I once got asked a question:
This question is so simple. It’s not offensive, not really, but it just strikes me as odd in so many ways. But, first, let me give you the backdrop.
I was asked this question almost a decade ago. My oldest child (a toddler then) and I were at a grocery store just getting the essentials. I had fewer tattoos at the time but I’ve had this really colorful, bright tattoo on my forearm for most of my adult life. It’s a prominent feature that I almost always forget is there, especially now that it has faded somewhat. If you’re wondering, it’s a phoenix. The fading has made it more abstract and you probably wouldn’t guess that at first sight, but that’s okay.
For the younger crowd, it’s important to note that I’ve had this tattoo long enough to have fielded comments like: “Oh my god, you have that in a corporate job?!” It has been nearly twenty years since I first got it and so much has changed around tattoos since then. It’s almost like the cool thing now is to not have tattoos at all.
When I was asked this question, my kid would often draw pictures on their arms – to have their own tattoos. It was cute.
There we are, at the store, and a woman approaches me. She asks the question, “What does the child think of your tattoo?” I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that question then – I can’t tell you exactly how I responded. I probably said something along the lines of: “They like it.” Being younger, I wasn’t willing to be confrontational and ask questions like, “Why are you asking this?” or “Why do you need to know?”
Side note: one lesson I’ve learned getting older is that it’s okay to stand up for yourself. It’s okay to question things that don’t make sense even if it’s an uncomfortable question. I should have asked my own questions to determine if this was a well-meaning question of interest or an insult to my parenting.
Anyway, I’ve thought about this moment a lot over the years. Why did she say “the child”? Why would she ask me that question anyways? Who cares what a toddler thinks about a tattoo? There’s just so many things I want to know and can never ask. Looking back, though, I wish I had answered differently.
I wish I had told her that my child didn’t think anything of it because it wasn’t a big deal in our house. It shouldn’t be a big deal outside of our house either – it’s just an art form. It’s self-expression. It’s me putting pictures on my skin of things that I enjoy or love. It gives my skin color, it breaks up the monotony. It tells a story. I’ve gotten quite a few more tattoos since then and some of them have stories, some have meaning, some were just for fun.
Ultimately, I should have said: it’s just a thing. And just because I do a thing doesn’t mean that my children have to do that thing. Having this art on my skin doesn’t make me less of a parent either. It changes nothing.
I doubt anyone would ask this question now. I’m willing to bet that woman has her own tattoos now because everyone has tattoos these days. Regardless, I’ll probably spend the rest of my life wondering about this one chance encounter. Wondering why I got asked this question.
Until next time,
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