Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inked: Loves and Ideas

Those with tattoos know that one thing is true:  It's very hard to stop at one.

At 18, I got my first one.  It was my birthday present.  I drew and designed it myself.  And I cried like a baby ( first one at the top of my spine?? It hurt like hell...). But I love it!

Cake and Tattoo

My Mermaid

For about two weeks, I was able to hide it from my parents.  Unfortunately, I traveled home two weeks after getting it to become a naturalized American citizen.  The interviewer asked me, with each parent on either side of me, "Do you have any birthmarks or tattoos that would help to identify you?"  Shit.

I started with my birthmark - a reddish blurb on the bottom of my left foot.  I hesitated, but I got nervous about being in a government building.  So, I confessed to the interviewer...and to my parents.  The interviewer was clearly apologetic about exposing me to my parents.  And my parents had never been so angry.  My mom did most of the yelling, and I was saddened that my dad seemed to not know what to say to me.

But it was hilarious, retrospectively of course.

On my 19th birthday, I wanted some more.  I wanted something more to represent who I was.  My ex-boyfriend drew an awesome version of the Aries and Taurus symbols combined - as I am born on the cusp of both.


Again, it hurt as it was on my spine.  And again, I hid this one from my parents as well.  But, my dad visited me one day while I was in college, and he caught a glimpse of it.  All he could say was that my mom would be so angry about it.

I was very conscious about the location of my tattoos.  Both of them were meant to be concealed, so that I would be able to find a "respectable job."  But I was finding that I wanted to see my tattoos.  Now, I'm not as ballsy as getting a sleeve.  But I wanted something that I could display proudly when appropriate.

At around the time I was getting a third itch, I was getting to know my culture again.  I had enrolled in several Asian American Studies courses, one focusing on the Filipino-American culture.  I had known several people who got tattoos of Chinese and Japanese characters, and I knew that I could never do that as it did not represent my own culture.  After some research, I decided that I would get a tattoo of my name in Baybayin.
Baybayin, a pre-Filipino script, is a syllabary script. 

I considered the implications of getting my name, which has a Latin root, in a non-Western script.  In actuality, since Baybayin is a syllabary, the script shows how my name sounds:  "se-si-li-a."  Often, people would get a tattoo of a word or a phrase that they strongly feel for.  But at 21, I felt like all I could really stand for was who I was and am.  I'm still very proud of this tattoo.

As the years passed, I gathered a lot of interesting questions about my tattoos.  Most of the time, only a little section of my mermaid was visible, and people would come up with a variety of things that it could be.  People also asked if it was "finished," since most tattoos are full pictures or completely shaded in.  It's finished - though, more recently, I've thought of making her bigger.

People also like to believe that I'm crazy enough to get a tattoo representing a significant other and myself - as in the Aries-Taurus symbols represent a relationship of mine.  I'm personally one to believe that you are just asking for Murphy's Law to slap you in the face if you get a tattoo representing someone other than yourself, your parents, your children/pets, or someone who's passed.

My personal favorite comment is when people ask if the tattoo on my wrist says, "Bub-t.v."  I mean...what?  I guess I see where they're coming from...but, for seriously?  Interestingly, the tattoo artist who put this on me asked if I wanted it facing other people, as it was customary for arm tattoos to be easy for others to read.  I thought this was an interesting suggestion.  I wasn't getting the tattoo for anyone other than myself, so why should other people have an easier time reading it?

Regardless of the comments, this unfortunately hasn't been the end of my body art.

At 26, as my 4 year anniversary of living in Boston, I accepted that I am bicoastal.  At this point, I have grown to love living in Boston, though I know that I will eventually move back to the West Coast.  I thought long and hard about this tattoo, and it had gone through a variety of iterations before it happened.  I thought about east and west, sunrise and sunset.

I loved the way tattoos look on ankles and feet, but was told that it was not a recommended location as the skin sloughs off faster.  Valuing longevity, I opted for the ankles.  I couldn't convince anyone to draw it up for me, but I knew what I was going for:  Tattoos representing where I've been, helping me root myself.
Bicoastal with Philippine Sun Rising and Setting.

I'm still struggling with my itchy feet, so I feel that if I can acknowledge where I've been, it will feel less difficult to travel to new places.  Originally, I wanted the sunrise and sunsets to be over the ocean - naturally.  But, I was having a hard time finding major differences between the two phenomenons.  In Google searches, there was very little difference - except for their location.  I realized that foliage was a major part of the location, as it also related to the "rooting" of my feet.  And though I wanted to stay as natural as possible, when I saw the drawings of the cities, I couldn't say no.

This tattoo involved some travel.  At this point, I warned my parents ahead of time, and they couldn't do anything about it.  My west coast tattoo, featuring the palm tree and City of Angels in the background, was designed and done in Los Angeles.  My east coast tattoo, featuring the elm tree and City of Boston in the background, was designed and done in Allston.  I love them both.

With this one, I've also gotten comments about the geography and how other people view them.  "They're on the wrong legs," someone once said.  I got them based on if I were facing North, or if I was looking at a map.  My favorite comment was complimentary, stating, "It's like you're straddling the country."

I fear that this is not the end of my itch for tattoos, however.

I've been trying to convince my best friend to design a tattoo for me for years.  Preferably, I would like something representing my musical nature.  Though I'm out of practice, I still love the upright bass.  When I have more money and time, I'd love to take it up again.  I love the idea of getting the f-holes, but I feel like it's a standard thing musicians do.

I want my f-holes to be mermaids.  It would be somewhat artsy, but the foundation of it would be those f-holes.  I would also want them to be smaller and on my forearms instead of on my back or waist as many others do.  This obviously calls into question the whole idea of being inconspicuous.  I don't want to banish myself to long-sleeved shirts forever.  Nonetheless, it's something that's on my list of ideas.

Most recently, I've reignited my thoughts about getting lyrics with music notes.  My love for The Beatles has helped guide me in this idea.  Though I find it difficult to use others words or words in general, I feel like I've stumbled onto my next tattoo.

While there are some classic lyrics such as "All You Need is Love," I feel like that's not what represents me.  My favorite lyrics come from the last Beatles lyrics:
"The End"

I feel like this is the most true for me.  So, I did some research.  Again, I would like to see this tattoo - as a constant reminder of my personal truth.  I think it would be awesome to incorporate the music notes somehow, perhaps with the actual bars of phrasing as well.  I always thought it would be neat to have bars of music on my wrists, with the notes reflecting the treble and bass clefs on the right and left, respectively.

Then I remembered a specific mudra in yoga, the one I felt very connected with.  After some Googling, I found that it was actually two mudras often combined in many Buddha and Quan Yin statues.  The right hand faces forward with fingers upward in the abhaya mudra, which is meant to signify fearlessness.  The left hand also faces forward with fingers downward in the varada mudra, which is meant to signify fully giving of oneself.

It just seems appropriate to have "and in the end, the love you take" on the right and "is equal to the love you make" on the left.  Doesn't it?

Now, these are just ideas.  And I'm in no position to be spending money on tattoos right now.  But, I'm quite excited about this idea.  Maybe it's something I'll get for my 30th birthday - hopefully the end of my Return of Saturn phase.  Maybe it's something I'll get when a major change occurs.

But, as with all my current and future tattoos, I believe these things take time, thinking, and planning.  The beginning has come and gone...and now I'm just waiting for the end.


  1. CECI!! you. are. AMAZING. (!!!!!!!!!!!)

    i love that you have such great sense of self! its very inspirational!!!

    it still freaks me out that you'll have something that i did on your skin!!! yikes-bikes!

    i want a teeny-tiny seahorse tattoo... i really do! well, its probably cus im looking at all your great tattoos!!

  2. I totally had the same f hole mermaids idea. Let's do it.

  3. I totally had the same f hole mermaids idea. Let's do it.


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