I have tattoos.
3, in mostly places you can’t see but I know they are there. I got them in the 90’s, when I was really coming into my adulthood. At the time, I thought it was important that I marked these major events in my life. Permanently.
The first one was an act of rebellion in a marriage where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Where his violence, alcoholism and judgment, that is to say, him judging me to not be smart enough, well read enough, educated enough, pretty enough or good enough consumed me.
The second represented my divorce, and the forced independence I tried to face alone. I was so scared. It marked forever, the ending of my naivety, my blind faith, and of my trust in, there are so many words I could put here, but lets just leave it at people.
The third was about me finding myself, my voice, my path in life. Which at 27 I still hadn’t found. Looking back, I have to smile at my arrogance. I had no idea where I was going or who I wanted to grow up to be.
All these years later, I don’t think about them much, except to think that I’d be happier if they weren’t there. I wonder, if they weren’t there, that the painful memories of these events would have quietly slipped into the recesses of my mind.
At some point, after the third tattoo I realized that I have enough scars. Some you can see and some you can’t, but that I didn’t need to mark events of my life on my body. In my early 30’s I started to have them removed. But the process was so blisteringly painful that I stopped. You can remove them, but not cleanly, and not without more scarring.
Given the opportunity to do it again, I wouldn’t. I don’t regret them exactly but I’d prefer to be unmarked. The scars on the inside can be hidden, the ones on the outside, especially ones you gave yourself, can’t be. I’d prefer to go through the remainder of my life with a clean slate, a clean skin.
But that will probably never be.
I want to state for the record that I hate the word “step daughter/son”. It offends me. But I use it because my stepdaughter has 2 functional and loving parents. I am not one of them. I am secondary. I do not discipline, I do not judge. That is her parents job. I get to be the “aunt” she has fun with, who taught her to use chopsticks, to ride a bike, who plans birthday parties with her. I get to be the one who taught her to drive. Who helps her with her iTouch, who suggests songs and apps she might like.
I don’t count as much. I step aside a lot so her mother doesn’t feel like she has to share or is trod upon. I do my best to never make my stepdaughter feel like she has to choose. Because I know her loyalty lies with her mother. I understand that, it’s as it should be. This child never asked for the chaos of divorce. So it’s all of our jobs as parents to make sure she isn’t raised in chaos.
Should I ever be lucky enough to have my own child, I want him or her to grow up like my stepdaughter has. She is confident, smart, clever, optimistic, secure in the knowledge that she has a family and extended family that love her, she knows she will be well looked after, that she’s pretty, she is poised and graceful and kind. She loves animals, and school, plays the piano and looks forward to college.
J.K. Rowlings said “I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”
Boy or girl, let them grow up as unmarked as possible.