Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Love, loyalty, friendship

Recently, a friend of mine posted about her plans to get a tattoo. The first thing she said after making this announcement was,

"Stop laughing."

This made me grin, as it was one of the reasons that I only told around four people about my intention to get a tattoo, and didn't go into huge detail about the design I was going to have. A tattoo is something that, until I got one, was not very "me": straight-laced, sensible, with a learned fear or avoidance of doing anything that would permanently mark my body. So I imagined that I either wouldn't be believed, or people would laugh!

I actually had it done right before going to NC last Christmas, which made for some interesting how-is-it-healing moments (Ben got to see just how neurotic I can be, checking it every five seconds for any "changes!). I made the decision that I definitely wanted to be inked in September 2010, and booked an appointment to see Shaun at Mantra Tattoo in October, if I remember rightly. Shaun was highly recommended by my friend Liz, both in terms of her glowing review and the evidence of her gorgeous flower art work up her arm. After a consultation with Shaun, which involved a chat to make sure you're sure about what you want and where, and to discuss designs, we arranged for me to have it done in December. Mantra are an incredibly professional and welcoming studio, with a long history and glowing record. I heard, and continue to hear, so many good things about their work, their professionalism, and their customer care, so I was more than happy for them to be doing the job.

My other reason(s?) for not telling many people about it was because I didn't want to see anyone's disapproval, shock, or have anyone try to talk me out of it. Now, that might sound a bit daft: I'm in my late twenties, so even if people were to try to talk me out of something like this, then I'm well within my rights to tell them that I'm old enough to make my own decisions. But I am very prone to worrying about -- actually, scratch that -- was very prone to worrying about others' private negative thoughts about me, even if they were meant with concern and/or kindness. I didn't want to even start a discussion about whether or not I should get one, because I wanted it, and I wanted it then, without reference to anyone else. Martha's key reasons to counter the issue of prospective hindsight problems were summed up in a far better, more succinct way:

a: I want this right now and don’t see my mind being changed because of the significance of what it is intended to represent. 
b: If by some fluke I do suddenly decide I dislike it, then it will scar my body, as I carry other scars from accidents or mistakes in my life. I doubt very much it would upset me to the extent that I want to undergo a procedure to remove it. It will be just another marker from a previous me, who thought a different way about the world, and that I’m sure I will be content to live with. 
c: If I really decide in ten years' time that it was the worst idea in the world and that I must get rid of it at all costs then I will have it removed and absorb the cost and inconvenience, and put it down as being another life lesson learned. This small, outside chance of inconvenience is not enough to make me balk from having one in the first place.

These are/were pretty much my arguments against the "but what if you regret it?" party, and I am particularly impressed by the second one of the three. As for the other issues... well, those were more personal, and getting this tattoo marked the beginning of the end of them. I needed to stop worrying what other people think - because a) it shouldn't have an effect on me, on the whole (the "those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter" approach); b) the likelihood is no one is thinking much at all about me or my choices (that old egocentrism again); and c) if anyone I know was thinking anything at all about it, the likelihood is, whatever their thoughts were, they came from a good place - and I needed to start making decisions that would make me happy, without reference to anything else. However silly it sounds, it marked the start of me being me - a better me - again.

So I got my tattoo.

Claddagh tattoo on my inner right wrist.

Tattoo again, with arm for perspective!

As for the meaning of it, well, there are at least two (for me). And no, neither of them are to do with Buffy, for any vampire slayer enthusiasts who recognise the Claddagh for this reason! Not that I have anything against Buffy (I only started watching it this year, and I really enjoy it), I just didn't know that this traditional Irish symbol was linked to an American show about a teenage girl whose destiny is to kill supernatural beings when I went to get inked.

Although I am not Irish, - and some relatives of mine are, but the link for me is distant, so I really don't have a national connection - I feel a deep sense of identification with the Claddagh. I found it when I was looking for something to represent how I feel about Ben and, as we got closer, how I feel about the important things in life (the two obviously blur and mesh together). There are a few different accounts of the history of the Claddagh image and how it was used on rings to indicate engagement or marriage, or just friendship, but essentially the tripartite symbol can be broken down into its three component parts to explain its meaning:

  1. The hands represent friendship.
  2. The crown represents loyalty.
  3. The heart represents love. 

Those three elements are eternal concepts for me, on their own, and with Ben being linked to all of them, too. We had friendship rings with the Claddagh as the central feature on them some years ago, and our wedding rings have the symbol embossed on them, along with Gaelic text that translates as "my soul friend". It has meant so much and will continue to do so, whatever the future holds. On top of that (this is the second thing), I did it by myself. Okay, I had my wonderful MumBun (work mum Liz) with me, thank goodness - I was pretty nervous! - so I didn't do it alone in that sense. But I made the decision to do it alone, stuck by it, and am so very happy with it. It gives me confidence in myself, a reminder that I choose my path. It points to my heart - the direction is supposed to represent where you are emotionally - because I have been truly touched by love, something that will never be undone. It is a constant reminder to follow dreams, be true, and to love first. 

"Meaningful, considered, and without regret." That's exactly right.


  1. Having just posted this blog and returned to various social networking sites, I was greeted with the news that Steve Jobs (Apple) has passed away. I wanted to reiterate one of his, and in my opinion, one of the best quotations about following your heart (which I think I've posted on QE before):

    “Almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    RIP Steve Jobs.

  2. I love your tattoo, I have two but they're in places that aren't visible in every day clothing. I think it's a very personal decision so it makes sense not to tell anyone who is going to make you second guess yourself.

    So sad about Steve Jobs, I think most people around the world were shocked and saddened. But it had been a very difficult struggle for him xx

  3. Thanks. :) I love it so much, and it still surprises me that I have it too, heh heh! It's not visible if I have long sleeves but anything about 5cm from my hand makes the top of it visible. What are yours of, if you don't mind me asking?

    I was very saddened to hear of Jobs' death. I understand that he had suffered with cancer for years, but it is still as big a loss as if he had suddenly died. He will be a great loss to the creative mind of America, I think. xx


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