Why my tattoo is not my mid-life crisis

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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.

[Related: What you need to know about the Healing Arts Lounge in Plaza Midwood.]

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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Beautifully written piece! I thoroughly enjoy C5 on the daily, but this is the most impressively introspective piece I’ve read here!

    • Ben, thank you so very much for that. It is appreciated that you took time out of your day to comment on this article. It makes telling these kinds of stories all the more worthwhile. Again, thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Kelly. It has taken me a long time to figure out who I am, but now that I am starting to do so, I think I kinda like me. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It is greatly appreciated.

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