I have a large tattoo of my ex-husband's art on my back, and I don’t regret it.
In fact I still love it.
I met my ex at just 18 in my first few weeks of my freshman year of college, and I knew he was the one, and he was, for a while. He was everything I thought I wanted. A few years older, a musician like me, his family seemed not at all crazy and dysfunctional like mine, and to top it all off he was an artist, something I had always wanted to be.
After just a few weeks of dating I announced to him that I was going to marry him. Amazingly this didn’t scare him at all. He was thrilled. He even chose me over children. He had always wanted to be a Dad and I had decided many years ago that I didn’t want children. (This declaration no longer stands.) Six months later, we got engaged.
Since I didn’t have the natural talent or drive be an artist, I decided to be a canvas! I grew up around tattoos, my dad has full sleeves, and have always loved them. But I have rules; I never get anything that doesn’t mean something to me. There’s nothing wrong with getting a tattoo just because you think it’s beautiful, but for me personally I wanted it to mean something.
I would also not get anything that I could not cover with regular clothes. While my dream was to be a performer or writer, I knew that realistically there would be jobs that would frown on visible tattoos. (I currently work in hospitality as my day job, so for me this was a good choice.
My final rule was to NEVER, EVER, get anyone’s name tattooed on me. Ever. No one wants an ex’s name on them forever and I have seen a ton of bad cover-ups. I’m also a little superstitious and think that if you get a tattoo of someone’s name your relationship will not turn out well. Somehow this didn’t translate to not using original art from someone I loved.
I got my first tattoo with my ex. We both got little Japanese symbols, mine means “music” and his means “to sing” We were in school for music performance, and music still means a lot to both of us. My second tattoo is just a pretty flower, but again, has meaning. There is a petal for each member of my immediate family and a leaf for each grandparent. I actually made them remove some leaves and add a petal so that it would be the right number.
Tragedy struck my family in 2005. We lost my Step Mom and my Grandmother on the same day, from different causes, and they were even states away from one another. I knew instantly that I wanted to have something done for them. Something to honor two wonderful women who helped me to become who I am.
I had asked my ex to draw me a tattoo before, but now I had a reason. I even had an idea of what I wanted. My Step Mom had always wanted a fairy. She wanted one “riding the moon” but as a memorial. I wanted something less sexual. I had lost a friend in high school as well, and her favorite thing was blue dragonflies, I wanted to incorporate that as well. I begged and pleaded for months, of course I wanted him to draw it, it would mean so much more to me of he did, it went on and on. Eventually he caved and I got my drawing.
We saved up and brought the drawing to a local tattoo parlor and had the outline done. I was thrilled, even though it actually didn’t come out great. Apparently fairies weren’t his thing, and instead of telling me that and making an appointment with someone else, he just did it anyway. Regardless, I loved my new ink, and I loved that my love had done for me what he had never done for anyone else, and to my knowledge he hasn’t done it for anyone since.
I had just the outline for years. Friends and family would color it in at parties, to see what color combos we liked. It was like a game, and a way to keep my loved ones with me during those times.
Things started to go bad between us as the years went on. We are both good people, but we made a lifelong commitment based on youth and naivety and didn’t foresee how different we really were and how much more different we would grow to be when we were truly adults.
Once we made the decision to split up, it became super important to me to get the piece finished before moving out of our apartment. I was moving halfway across the country and it was doubtful that we would ever actually see each other again. I wanted him to be a part of its completion. It is, after all, his artwork; I’m just the canvas.
We went to a new shop and he touched up and corrected mistakes, we also had decided that the original art work didn’t seem complete and added a whole piece to the top. I cried when they started on that second half, less from the physical pain and more from the stress and fear of what I was going through.
People have often asked if I regret getting my ink, and I can honestly say that I don’t. I don’t regret anything from that time in my life. I grew up and became the person I was meant to be. I met some amazing people, many of whom I am still in touch with and still love very much. I got my wonderful dog Boomer, I went to Disney world for the first time ever. I visited Nashville, I went to the Jersey shore.
My tattoo is representative of so much more than just my ex-husband's art. Its change and growth and pain and the closing of a door. It’s the ending of a decade long chapter of my life. I wouldn’t trade that time on my life or my permanent marker of its end and significant events during it for anything.