Two days before Thanksgiving I put my daughter on the bus, slipped into my car and drove from my South Charlotte home to Plaza Midwood to get my first tattoo.
I had only told a handful of people that I was getting my first tattoo. At least half of those people, my husband and best friend chief amongst them, expected me to back out. I don’t blame them.
I was 39 years and 10 months old and I didn’t have one dot of ink on my body. Undoubtedly, they thought that this was my kick-off to a spectacular mid-life crisis.
However, this not a panic-driven attempt to grab my fleeting youth. And, it was certainly not a drunken whim. I researched Charlotte tattoo artists and studios for three years (yep, years) before deciding on the insanely talented Dani Mace Blalock. From the moment I met Dani as we consulted about my design idea on one of the overstuffed velvet couches of the funky, warm and inviting Haylo Healing Arts Lounge, I was at ease and most importantly, I was certain.
Getting my first tattoo when I did was not only something that I desperately wanted to do, but it was something that I needed to do. I had spent many years, 39 to be exact, keeping my wild, passionate, wide-open side locked tightly away. That made people different. I didn’t want to be different in that way.
Steve and Starr, my good looking, charismatic, magnetic parents, were different in that way. They were wild, passionate and wide-open. They were also painfully addicted, down-right criminal people who left a wake of broken promises, embarrassments and failures behind everywhere that they went.
I decided early on that I was not going to be anything like them. I was going to be respectable, responsible, stable. I was going to tuck in my button downs, I was not going to say “ain’t”, I was going to have shades on all my lamps, a phone number that consisted of the same digits for decades, a car that always passed inspections.
I certainly would not be drawing attention to myself with something as visibly rebellious as a tattoo. I feared that since I was made up of their damaged DNA that if I slipped even a little bit, embraced just a smidgen of the wildness that always floated right in front of me that I would tumble out of control into a life of drugs and hustles and beat-down trailers.
When I became pregnant with my daughter, Conley, my fears of becoming them almost suffocated me at times. I vowed that I would never be like them, that I would keep my death grip on control.
Yet, when I held that magical little creature I felt relaxed for possibly the first time in my life. She took my very black-and-white world and filled it with all the dancing colors of the universe. She encouraged me to relax my grip. My daughter encouraged me to embrace my wild, passionate, wide-open side.
Conley made me realize that I may be made up of my parents but that I am my own unique creation — a strange mix of button downs and tattoos. I am a mousy brunette turned platinum blonde with a partially shaven head who smells of Burberry perfume. I can quote Toni Morrison and Missy Elliot in equal measure. I like Silver Oak Cabernet and Coors Light tall boys.
In my heart, I know that addiction is a disease, but there is still a little part of me that wonders why she couldn’t have chosen me. I am kind and loving and I can also be self-absorbed and vain. I love sad, quiet indie movies and outrageous blockbusters. I can sing along to George Jones and Wu-Tang. I once hung so much of who I was on the fact that I became an Assistant Vice President in two years, but I now know that I am so much happier walking dogs and writing stories.
Every time that I look at this tattoo it reminds me of who I am — a mama, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a writer, a little girl from the hills of Appalachia who grew up to live a most wild and magical life.
Photo Credit: Sosha Lewis
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.