I’m your typical 30 something Canadian girl. I have a box of wine in my pantry (because people don’t judge you at the recycling depot when you only have boxes). I wear sensible shoes to take my kids to the spray park. I binge watch the Mindy Project and imagine a world where the series continues. I also don’t have any tattoos or piercings.
The thing is that I love a well placed tattoo or piercing. Especially a really great tattoo. An artistic script on that tender white spot below the elbow. An elaborate shaded scene that never falters from perfect proportions across the broad canvas of the back.
But you will never see me with a tattoo.
Not just because I’m such a basic scrawny pale girl that I make Avril Lavigne look like Bif Naked. No, I can never get one because of all the times I ever wanted one before. They would have been epic fails marring my body with my bad choices and naive youth for all my life.
I blame Drew Barrymore for starting my tattoo obsession. I saw Mad Love when I was 13; she was irresistible in it and had this unhealthy fixation with butterflies. Then I walked around for years all ‘butterflies are free’ so clearly I am not, since I am not a butterfly. Next logical step, ink myself with a butterfly and the world will know I am a blonde walking world of whimsy and unbending liberation. But, hey, I would not get just any ol’ butterfly. Nope! I needed a custom one with a sun, a maple leaf, and a cross. Of course it would be too small to make out this meaningful symbolism because it would have to nestle tastefully on the small of my back. Where it would peek out under my shirt all, ‘Hey….I’m mysterious….I’m sexy….’
At least a whole generation of women thought so at the time.
Next was the matchy matchy tattoo I was going to get with my two sisters. A decision that was sound when hungover, but it included a maple leaf with a cowboy hat. Yes, a cowboy hat. For someone who could barely lift a bale of hay let alone have the pelvic floor strength to ride a horse. This tattoo would really have been symbolic of how the brain of 20-year-old me worked.
My teenage years were more Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed and I was so ready to be over that image. My theories on life were that self-awareness could be found in an All Saints song and that whiskey tasted good. (I still believe one of those to be true, fine, I believe both). Anyways, since we are classy broads, this ill-fitting tattoo would obviously have been on our hip. ‘Cause word on the street was small of the back tattoos weren’t all that mysterious after all.
Then Young Adult Shawna was like, “Hey Cowgirl, tone it down. You aren’t 21 anymore.” So, logically, I wanted a giant cross on my back. I was in love with the full back scene of gradations and lines all working together in a beautiful timeless image. But it took some real self-interventions to acknowledge that it would have ended up looking like a grey Praying Mantis when I copped out after the outline stage. All up to this point, tattoo-aspiring Shawna never fully pondered the pain in the process. I mean, if paper cuts crippled my ability to hold a fork, then I probably shouldn’t take on a full back tat.
My tattoo dream was still haunting me though. Most recently I had the resolve, “I’m a mom who won’t be lost in obscurity of laundry and Cheerios. So, let’s tat it up!” I knew there was one I wouldn’t regret…. my kid’s names. But then I had so many questions.
What if they misspelled them?
What if I laid everything out perfectly and then turn out to be ‘that mom’ whose husband vasectomy didn’t take? Then I’d have another name to stack on top of the finished product?
What if I pick a font that becomes the future equivalent of comic sans? I’d be the personification of those tiny personalized license plates that Moms buy from the dollar store for their kid’s bedroom doors.
Besides, I kind of already have a tattoo from my kids. If I sit at the right angle and cough, their names are spelled out in the feathery stripes of my stretch marks.
I guess we could call it the natural evolution of this woman. From 13 to 32, there have been too many versions of things that I placed hope, belief and certainty in. It’s not just about lack of commitment or an embarrassingly low pain tolerance. It is also about having my own messy personal development scrawled over my body for life.
I will stick to admiring tattoos on other people. I will never get one. At least not until Facebook invents an UNDO button for my life choices.