How My Tattoo Gave Me Strength

 Photo: Kaitlin Kenny

Photo: Kaitlin Kenny

I’ve always loved tattoos; whether a simple phrase or an elaborate sleeve, I find them to be incredible and unique works of art. Ever since I was a young teenager, I’ve thought and rethought of a million different designs that I’d want to put on my body, including pawprints, mandalas, and even characters from movies or books. Several years ago, my mother got my brother and my names placed on her wrists with a butterfly and a dragonfly, and my father opted for a half sleeve of a tiger. This only increased my curiosity and admiration, creating an itch that could only be scratched by a tattoo gun. It led to a booking with the oldest running tattoo artist in Thunder Bay, Dean Bruno of Living Colour. I was going to get a bold, yet simple triangle placed a few inches above my left heel.

Several months ago, I read an inspirational quotation that read, “Your body is your own home, so feel free to decorate it as you wish”. Until I read that, I felt like my body wasn’t fully mine, like it belonged to someone else. I wasn’t happy with myself, and suffered from low self-esteem as so many young adults do. In current media, I am not considered desirable. I’m overweight, don’t shave as much as I “should”, and have blemishes. I allowed society to take control of my body and dictate what I should and should not look like. My body was like an apartment that I could only decorate with the landlord’s approval. My tattoo allowed me to reclaim my body.

This simple design helped me feel more confident and attractive. Instead of hiding myself in big clothes, I was able to wear outfits that I felt good in. Since the tattoo healed, I actually want people to notice me. I seriously went from a wimpy wallflower to a bold butterfly. I want people to understand that I can’t be controlled by society, and that I am my own independent person. The permanence of the tattoo helped me discover my beauty. I used to meekly agree with the “Eff Your Beauty Standards” campaign by tattooed, plus-sized model extraordinaire Tess Holliday, but now I can proudly be a part of it.

There are so many meanings triangles can hold, whether it be historical, religious, or even scientific. When getting a tattoo, it is important to note that symbols can mean different things to different people, and it’s especially true for me. When coloured in either pink or black, it mimics the identification placed on gay and lesbian people imprisoned in Nazi camps and is also used in LGBTQ advocacy. In fact, the German World War II concentration camp, Dachau, has a memorial for those imprisoned there, in which the artist left some blank triangles with a black outline that look quite similar to mine. Triangles can also mean masculinity, Delta, or solar energy. It is the alchemical sign for fire, and represents a number of triads, including the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Creation, Destruction, and Preservation.

Despite these meanings, I chose a triangle for a reason that is much more personal. While life has never been particularly easy or kind to me, the past few years have been even more difficult. In the past six years alone, I’ve suffered from numerous ailments, several accidents, and a few nasty diagnoses from my doctors. Life has tried to knock me down more times than I can count, and yet I still fight every day of my life, and will continue to do so. Triangles are a very special shape: they are the strongest. They are unbreakable. I am a triangle. I am unbreakable, and I cannot be brought down. My triangle is a reminder to myself that I can handle whatever may come my way.

I thought a tattoo would just be a little picture on me, a decoration on the body I call home. I now see that it’s so much more than that: it is my reclamation, my confidence boost, and my reminder of exactly who I am. I never thought a fancy machine and some black ink could give me something so important.