Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Teenagers Shouldn't Get Tattoos

As someone with quite a few tattoos (I have 9) I've been asked a few times to explain to teenagers why they shouldn't get them. Why parents think someone who has so many is a good person to take on this task is beyond me, but never the less the answer is always the same: They shouldn't get them because when they see how amazing the work is, they will wish they had gotten them bigger, and you can't fix that. That's my only regret about the first tattoo I ever got you see, that it's too small.

All of my tattoos have meanings behind them. I might one day get sick of the picture, but I will never get sick of the meanings, and I will never fault the artwork. My tattoo artist is amazing. If you live in New Zealand or ever visit, you need to book in with Chris Bezencon of Eastside Tattoo. If you want anything sizeable, you need to book around 8 months in advance, because he's booked out. If you don't show up he has a list of people waiting for your spot. He's that good.

I chose Chris for my tattoo because he designed the artwork I was getting inked - the CD cover of the album of one of the best friends I've ever had. I later found out that not only is he an amazing artist and supporter of my musician friend, he also tattooed a family member of mine when I was little. When I was around 9 years old, I have vague memories of my Grandad, who lived about 40 minutes away, visiting us every couple of weeks for awhile. It was how he passed the time while his wife was getting tattooed 10 minutes from our house. She had a beautiful back piece done that won awards for the artist that did it and many years later I found out that artist was Chris.

With such an amazing artist I will find it hard to ever regret that first tattoo (or any of the others - he's done them all) of an eastern dragon, hovering and arching over the top of my spine. Does it seem silly to get a friends CD cover tattooed? What if I fall out with him and I'm stuck with a tattoo that reminds me of him? The thing is, I didn't get the tattoo for that one person. I got it to represent true friends, in all their forms.

I'm not as close to this friend as I once was, when we would stay up for hours drinking tea and talking about nothing in particular. Or when he would turn up unannounced just because he didn't like the people filling the food court and he needed somewhere to eat his lunch. He was one of the first people to my house when my dog Holly died, almost upset as I was with the loss of a fur that was family to both of us. We've been together through those most sobering of moments, and through many extremely, well, not-sober moments. I was with him when he quit smoking, and a year later when he quit drinking. He was with me when I walked away from unhealthy relationships and whenever I made unhealthy chocolate mousse.

Our friendship went through a lot of changes last May, a year ago now. I saw less of him, and the circumstances outside our friendship that dictated the change made me a happier person, although a little less whole for the loss of his serenades, guitar-jams, singing lessons and still-now unwavering but less present faith in me. In July there were further circumstances that meant I haven't seen him since. He's never seen the house I'm now about to move out of, and it's been a long time since I sent him home from dinner with lunch for the next day.

When this darling friend was around, I felt like I finally had friends that got me. I have plenty of beautiful friends of many years, you know them well. But Squish would be the only one that likes almost everything I do. The others are friends through various other means and commonalities, and loved no less for it. When I was closer to this musician friend, I discovered more music through our group of friends than in my lifetime put together. I also drank more alcohol than in my lifetime put together. I had more fun than ever before. We loved all the same things, our little group. I didn't have to explain who I was, what I was thinking or why I felt the way I felt. At some point or another I started to grow apart from some of them, and though I didn't love them less and they played a huge part in my life, it was time to move on.

My tattoo not only represents that time in my life when I felt most accepted but also the time afterwards, when the people who liked the same things as me gave way to even more time with the people you know so well - those that may not be the same as me but love me anyway. My friends are the best friends in the world, they are family to me. Anyone I've ever been close to in my life I've told that no matter what happens between us they could turn up on my doorstep in 40 years and I'd always have their back. Following fall outs, drifting apart and the separating powers of oceans, I still keep my word. There are people I haven't spoken to in years that I would do anything for. Those are the people that my tattoo represents, and how could I ever get sick of that?