4.23.2012

Let your freak flag fly high

In my entire 27 years, I've collected a dozen tattoos, a dozen piercings and my hair has been every color under the sun. (Except purple, I really think I should have done purple streaks at some point in time). From blonde to black and blue to pink, my hair has been exposed to numerous shades of the rainbow.

Much to my mother's dismay, I still have those dozen tattoos, I've only got five of the piercings remaining and my hair is a respectable brown with blonde highlights. I think that my predilection for needles and pain has single handedly caused my mother to question precisely how much impact parents really have on their children, seeing as how no one else in my family seems to share the "eccentric" level of pretty I've come to embrace. My brother is a button-up shirt wearing, slacks and loafers kind of guy. And while my mother and father don't exactly don dress clothes daily, neither seems to share my passion for the odd and painfully-obtained body modifications.

Basically, I'm starting to think I was the milkman's child, that or I was dropped on my head a lot as a child.

When I was in high school I was rather plain. I didn't cut my hair until I was nearly 16 (and even then it was just to my shoulders), I didn't dye it until I was 19 (and even then it was a few blonde highlights) and other than my earlobes, nothing else would be pierced on by body until I turned 20. It was always in me, the desire to have permanent drawings etched on my body and sharp needles jabbed through various body parts, it just wasn't something I was really allowed or felt comfortable owning until my early twenties.

And then, just as I was ready to let my freak flag fly, I had to become a member of the working world. I started my career off as a case manager for a law firm, which didn't allot much room for piercings or pink hair. I plugged my nostril piercing with a clear retainer and left my hair it's dull, boring brown. The tattoos I had acquired were easily hidden at that time (something I'm proud to say I always took into consideration before getting more ink).

My next job as a copy editor allowed a little more creative liberty. The dress code was basically whatever the editor found appropriate for the position and I was lucky that my editor found cute facial piercings (like Monroes and nostrils) to be appropriate for a copy editor/arts and entertainment editor. I'm pretty sure he tried to convince me to dye my hair pink and green on multiple occasions.

It was during this profession that I got my first really visible tattoo, a small vegan flower symbol on my wrist. I knew in the back of my mind that if I needed to cover it up in the future I could and even though it would be a pain in the butt I was willing to make that commitment. I won't even whine about the need to allow tatted and pierced up people to freely "express" themselves in the working world, I understand that there is a certain stigma that comes with having piercings and tattoos.

We're seen as a few different things; either rebellious, uneducated hellions whose parents weren't around, teeny-bopper college students who made frivolous decisions and got butterflies tattooed on us to be cool, or the weird, freaky people who feel the need to stand out solely by maiming their body.

But the truth is, piercings, tattoos and pink hair have never been about those things for me. I don't pierce, tattoo and dye these things so that people will notice me, particularly since most of the acknowledgment is less than polite. I do these things because I think they're pretty, I like the way they look and I like the process and story behind them.

 Instead of bringing back t-shirts and magnets from our honeymoon in Oregon, my husband and I traveled home with something more permanent - douglas fir tree tattoos, the state tree of Oregon.

And the latest tattoo I've added to my collection? It's a pear blossom branch that basically eats the entirety of my shoulder and collarbone. It's twisty and dark, because not only does white not really last on tattoos, it's not me, so I made it mine. And it doesn't hurt that my little girl's name happens to be PEARyn and her birth month happens to fall during full bloom for pear blossoms.

If and when we're blessed with any other darling children (whose names we've already picked and adhere to our fruit theme), I'll decorate my other shoulder with an apple blossom branch and it will mean just as much as my first. And it will be as beautiful as my first because it's what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I haven't had a piercing done in four years. The last time I had a needle jabbed through my flesh was when I got a tiny Monroe piercing at 22. It was a teeny weeny diamond that looked almost like a sparkly freckle or mole. It was adorable and small and annoying as hell. That's why it only lasted four or five months until I inevitably took it out. One month ago I decided to finally get a piercing I'd been eyeing for years ... my septum. In case you're unfamiliar it's the bull ring piercing you're thinking of. I'd always been chicken thinking that it would hurt too much, I was too old to get it now or that it was inappropriate for me as a mother.

But then I realized, my septum piercing makes me feel pretty, it's not hurting me or anyone else and it's not obscene. In fact, I can even flip it up into my nose and you wouldn't even know I had it. Who cares that I'm 27? Who cares that I have a daughter? Who decided that I couldn't get a ring through my nose just because I birthed a child? It's what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I'm not writing this to sway your opinion on tattoos and piercings, I completely realize and accept that they're a specified taste. I'm not writing this to condone people getting giant, offensive, hateful things tattooed all over their bodies because they think "it's beautiful." I'm writing this to address a question I've been receiving over and over since getting a big ole horseshoe shoved through my nose.

What is that thing in my nose and why on Earth would I want to ruin my pretty face with it? I realize that by getting my septum pierced I've made myself less attractive to probably 75% of the world, I get it. But that's not important to me. I think it's beautiful, it's not hurting anyone else and if you're offended by a little silver ring then I can turn it up and you won't know otherwise.

I can still dress myself to look like the PTA mom of the year, I can fly to Dallas in June and look professional for my job and if I want to rock it with a pair of really tall heels when I go out with my friends then I have the opportunity to let me freak flag fly as well.

I don't care if you stare, because I know it's different, I can handle the looks. I can handle that it's not your cup of tea. Honestly, I don't care that you don't think it's pretty. I care that you seem to be bothered by the fact that it's what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I don't ask you why you ruined your sleek, straight hair by perming it; I don't ask you why you wear jeans that are two sizes too small and give you a muffin top (just so you can say you wear a size 6); I don't ask why you spend $100 on a halter top from some preppy teenager's wet dream of a store and I don't ask you why you pierced your one-month-old daughter's ears without her being able to decide if she even wanted them.

And do you know why I don't ask you these things?

Because not only do I accept that maybe we have different ideals of beauty, I RESPECT it.

The next time you see me rocking my big ole trashy tattoos (that I think are beautiful), my massive bullring (that I think is beautiful) and my hot pink streaks (that I think are beautiful), instead of trying to figure out why I think these things are beautiful, why don't you ask yourself why you have such a problem with it.

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3 comments:

  1. Funny that I saw this. I was looking up "Let Your Freak Flag Fly" tattoo ideas and this is the first thing that popped up. I'm much like you- tattoos, nose piercing, dyed my hair all the colors of the rainbow. Only I didn't even -start- doing any of this until I had two children already. It seems I show up at the pre-school to pick up my oldest that I've got something different going on with me that the other mothers used to stare at, but now we talk about and they're starting to come out of their conservative shells.

    I remembered the quote from an episode of Weeds, and from something else before that escapes me, but I was thinking it'd be a funny thing to get tattoo'd on my upper backside. No one would see it, but I'd know it was there. Something for me. But- I'm glad that my idea let me here and I just want you to know that I think you're beautiful. <3 You've got a new reader.

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  2. It's so refreshing and wonderful to hear that we're gaining more members! I hate the feeling that creeps into the back of my mind sometimes that I'm not what the "ordinary" mother should look like. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to snap back into reality and remind myself that just because I have a few tattoos or a few silver rings here and there doesn't mean I can't bake a bad ass apple pie or coach my daughter at softball some day!

    And I think your tattoo idea is wonderful, I love the idea of getting something that's solely for you! I've always wanted a quote along my rib cage, but if I got all the ones I wanted I'd probably fill my entire body ;)

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