If Tattoos Could Talk, Mine Would Roar
by Julia Davidovitz
As technology develops and accessibility grows, the relatively recent art phenomenon that is tattooing is quickly losing its stigma as the art form of the aimless and unwashed. And as in everything, of course we get our basic binary Bradleys who either love them unquestioningly or hate ‘em unconditionally, but most folks have a highly personal reason why we do or don’t engage in this particular body modification.
One of my friends, a talented jewelry-maker, imbues tattoos with the same aesthetic utility as jewelry. She plans to adorn her hands all over with small designs, drawing the eye to her hands much like a ring does. Another friend of mine won’t get tattoos because of his devout religious practice, but finds the process compelling and asks to tag along to my next tattoo appointment.
Me? I am the proud owner of seven tattoos, most of them small and text based, except for my largest and most recent tattoo (I got it in Amsterdam coming up on a year ago! It took four hours and I nearly passed out), a spray of blue orchids on a pink background that spans the underside of my right forearm. The design features turquoise and electric blue flowers with immaculately detailed petals and the tellingly erotic stamen of an orchid, accented with background splashes of pink, gold, and orange. It is my piece de resistance on a body freckled with smaller, less obtrusive tattoos, a bold and vibrant accessory whose loud presence can only be muted by the most hand-length of shirtsleeves.
That’s my standpoint on the purpose and importance of body art: I think it’s a potentially infinite creative space for not only self-expression, but interpersonal communication as well. The idea of reading a new friend or lover’s body like a story through their tattoos – or scars – is, to me, visually and viscerally erotic.
Which is why it’s so ironic that were it not for the abject neglect and abuse I went through with my ex-boyfriend, J – a complete breakdown of communication – I would likely not have the tattoo that has started over a hundred conversations for me without my having to say a word. I don’t know if it would exist if not for the need to cover up the ugly, conversation starting scars I created for myself 6 years ago.
The moment I slid a kitchen knife across my 17-year-old flesh was the only moment I’ve ever experienced total disassociation from my higher consciousness, the part of me that mediates myself as I experience the world. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I wanted to kill something. I wanted to turn white tiles red. I wanted to make anything hurt as much as it hurt to exist moment to moment in my own truth, in my own head.
Six years later now, at 23, I’m so divorced from that girl who made the scars and the reason she couldn’t think of anything more comforting to turn to than cold, sharp steel. Since then, an entirely different manchild has attempted to relieve me of my humanity with pushes and slaps, too-tight grips and too-mean jokes. Fool me twice, right? Would you believe that I have a whole new scapegoat in my head, J? A whole ‘nother 175-pound monkey on my back to remind me to give myself a little more time at the starting line and as many water breaks as I need.
Something’s fundamentally different, though, about this second grace period of bouncing back from abuse. This time I’m talking about it, not hiding in shame. I understand a great deal about patterns now, and I want to contribute my loud two cents to the discourse surrounding domestic violence – a worldwide pandemic that brings out my roar like no other.
I now understand that conscience-free narcissists like J and E do exist, in the millions, and they want us to hurt, so they can see what it looks like to feel. They want to drain our energy and make it theirs. For years, the first time, and months the second time (fool me twice: at least it won’t last as long!), these vampires drained my blood and made me pale, a pastel shell of the vibrant girl I had been.
But I’m back, brighter than ever, and I plastered over the pastel pink scars with loud graffiti, tagging myself as mine, tagging myself as someone without any body parts defined by shame. I saw a picture the other day on the Internet: a bar of soap with lines of English text carved into its flesh. The pure white cake reads, “What He Did Doesn’t Exist Anymore.” I didn’t even think of you, the boy I made scars for. I don’t have that luxury. My brain has more pressing traumas to sift through.
My right arm has time, though. Every compliment I get on my tattoo is a flower on the grave of what you did. What you did doesn’t exist anymore. But we do.
Julia Davidovitz is probably petting her cat, Dexter, or someone else’s dog. She is an aspiring writer, singer, actor, and dog owner. She does not drink coffee or eat meat and yet she works at a coffee and sandwich shop. Julia has been trying to finish David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest for a few months now, and predicts it will take at least a few months more. The only thing she is more open about than her bisexuality is her hatred of binaries.
The Roar Sessions is a weekly series featuring original guest posts by women of diverse backgrounds and voices. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these guest posts belong to each author own and do not necessarily reflect my own. All Roar Sessions content, including photos, belongs to the respective contributors. Read them all.