April 7, 2011


The weather the other day was sunny and warm-ish, and according to the forecast, it was the best day to look forward to all week. As I got ready for work, I decided to wear a different kind of outfit than I usually do: a yellow skirt, green sweater, light green tank top, and black leggings. I also wore black peep-toe espadrille shoes. I looked super cute, and it was nice to step out of my comfort zone a little - I am very much a jeans/tee-shirts kind of girl, a residual habit from my days of not wanting to really be seen as I went back and forth from home to work/school.

that sweater is getting too big. darn.
It was a fun experience, and I'd like to think that I'm becoming the kind of lady who wears cute outfits with confidence, who runs her errands in adorable dresses and skirts and looks fabulous doing so. In the past, I'd buy nice dresses from Torrid, Lane Bryant, or Target, wear them once, feel awkward and self-conscious the whole day, and then bury the outfit in my closet and never think of it again. Jeans, tee-shirts, and hoodies were just like super obesity for me - another way to hide. No one can see my legs with these pants on, but that's alright, because no one can say anything about them; no one will talk to me because I am so big, but that's alright, because no one can hurt me. I felt safe behind all that.

But what do you do when you're alone? People yelled awful things from car windows and muttered under their breath on buses and trains, but my biggest critic was always myself. I didn't want to wear shorts or capris and show my legs to strangers - but when I'm in the shower? In the morning when I get dressed? At night getting ready for bed? I'm totally exposed to myself - and totally overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

At eighteen and nineteen years old, I was not the best at thinking out logical solutions for my big problems. The cute boy thinks I don't have enough dating experience, so instead of ditching the kid, I decide to sleep around. I hate looking at my own naked body, so instead of getting healthy and improving my self-image, I decide to cover my body with images and designs. I loved the drawings. I wanted to love my body. So I had the drawings permanently etched into me.

In addition to the idea of changing my body, there was the act itself, how the ink got there. Tattoos are ink injected under a layer of skin. They take a while to heal. This was not just a beautification process for me, but punishment and repentance. It was my equivalent of the Catholic nuns sewing thorns inside their clothing - I was hurting, but for a greater purpose. My body is ugly. I want to love it. So I'm going to hurt for a while - I might even bleed - but I'll care for the wound and be left with something beautiful. I wouldn't need to do this if I had a nice body, but this is a suffering that I need to endure before there is anything about me worth looking at.

It made an awful lot of sense to a very depressed and hopeless kid. It's very, very sad for me to think that this was my mindset - that I couldn't see how lovely I am and how much promise the future had for me, and that just like with binge eating and casual sex, I was once looking to hurt myself in order to make myself feel temporarily better.

My first was the girl crouching in a pile of dead leaves, surrounded by the Rilo Kiley lyrics "I am flawed if I'm not free." I always said that my dad would have a heart attack if I ever got a tattoo ... and a week after he first saw it on my right ankle, he did. Guilt.

rilo kiley lyrics
My second was a girl on the opposite inside ankle, again with a quote: "Times are hard for dreamers," from the movie "Amélie." I didn't get it in the original French because I was worried about getting the grammar incorrect. I didn't trust my abilities enough.

les temps sont durs pour les rêveurs
The next few were the birds on my chest, then the anchor and the nautical stars. The birds were well-intentioned but ill-prepared, and I'd consider the awkward placement of quote alongside them to be my only semi-regret. I love the words, though (another Rilo Kiley quote: "With every broken heart / we should become more adventurous."), and the fact that the birds are there for my grandmothers.

The anchor - I grew up on the Connecticut shoreline, and feel very drawn to nautical themes. Also, the expression "married to the sea" has always been something I felt very relevant to my life.

hurt like whoa
The fireflies on my wrists are my sisters. One is lower than the other intentionally, that's how they were in the original artwork. Flying towards each other to create a greater light.

miss my sorelle
An angel and a devil on the tops of my feet, to make sure that when I move forward, I'm balanced. I don't step just left or right, I don't make all good or all bad decisions. Cue dramatic eye rolling from my several-years-hence self, but still, I think they're adorable and they might be my favorite.

still love them
And the band-aid heart on my inside left arm? My addiction to unhealthy love.

i wish i were stronger still
I was in Paris when I found out I got into my first choice graduate school in Chicago. Everything in my life was moving at that time. So, an airplane and a girl in a beret sitting on a suitcase.

And last but not least, a mermaid fighting a squid on the top of my right arm. She isn't finished, because the tattoo artist started changing the design mid-work and I was furious. He gave her tail a snake belly - not cool. He also made her back way longer than it needs to be. I've thought about getting it fixed and finished for a couple years now, but I wanted to wait to see if I ever lost weight because my arm shape would possibly change. "If" is now "when," so she'll be fixed soon, hopefully.

Like losing your virginity, tattoos are a permanent decision that can't be undone. Regretting the decision is futile - you can't take it back, you just move forward and grow from there. My tattoos tell a story, and though I'm not sure it's an entirely happy one, I'm hopeful about the ending.

I want to get a tattoo for my 100 pound weight loss - I love tattoos, and I can't wait to get one not as a physical punishment and not as a means to embellish an otherwise ugly body. This one - a Russian nesting doll - is a mark of progress, I think - not just with the loss of physical weight, but with the emotional transition from the girl I was to the girl I am becoming. The doll is big, but she's lovely, and inside there's a girl who is just as lovely, only a little smaller.

I can't wait to show her off!


Mrs. O said...

Love the tattoos! And I love the idea of the Russian nesting doll to mark your 100lb loss. I've got 3 tattoos that mark 3 moments in my life, 2 were sad moments, but seeing them makes me smile because they also remind me of the happy moments.

Colleen said...

This is easily among my top 10 favorite blog posts by ANYONE, EVER.

I absolutely ADORE the pretty dress you had on and you looked completely gorgeous in it!

Goodbye, Fat Girl!

Amy said...

I love all your tattoos - they all have great meaning behind them. I really really want my next one which is supposed to be my goal weight tattoo but given the recent events in my life I have been considering it much sooner, and doing it on my inner right forearm instead of my ribs. My next tattoo is the symbol for gratitude and I feel like I need daily reminders that I should be grateful for the life I have...no matter how shitty it can be sometimes. I have also considered getting the symbol (with is basically a g inside a circle) as the base of a tree, and the roots wrapped around it. The tree symbolizing growth. We'll see... I'm so nervous about getting a very visible large tattoo but at the same time I really want a visible large tattoo!

Marla said...

Awesome, awesome post. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I love this entry! How wonderful to hear the stories behind your ink. And I love the idea for your next one. What an awesome anchor (here I am using WW terms) that will be. I don't have any tattoos and I'm kind of torn about getting one. I love the way they look but I haven't thought of anything I just have to have. Also, I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to physical pain. ;)

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this! I have never considered myself a tattoo person (mainly, I never thought I'd find something that I'd really want on me for the rest of time), but now I'm reconsidering, contemplating a goal tattoo. I love your idea of nesting dolls - that's going to be so pretty!

Ellie said...

Your tattoos are all lovely. I don't think it matters how they look or how other people think of them as long as they mean something to you, and all of yours have very special stories.

Excited to see which ones you get to tell this happy story.

Amanda said...

Those are all very awesome designs. I have been thinking for years about getting a tattoo. I'm so indecisive though that I can never be sure of what I want. I've got it narrowed down to a few items, and I think that once I reach 100lbs down, I might have to do it.

The dress (and you in it!) is lovely! :)

Spoonful of Me said...

I love your tattoos and I also love that there is meaning behind all of them. I have three tattoos but am almost finished with getting one removed, it was a dragonfly on my chest and the artist messed up the wing and there was no way to fix it and in my professional work place it couldn't been seen which made getting dressed for work even harder than it already is for a plus size woman.

Shannon said...

It was awesome reading about all your tattoos, and what they stand for!! Thanks for sharing!! I only have one tattoo....it has no meaning. I got it when I was 18, and a little drunk. No thought process behind it, at all.:( I hope to get another one someday - one that means something to me.

Love, love, love your outfit today!! You look great!

timothy said...

wow when i read this been there done that applies to me. i was fat and did not love myself so how could anyone else love me, i slept with hundreds of guys in my 20s, anonymous sex made me feel attractive without having to actually be intimate with anyone. i've lost 75 pounds (and counting) but i don't believe in regrets all my mistakes made me who i am. you're beautiful and i LOVE the ink, plus the outfit is super cute. i think you're blossoming right now and that's wonderful, enjoy your success!

Roxie Morrow said...

You look soooo freakin' cute!!!! Love the mix of bright colors! You go girl!!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hear ya about the peanut butter. I might just try the single servings, but I can just see me ripping open each individual tub and go crazy!!!


aschmalz83 said...

I love your tattoos. The nesting doll is also a great idea - you'll have to post pictures!

michelle said...

those are awesome tattoos. i LOVE the idea of the nesting dolls. it's so perfect :)

marisol said...

Those are awesome! For some reason, the band aid tattoo calls me to.

I plan on getting one on my 100 lb loss too. I know where I want it and I just keep going back & forth on what I want. Maybe that means I should get two :)

Jennie Palluzzi said...

I am so glad I read this post. This is definitely a great explanation of you/tats. I have a treat for you soon - an entire page of my diary devoted to you I found last night. Long story, but soon to come!

Anonymous said...

The Story of a Soul........ This post is incredible and the tats are great!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being honest... I'm a tattoo artist with a passion for redemption and the restoration of true identity. That's what tattoo collecting did for me... awoke another part of the real me, the artist with a voice and something powerful to say.
The lion on my blog is a tattoo I did about a year ago, one of my favorites.
You're so brave, keep up the good work! Freedom isn't free but it's so worth it!