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My best friend sent me a link called “Why Put a Bumper Sticker on a Ferrari?” via Facebook, and after texting me a self portrait of her wearing a beauty mask (made of God knows what) and a caption that said “Gettin purty” she asked me if I received the link she emailed that could essentially be summed up as “Women who have tattoos are classless and trashy.”
As a woman with tattoos, I jumped on that link like a starved dog on a new bone. I don’t disagree with some of the article, in fact I do agree that the only thing more attractive than a woman with a beautiful body (and the confidence to back it up, which isn’t addressed in the aforementioned piece), is a woman with class. Class is a completely underrated virtue in a time when our female role models include any woman with the last name Kardashian, Hilton or (heaven forbid) Lohan.
That being said, I personally know a great many women that are the true embodiment of class, grace, poise, and beauty – and many, if not most, of them have tattoos.
These days, many women (and men) realize that life is fleeting, our bodies are the only permanence we have in a disposable society. Homes are easily bought and sold, cars are merely a tool of transportation, sometimes fashionable, but mostly functional. Fashion changes, hair styles come and go, but our bodies are our temples. Our bodies tell the stories of our lives, both on a cellular and cosmetic level. Every experience, physical and emotional, we have lives on in our body. Our cells absorb the elements of our environment, our brain maps every emotional and intellectual nuance behind every experience of our lives, the lines of our aging faces corroborate our spiritual truth.
Why then is it that this author is so dismissive of and repulsed by the art that women choose to adorn their bodies with? If I have a portrait to paint, a story to tell, do I not seek an artistic outlet – a canvas or page with which to paint the adventure I wish to remember? If I find a beautiful piece of art that I absolutely can not live without seeing every day of my life, what better way to honor it then to have it indelibly etched in a place I will forever be able to cherish it?
Houses burn, paintings crumble, but my body is my temple. It is where I experience every earthly moment of joy and heartbreak, passion and pleasure; it is where I communicate with the celestial and experience the depths of human depravity.
Historically, religious temples are adorned with the artwork of those inspired by divinity, renderings of heaven touching earth and the darkest caverns of earth swallowing up humanity. As a non-religious person, my body is where I celebrate my creation, my life, and the realization of my mortality. My tattoos are part of who I am, as the paintings on church ceilings are the story of the heavens, my flesh is the page in which I choose to write the story of my life. I was endowed with a foundation, walls and a roof to shelter my soul, and windows that I may gaze openly at the universe and so that others might see in. My body is the shelter in which my soul seeks refuge, the same way so many souls seek solace in churches, ashrams and temples across the globe.
What is a temple without it’s art? What is a home without portraits on the wall of the family that dwells within it’s shelter? It is merely a structure meant for utilitarian purpose. The etchings, paintings, and photos are what bring a place to life, it’s personal, it’s memorable, it’s a reflection of who we are and the lives we choose.
My ink is a brief glimpse into my life. The symbols adorning my skin are moments in my time that I will always look back on. Symbols of love, steadfast strength, raw honesty, and a reminder that life is fleeting. They will last much longer than a Polaroid, they will be with me long after the days of Facebook and twitter. They are the scars of memory, intentionally cut in a moment that deserved honor.
When I look at my body I see not only a temple, but a canvas. A canvas meant to express the colorful portrait of my life.