I would usually blush and deny that it was a true tramp stamp.

I was so embarrassed in fact that I almost got an entire full back tattoo just to cover it. In 2005, I went to a tattoo shop and discussed prices and made an appointment to get a full back of peacock feathers. The tattoo artist gave me an estimate of around $650 for the large piece of work. I thought about it for a while and decided not to do it, mainly because I didn’t have the money for it. I’m glad I didn’t go through with it, though, because I honestly would have regretted a full back of peacock feathers. My problem at this time was that I still cared too much about what other people thought.

Covering up a tattoo is like trying to cover up the past. When I look at my tramp stamp in the mirror now, I laugh and think “That happened.” It’s starting to fade in parts, just like the memories from the time I got it, which I’ve grown nostalgic for. 

It represents a part of my past when I was scrambling to find and express myself. I approach it the same way I now approach all my past mistakes and experiences: I don’t try to hide it, deny it, or feel shame about it. Cue the Chinese symbol tattoo that says "No Regrets."