I am aware as someone who has chosen to adorn their body with tattoos and piercings that not everyone likes/understands/approves of them. We have recently moved house to an area where I notice there seems to be a distinct lack of people who have chosen a more “alternative” lifestyle for themselves. This is fine, I don’t need to look like other people, I have actively chosen not to for most of my life, but I am conscious that when you are not the norm, people do notice you, and judge you. More often than not it is not judging you in a good way.
I have been trying to think of positive examples of tattooed people in the media, especially women and I am coming up somewhat short. It reminded me of The illustrated mum by Jacqueline Wilson, not exactly the best advert for being a tattooed mum. If the character in the book had gone through all of her struggles and not been a tattooed woman, it might have been harder to find a title for the book, but it also might have done us tattooed mums a bit if a favour. Do I let my children read this book when they are older in case they become terrified that I will have a breakdown and end up having them put into care whilst I receive treatment in a hospital? Or as a good example of how society treats tattooed women as somehow not quite right to have defaced their pretty bodies? I want to raise open minded people who are free to make whatever choices they think will be good for themselves and others not based on appearances but on real things that matter. sometimes it feels like an almost impossible task that I have ahead of me and it makes me want to take my family to live in the middle of nowhere!
I was very used to the stereotyping that I received as a tattooed woman before I became a mother. I hadn’t really thought that it would be any different after having children, I think I was naive. This is largely due to the fact that before having children I didn’t spend time in the places that I do now, no need to go to the childrens swimming pool, rhyme time at the library or preschool. When I am in those places I feel the eyes of judgement on me, and my children an awful lot. I know that every parent feels this, but how many of you have had yourself openly looked up and down, often passed a not very nice comment at, and then had strangers take a look in your pram to make sure that you aren’t “making your child a freak”? This has happened to me on a few occasions now.
As much as I think that the baby in the above picture looks brilliant with its Photoshopped body decorations, I would never do this to a baby, not even get its ears pierced. I believe that it is a personal choice and that when someone is old enough to make a decision to have piercings done then they can have them, and not before. My fashion choices are mine, and although I shop for my childrens clothes and dress them as they are too small to have much of a preference (eldest child wants to dress in anything with paw patrol on it and red is his favourite colour), all children reflect their parents style in some way, but I don’t think my children are dressed too differently to any of the other kids at the play park. What I think is important is that they are clean, fed and loved.
We all choose to style ourselves in a way that makes us feel good, we are all striving for confidence and what we perceive in our own eyes as beauty. I made efforts to lose the weight that I had gained during my pregnancies so that I felt more body confident, I exercise to try and balance out staying that size and the amount of wine and ice cream that I want to have. I like to dye my hair to look a bit like a pastel unicorn, because that it awesome and beautiful. I love my piercings, they make me feel more feminine and attractive. My tattoos all have a different representation for me, either of people or times in my life. I haven’t finished having tattoos, if money and time to get them in were no object I would be much more inked than I already am. I have two designs that I have been waiting for years to get. Now that I am finished being pregnant and breastfeeding I am saving pennies towards getting them done.
I find it strange that some forms of body modifications are fully accepted by society and almost encouraged, where as others are not. If I wanted to spend thousands of pounds on teeth whitening or straightening, when my teeth were pretty much fine, that would be fully supported. If I wanted to enhance/shrink/lift my breasts that would also be totally fine. If I had a weight battle and wanted surgery to remove fat/put a band on my stomach, also fine. Most of those things involve potentially life threatening anesthetics and come at a high financial cost. But we as a society have decreed them sometimes necessary for life. Why is it so frowned upon to spend a much smaller amount of money, with no danger to your life on something that makes you feel more confident about your body and is special to you?
Why as a parent are you judged as irresponsible and in a lot of cases a drug user because of them? After the birth of danger baby number one we had to stay in hospital for a course of antibiotics as he had an infection. A midwife came in to do four hourly observations, looked at me and without looking at my notes stated that “he looks like a withdrawal baby”. I was livid the only thing that he may have been suffering withdrawal from was Ben and Jerry’s as I ate a shocking amount of it in the last month of my pregnancy. I made a complaint and it was taken seriously, but this is just another time in my life where my idea of what makes me look beautiful is another persons idea of what a drug addict looks like.
I asked Lovely Fiance how he felt as a tattooed parent, he said that he feel like people avoid him at the park or preschool, that he was looked at as if some of the parents were a bit afraid of him, none of the children at preschool ever look at either of us like this, but they soon will if their parents carry on doing so. As parents we pass on our irrational fears or bigotries unless we make sure not to do so. I am scared of slugs, I am aware that they can not hurt me, that my fear is 100% irrational, but every time I see one I let out a little scream, my toes curl up inside my shoes and I want to run away. Since having children I have made sure to internalise this as I don’t want to pass on such a stupid fear to them.
I have never been one for spending loads of money on designer clothes, this may have a lot to do with the fact that I have never been in a financial position to do so, and also because its not really my style. I don’t however look unfavourably on people who do, if I see someone with a Chanel handbag at preschool I wont feel the need to tightly clutch at the hands of my offspring and hastily drag them past so that they won’t be exposed to someone with such an expensive wardrobe for fear that it might make them want Chanel things too. People who are not the same as me don’t worry me in any way. We are all different to each other and the world is better for it. Other peoples fashion choices are not contagious.
So while you are out and about in the world and you see people getting along with life quite happily, not looking for any input from you, having never been asked for an opinion, why don’t we all try to be less judgemental and keep our opinions to ourselves? In my experience seeing someone who is classed as “alternative” is a beacon for me as someone who might be a kindred spirit, they are in my experience usually wonderful, creative people with good hearts as they have chosen not to tread the path most travelled due to being tired of most of the horrible ways of people along it. In short, we are mostly a happy bunch of softies*, so if you are nice to us in the playground you will probably make a friend for life.
*Disclaimer, not everyone with tattoos is actually as nice person, the same way that not everyone without tattoos is also not a nice person. The above statement is based solely on my own personal experience.