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My post-punk post-pregnancy

by Rachel Garavito

My stepsister couldn’t wait to turn 18 so she could finally vote. I couldn’t wait for my 18th birthday so I could finally get a tattoo. That pretty much sums up what my late teens and early 20s were all about. If it was about body art I was there. Being punk rock was a state of mind but I wanted to show angst on the outside as much as I felt on the inside.

The day I turned 18, I went with a friend of mine to a tattoo and piercing studio in Houston in the part of town where people rocked mohawks and pink hair. Although I was sure I wanted a tattoo, I wasn’t sure where to get it or what I wanted so I spent the next hour looking around the studio walls adorned with posters and drawings of tattoo ideas, a sort of menu of body ink. At the time, Japanese characters and tribal arm bands were really popular. I ended up choosing a tribal-looking, black Japanese dragon with a twisted, crawling body and decided to get it on my lower back. Off center. I asked for the final image to be about as big as my index finger although the tattoo artist objected to it being so small. Considering I had a dainty little body, I thought a small dragon was proportionate to my frame. It initially hurt, but the pain was overpowered by the sheer excitement of my first absolutely perfect, although smallish, tattoo.

Twelve years later, I have been asked countless times why I have a tattoo of a birthmark on my back.

Around my 20th birthday, the itch for ink creeped up again and I was on the lookout for the perfect addition to my upper arm. I was interested in a classic tattoo, similar to ones sailors from the 1930s had. I chose a design from a book I found that depicted a heart pieced with a sword and a couple of hands shaking in front of it. It looked a lot cooler than it sounds. The idea of it also was a lot cooler than the finished product. Let’s just say I rarely wear tank tops these days.

The last tattoo I got was a copy of Ani DiFranco’s record label logo, the Righteous Babe herself, on my lower calf. This is my favorite tattoo, although I wish I got it in a different place. Unless you’re a fan of Ani DiFranco, you have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s a short-haired woman wearing a babydoll dress, her hands in fists over her head. Its a symbol for strong, independent women, and it means a lot to me since I’m a huge fan of Ani’s and the image makes me remember how important it is to stay strong. Most people think it’s a gladiator.

I think my love affair with tattoos has fizzled out, but I would like to get one more, if only to cover up the colorful blob on my upper arm. My family doesn’t mind the tattoos. Neither does my husband. But my mother-in-law has mailed me information on laser tattoo removal and has mentioned several times how much she hates them. If having random drawings on my body is the only thing she hates about me, I’m doing pretty well.

I found a website called perpetualkid.com that has temporary tattoos for babies. There is one with a flaming stroller and a studded pacifier. I think I’m going to buy a few for my daughter just to scare grandma this Christmas.

I may not get tattoos to show my rebellious side anymore, but as long as I can use my children to scare their grandparents my job is done. Because, after all, being punk really is a state of mind.

To comment on this story, e-mail Rachel Brear at rachel@yesweekly.com.

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