“You don’t smoke?”
Yeah, I get that a lot. (Disclaimer: I do not have anything against smokers, as long as he, she or they doesn’t blow the fume in my face.) And the reason I get that comment is because I have a LOT of tattoos. And this isn’t just my assumption, because I have asked people why they think I would smoke. In most cases the answer was: “You look like you will smoke, with tattoos and all that…” Haha, right. Likewise, I’ve come to realize that in the typical conservative, stereotype-addicted Korean society, tattoos and cigarettes seem to go hand in hand, along with a series of other descriptions that would be too cringe-worthy to mention. In short, if you have tattoos, then you’re the ‘bad type’, or make your mama sad type. (Random fact: I actually do have the letters ‘bad type’ tattooed on my inner arms).
The first tattoo I got was a semicolon. It was not even done by a proper tattoo artist—a friend who I would help dye his hair did it for me. He had started doing stick and poke tattoos on himself and asked me he could give me one if I wanted. Yes Please! Me at that time was a mess—although I still am—as I was going through a lot of things at once. I was in the States for the first time, my college classes weren’t what I expected, and I was having ongoing financial problems and family matters all intertwined like a giant noose that strangled me every day. I felt that I needed something to hold on to, something that could inspire me to go on and live on. Hence, I wanted a semicolon on my wrist—where I could see easily, anytime—as a reminder that I was alive, and I will live on.
A month later from when I got that semicolon tattoo, I came back to Korea. Then I began getting proper tattoos. The first one I got by a real tattoo artist was a cactus, as I was in a desert-like area in the States and since I survived the place like a cactus would do. And my life stories go on, on my skin. Some tattoos have so-called “deep” meanings like the semicolon or the cactus, but some don’t have any significant meaning other than the aesthetic beauty I get from looking at the embroidered ink.
To people who jump to conclusions based on my tattoos, I wish to say one thing: You don’t know me, and you don’t know my story. Yet people so naturally assume things when they see my tattoos—She must be very “open-minded” or she would love clubbing and whatnot. Seriously? Aren’t we all too mature to be that simplistic? Apparently not. Also, for each body so obviously belongs to the individual, each person can decorate their body however they want—actually, this has a very thin line, but that’s another story—in most cases. I mean, people should really stick their nose out of other people’s businesses.
I have strived to look like myself, not even in the sense of resembling others or being different from others. I simply tried to find ‘my style’ and what would make me happy, and what would represent me best. And tattoos were one way of me being me, as I could choose my second skin.
There were moments in which I could have more confidence thanks to the tattoos, my suit of armor in all colors. I am simply a wandering soul who loves to tell her story, and my stories are told through my tattoos. Through my tattoos, my ideas, my memories, and my feelings live on. I love being the “bad-type” in my own style, not your “tattooed-girl-in-bed-type”, so let me be me.