I went to the Milwaukee Museum of Art two weekends ago and was able to see the Amund Dietzel Flash Tattoo Exhibit. It was stunning. Some of the designs he was drawing and tattooing in 1917 were something I know any tattoo inclined individual would love to have on their body today. Obviously, I love tattoos. I have a nice little collection started and many of my friends are tattoo enthusiasts if not tattooers themselves so ‘talking tattoos’ is something I’ve become familiar and comfortable with. While I was there I heard some pretty hilarious banter from ‘non-tattoo’ folks. I don’t think very many of the people I shared the exhibit with were there specifically for Amund like I was. I ended up spending about a solid hour combing over all the pieces of flash and personal photos and stories from Amund’s life while listening to passerbys say gems like ‘oh tattoos, this isn’t real art’ and ‘can you believe people used to get tattoos like this that said ‘mom’?’
Above is a tattoo flash from 1916! And also Amund’s tattoo ‘kit’ where he stored his guns and ink.
This got me thinking about how certain people – well I would comfortably say the majority of people look at tattoos as being limiting. Limiting in the sense that they prevent opportunities from arising or exclude the tattooed individual in a way that’s economically and socially negative. I could say in certain situations that tattoos are limiting. However, as I‘ve described before I’ve learned how to lead my double life and not feel like I’m betraying my identity in the process.
Thus, for me, I really believe my tattoos have given me infinite opportunities and a life I would have never led being tattoo-free.
Without tattoos I can easily name the following things I would not have ever done. I first would have never met the Dude because I would have never been friends with the person who introduced us. Despite the Dude’s ever-changing role in my life, I would have never visited Chicago and realized I loved it here – therefore I would have never moved here or have gotten my dream job. I would not know any of the people who I call my closest friends. I would never have experienced a Game of Thrones party, gone to Durango for a weekend I’ll never forget, have picnics at Sloans Lake eating friend chicken, or spend a weekend in Baltimore sweating to the greatest doom metal bands around. I would have never been comfortable being different. I would have not gone to Aveda and pursued an interest that was completely foreign to my previous education and lifestyle. I would have never met/dated/loved/hated a majority of the people I know and that I would never want to know a world without.
The things I love most about myself have a lot to do with my lifestyle as a tattooed individual. The funny thing is that if you ask me if I feel limited the answer is a resounding ‘no’ because I get to operate in both cultures of tattooed/non-tattooed. I guess I feel I get to be part of both easily. In fact the only place I’ve ever felt ‘left out’ was the pool at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo – their culture still isn’t on board with bathing and tattoos. I’m not trying to sound like I’m any sort of authority on being tattooed because I am definitely NOT. Believe me I could name five friends in two seconds who have more authority in their little pinky on the topic. But the point is, I think the only reason I have the life I have is because I’m tattooed.
I’m thankful I walked into the right shop over seven years ago and made the choice to be different in a way that allows me to experience more out of life. I couldn’t imagine my body or my life without any of these tattoos and I would not change a single dot anywhere. My life is truly blessed as a tattooed woman.