Wow, look at this…a 2nd blog within a little over a week. What’s gotten into me? To be completely honest, it’s December 23rd, and I’m sitting here at work; just counting down the minutes until I can leave for the Christmas weekend. So, what better way to waste my time here at my place of work than to write a blog? Especially since I have a bone to pick with a few people. Let’s not waste any time on fluffy “How ya doin’” stuff; let’s get right to it.
I’m a tattoo guy. I don’t just really like tattoos; I love tattoos. To date, I have 7 tattoos gracing my flesh, and I plan on getting several more before all is said and done, much to the Wife’s disagreement.
I find tattoos to be the truest form of self-expression that one person can do. In my opinion, nothing beats literally marking your body with images of your life story. When you make the decision to tattoo your body and share that with the rest of the world, you’re asking the world to read your book. This is why I take putting ink on my skin very seriously. I’m almost obsessive about it, and I try very hard not to project that obsessive behavior onto others when I hear them talking about the lame tattoos they want to put on their body because, “it looks cool.”
Part of that obsessive behavior is that I will only go to one person to do my ink; Ryan McNamara at Cobra Custom Tattoos in Plymouth, MA. I don’t just have a good artist/customer relationship with him; I’ve also known him for almost 15 years…holy shit that felt weird to say. We met and served together in the Army back in the day. I trust Ryan with everything; he’s easily one of the best friends I have in life. And with that trust Ryan “knows” me; he understands my vision and he can take my ideas and make them into great visual representations of my feelings. I think he’s the greatest artist out there. Now, he would never agree with me, being that he’s an ever-improving artist, but what can I say, I’m biased, lol.
Ryan has done all of my ink, except for my very first piece. I got that work done when I was young and did the dreaded “Pick a piece off the wall” thing. It’s ok though – while it’s not my favorite work, I still look at it and enjoy the memory it brings, and it still reminds me to never do something stupid like that again.
The final piece of my obsessive passion about tattoos is pertaining to removal of tattoos. If you put it there, it should stay there. I don’t believe in removing your ink just because you get bored with what you put there, and you want to make room for your next trendy piece. I know that sounded a bit harsh, but 95% of the time when I see someone talking about getting their ink removed it’s some moron who got some trendy piece of work while they were in Cabo on spring break, or they were drunk and did it to be cool. On that last point, shame on the tattoo artists that knowingly put ink on clearly drunk idiots just to make a buck. That kind of makes you a fucking sell-out, and makes all the true artists look bad. The only time….and I mean “ONLY” time I have ever agreed with someone getting their ink removed is when they have something hateful, racist, or derived out of bigotry on their body and they have turned their life around and want to be free of those memories. People deserve a fresh start in those cases.
Sorry, for the soapbox moment there…..wait, no I’m not. I take tattoos very seriously, which is why I have been having a *very* rough time as of late. Even more important to me, more than tattoo integrity is my word. I may be a lot of things, but I am not…I repeat, I am not, a hypocrite. My word is the most valuable quality I have in life. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. If I tell you something, bank on that shit to be true. If I say I will be somewhere, look for me 15 minutes early because I will be there. But, much like one of my all time favorite movie characters, Doc Holliday in Tombstone, I have recently learned that sometimes in life to do what is right, what is good, you must accept the fact that you’re going to have to be a hypocrite now and again.
I have been struggling with the idea of getting one of my tattoos removed for about 4 years now. For me, 4 years is a lifetime in making a decision. I tend to be a snap decision kind of person for the most part. But this decision – it has weighed on me like no other. The tattoo in question is a piece done by my good friend Ryan back while we were still in the Army together. It is a piece that was dedicated to my mother; a new age-looking heart with my mother’s name through it (yes, I know it’s cliché) and under it some script that reads “A Mother’s Love.”
For the *few* followers of my blog (I am grateful for the handful of you), you are well aware of my relationship, or lack thereof, with my mother and the rest of my family. And while I have known for a very long time what kind of person my mother was/is, I still tried to honor her, like any decent person would. But since my very difficult split from my family (mainly my mother), I have been torn by having this ink on my skin and seeing it every day in the mirror, reminding me of her and all the pain she has caused me and the Wife.
The last time I got some work done I brought all of this to Ryan. I was so torn. But not because of why most people would think. I wanted this memory off my body, but I felt like such an asshole for wanting a piece of work my friend was good enough to work on; good enough to have spent his artistic talents on me, and now I wanted to get rid of it; like it was some Cabo, alcohol-induced mistake. What kind of friend am I to want such a thing? Luckily for me Ryan is an awesome person. Seeing how we have known each other for so long, Ryan has unfortunately “experienced” my mother on a few occasions. When I brought my fear to him Ryan looked at me for what felt like forever, took a deep breath and said, “Mike, get that thing off your skin. That woman put you through hell, and continues to try and ruin your life. You’re better than that. You have to believe that. If you’re going to move forward, you got to close some of these doors. And I’ll do whatever I can to help.” I was in complete shock; disbelief even. Not only was Ryan not mad, he was encouraging me to destroy some of his art. He gave me some leads on good tattoo removal places in my area. I don’t know what I did to deserve friends like this guy, but I hope I keep doing “it.”
That conversation happened almost a year ago. I finally decided to start the process this past week. I found an affordable option, made an appointment, and proceeded to go and get the treatment. Before I continue on about the treatment I want to talk about some of the feedback I received from people on this decision.
On the day of the appointment I posted on Facebook about my nervousness, as well the overall feeling about my big decision; and I have to say I was a bit shocked by some of the responses (comments) I received on my status update. Before I go further let me just say, I get it. I totally get when you put something out there on Facebook that you can’t really deny that you’re looking for a little attention, and when you do this, you open yourself up to every kind of comment in the world, welcomed or not. So, while some of the comments tilted me (as I insist on being friends with smart-ass people…I wouldn’t have it any other way, lol) I got over it fairly quickly. But, there was one comment made by a friend of mine that stuck with me a bit.
One of my friends made a comment that at the time twisted me because it seemed so indignant. And while my friend and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything…ok, most things, I know he’s a good person, so no malice was intended. The comment was along the lines that I should not go through with the procedure because tattoos tell a story, and getting rid of one makes your story seem a bit less genuine. Sort of along the hypocrisy topic I talked about earlier.
Even after the appointment I couldn’t shake the feelings I was having about the comment. Then I started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. Were people right? Was I ruining my story? Did this tattoo need to stay as a reminder of this chapter in my story? But then I was struck with overwhelming fact that people don’t really know “the story.” You don’t really know all that was behind my emotional struggle of getting rid of this tattoo. So, I’m going to tell you…
I’m not going to go back and tell the entire story (as we are approaching my 3 page limit, lol), but I’ll give you the short-short version. Which, trust me, is just as powerful.
My mother is, and has always been, a very calculating person. Instead of ever using this ability for good things, she has always used it to hurt others and abuse people’s emotions. There is not a person in this world that my mother has not stolen from (i.e. money, resources, and emotional support). She has lied her way through life, and fucked over everyone she has ever come into contact with. This includes coworkers, neighbors, family, friends, her friends of over 30 years, family, and finally….me.
Like I said, I have always known what she was doing. I know who she really is. And because I have sat by and watched much of these things happen, I feel I will spend the rest of my life trying to find ways to repair the damage done, or at least as much as I can.
On top of all that, my mother was/is a very angry person. She was never one to look for positive ways to deal with her anger and frustration. I mean, why would she when she had a perfectly good punching bag at home? My mother expressed her anger on me in every way imaginable. Sometimes it was with words and insults, but most times it was with good ole fashion punches and kicks, always directed towards me. Towards the end of our relationship, when she knew she would never be able to put a hand on me again, she changed her abuse method to stealing money from me, asking me for financial help and then never repaying the money she owed, and ruining my credit. She even tried to steal my identity online at one point.
The interesting thing is, while all of that hurt, none of those things hurt as much as when she tried to ruin my relationship with my (at the time) soon to be in-laws. Before the Wife and I got married, my mother tried everything she could to stress us out and bring turmoil into our relationship. Her big strike came in the form of “anonymous” letters sent to my father-in-law’s place of business saying that I beat my Wife, and that I abuse drugs, and that she was dying of cancer and I had left her to suffer on her own (that one was my personal favorite). Luckily my in-laws are great people, and a lot smarter than her, and saw right through her bullshit.
So, in a nutshell, that’s the “real” story, which makes the thing on my skin a lie. There is no love. That woman does not deserve to have her name on my skin. And she most certainly does not deserve a place in my story. I like the others I referenced earlier no longer want to be associated with the thing this tattoo represents.
Getting rid of this tattoo is not taking away from any story. The clean skin is, in a way, a representation of my story. It’s for the clean slate going forward, and the taking back of my life….my story.