On my seventeenth Halloween, I sat cross-legged on the floor of my childhood bedroom, needle in my right hand and my best friend beside me. I quickly learned the ritual, dipping the tip into India ink, pressing it into my skin until it leaves its mark, and back again. As I worked, I watched a patchy and lopsided “17” slowly appear on the inside of my middle finger.
Cut to a month after my eighteenth birthday: “Are you sure you want it that big?” my mother asked, gesturing towards the violet stencil of a soon-to-be tarot card tattoo across the better part of my forearm.
Two months later, a crescent moon and the Venus symbol sprouted on my middle fingers, transforming the sanctuary of my hands into something new, into something that demands attention, into something with a purpose—into art.
Growing up with an atypical body shape/size that I never saw on the cover of fashion magazines or strutting down runways, I was self-conscious. I did everything I could to hide my body: clothing two sizes too big, excessive amounts of eyeliner, heterosexuality, anything that would distract others, and myself, from me. As I have grown up I have found ways to celebrate my body with flowing floral dresses and poetry and meditation and of course, tattoos. For me, my tattoos are declarations of what I love, what is important to me, and who I am. I do not see tattoos as a means to hide my body, but instead, to turn my body into something new with each year and chapter and turn of the leaves.
Photo by Alyssa Ennis.