Book Review: The Stories Behind Tattoos

Shocking Tattoos

I was standing in the driveway, casually discussing the possibility of renting part of a house. The prospect of entering into a situation with roommates wasn’t particularly appealing, simply because I’d had my own space for many years and I prefer to live with that level of control, specifically: I make the decisions, period.

As the conversation progressed, my potential roommate/landlord brought it around to the other, long-standing roommate. The one not present. The one with…and she paused while making the pained expression people have when they fear a particularly bad response to what they are about to say…dreadlocks and tattoos.

I paused a moment, wondering when, exactly, I had physically transformed into the middle-aged, suburban, ignorant-about-everything woman people kept (incorrectly) assuming I was.

“I have tattoos,” was my only response.

She clearly did not expect that.

My Tattoos

I got my first tattoo right before the beginning of my divorce when I knew something was going to have to change or I was going to have to leave. As it turned out, lots of things needed to change and we both needed to go our separate ways (the details are another story for another day).

It’s the lion from the strength card in a tarot deck I owned at the time. I chose that image because I liked both the symbolism and the artwork. It translated into a beautiful tattoo. The symbolism behind the card and the lion (outside of the tarot deck’s interpretation), combined with the circumstances surrounding the act of being tattooed, couldn’t have been more perfect.

My second tattoo occurred during the height of the legal process of that same divorce. It’s a stylized hawk in similar colors and artistic design to the lion. It was designed by a friend with Native American lineage (and a grandmother actively involved with that community), so it includes a balance symbol from her own traditions. At the time, I suspected that particular element was included because the artist thought I needed to find balance in my life; which was true enough, so I went with the design. However, for me, the hawk has always symbolized freedom from entrapment (another long story for another time). Yet, freedom and balance can easily intersect with one another – particularly when necessary changes happen to include the end of a relationship.

The third tattoo was acquired at the very end of my divorce, during the absolute worst period of social and relationship drama. It’s a snake around my ankle. It’s the most visible tattoo I have. It’s a stylized blue tattoo, whereas the other two are red. It’s not scary and the symbolism behind it is not what you think – which is kinda the point. (And, yes, that is also a long story for another time.)

I like my tattoos. They are both symbolic and earned. I wish more people understood both of those concepts.

Chick Ink

This story is not in the book Chic Ink, but a complete version of all details (including those not provided here) could be pulled from this book.

Chic Ink is a collection of experiences, explanations, deep thoughts and memories. Reading it is like sitting down for coffee with a random collection of women and listening to every one of them answer this question: “What’s your tattoo and why did you get it?”

If you’re looking for a good read this holiday vacation, consider picking up Chick ink. The stories behind the tattoos are positively fascinating.

Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them by Karen L. Hudson

Quotes from the book can be found HERE.

Body Pride and Ink

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Amazon.com

At the age of twenty-one, I got my first tattoo. I drove to Rhode Island with two of my friends, since tattoos were illegal in Massachusetts at the time.

After experiencing a great amount of pain for two hours, my beautiful tattoo was finished. I was so proud of it, I went to a party afterward and showed off my bloody and inky bandages to many partygoers. This was the first time I ever showed off an area of my body with pride and excitement.

My first tattoos didn’t have deep, significant meanings to me, but they provided me with a sense of pride in my body, which I never had before, and I got hooked.”

Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them by Karen L. Hudson

Baby Names and Tattoos

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Amazon.com

“If you was a boy, you’d be Marlboro,” my father said in his Appalachian twang when I asked him why he named me Brandy. While this insight didn’t appear to answer my question immediately, I began to see the twisted logic behind my father’s penchant for narcotic substances serving as inspiration for naming offspring—and it made me glad that I turned out to be a girl.

I was beginning to think that my father wasn’t so crazy after all for wanting to name me after cigarettes and booze. How was that any different from wanting to name my kids for tattoos I wanted to get? How could I pass judgment on something that was imbued with meaning for him so much that he wanted to name me accordingly?

Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them by Karen L. Hudson

It’s About Living

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Amazon.com

“It’s about living a life that makes you want to get out of bed every day, a life that makes you feel proud to showcase your work, every chance you get, for the whole world to see. At least, that’s what it’s about for me.”

Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them by Karen L. Hudson

Tattoos and the Landlord God

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Amazon.com

“[The Bible] says: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” A rabbi’s interpretation says that your body belongs to God, and you shall not defile it. I see it more like your body is a rental unit, and God is the property owner—so don’t mess it up. What I’m not sure about is whether or not getting a tattoo is an evictable offense, or more likely just something that will eat up a little of my deposit when it’s time to move on. What I do know is that while I am living here, it is my home, and I want to feel comfortable in it.”

Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them by Karen L. Hudson