“Hate leaves ugly scars, love leaves beautiful ones” Mignon McLaughlin
Just recently, I learnt that an old friend of mine went overseas and returned with a tattoo of a symbolic animal inked with initials of his wife and two children. While he was very excited to show off his latest quest to his wife, things did not happen the way he wanted and instead he was totally caught off guard by her reaction. Not only did his wife refused to acknowledge that it was a romantic gesture, she condemned the act completely. She showered him with words that hurt him a lot. And now, he has been told unless he removed the tattoo, he is not allowed to go shirtless or in a tank top or swimming with his two beautiful children.
Those harsh and cruel words spoken must have bruised his ego, shook his pride and shattered his heart to the extent that he is contemplating making “the choice” – go for a tattoo laser removal or be condoned by his love ones forever. And he made the former choice, barely after weeks of getting the tattoo, which the doctor felt was a real pity as it was one of the most beautiful tattoos he ever seen.
This incident leads me to ponder how a statement of love full of sincerity can be misunderstood and turned into an act of condemnation. I believed it wasn’t my friend’s intention to hurt his family. A series of questions followed…what really went through his wife’s mind when she saw the tattoo? What exactly is so offensive about the tattoo that triggers her to spank my friend’s with hurtful words? Was it an invasion of privacy or rights that she is concerned about when my friend did not seek her approval before inking her and their children’s initials onto his body? Or, is there something else that she is bottling up for a long time that finally allows this incident to escalate her to blow over the top on something that can be embraced over time eventually? And with removal of the tattoo, will she accept and love him as much as before? Will the scars continue to remind her of the tattoo?
I know that many people have a stigma of tattoos but take a quick look around us in today’s society… many people ranging from celebrities to many people that we know personally have been contributing to the influence and acceptance of tattoos as an art form or freedom. For example; soccer star David Beckham is well-known not only for his fashion sense but also his body arts. He is often seen showing off his tattoos on advertisements, including the recent underwear commercial that he did for H&M which basically exposes his tattoo collection to the whole world! But I do not see people condemning him for it and instead look up to him as an idol, think highly of him as a good father and husband, admire his body arts and smitten by the charm that he possesses. Celebrity Angelina Jolie likewise has many tattoos and is a mother of six children. Let’s not forget she is also an ambassador for United Nations.
Do not get me wrong. I am not a big fan of tattoos but I absolutely do not flip over it. A tattoo can be a statement that represents something special in our life at a particular moment. It can signify something as magical as love. That love may not last a lifetime but it is one of the many footprints and memories in our long life journey. And perhaps we should choose to embrace these tattoos as part of the person’s past and current journey as well as what is made of them now.
The tattoo could also be a meaningful quote or a word that have influenced us at some point in our life. I believe when one decided to have a symbol permanently marked onto their body, that person, incident or thoughts must have a huge influence in their lives. To musk the courage to make the decision in having a tattoo and enduring the whole ordeal, is not an incident of window shopping. The whole process of thoughts takes longer than usual as compared to whether to buy that dress or not.
Remember when we were taught in school – the mother of 岳飞 (yuè fēi), a honorable Chinese military general during the Song Dynasty, tattooed four Chinese characters 尽忠报国 (jìn zhōng bào guó) across his back to remind him to serve his country with utmost loyalty. 岳飞 had to endure the pain in leaving his elderly mother behind and carried her words forward to fight for his country. This is one great example of a meaningful tattoo.
In my friend’s situation, the tattoo is an expression of his love for his family. Yes, it may be in a different form and out of the norm (cards, sweet messages, flowers, wood engravings, diamonds, jewellery etc.), but it certainly does not denote lack of respect and most of all does not signify the absence of love for his family. She may decide to comprehend his intention, sees through the goodness and purity of his heart, and speaks up what is really bothering her, then loving these stigma scars may not be that unbearable… Now, while he has to spend a fortune (and even more pain) in removing the tattoo and leaving some marks behind, the hurt that were inflicted on his pride may remain scarred for a longer time.
Chanced upon this picture of a girl with “Dad” and “Ben” tattooed on her hands. Is her dad’s name Ben or are these two persons the most important men in her life? As a parent, would you want your children to ink themselves the names of the most important people for remembrance sake? Or perhaps without a permanent reminder, the memory of the special person or feelings will soon fade away – just as the saying goes “out of sight, out of mind”… Regardless of what it might be, I believed she feels connected to these letters and hopefully they bring joy to her life.
Raining thought from
Voo Choon Ling
P.S. How will I react if someone were to tattoo “VCL”? Will I be moved to tears, spark into a firestorm of anger or scared to tears…?