My mother may have thought I was cutting my wrists for a while.
Partly as a cliched version of an OTD person, and partly because I’d dreamt of it since I was 10, I got a tattoo about 6 months after going my own way.
For my first tattoo, I carefully chose a place on my body that would always be covered when I saw my family. Because I was still dressing completely tzniusdik anytime I saw them, the inside of my upper arm would always be covered by sleeves, safely out of sight.
But when I decided to get my second tattoo, it was at a time when things had gotten bad between me and my parents. I sincerely thought I would never see or speak to them again.
The placement of my second tattoo – on the inside of my wrist – was important and meaningful to me. And since I figured I no longer had to make choices based on what my family would see or what their reaction would be, I could do it!
But it turns out that wasn’t the end of my relationship with my parents. It was just one more rough patch in a string of rough patches, and we got through this rough patch…
And now I was going to my parents with words tattooed inside my wrist. Only slightly lower than the most common placement of “Holocaust numbers,” to compound the stark reminder of the permanence of my decisions.
So every time I went home, I covered it with a large bandage.
I played around with smaller Band-Aids for a while, creating a patchwork of four or five to completely cover the ink. Then I bought large padded bandages and just slapped one big one over the whole tattoo.
When I went home for a full shabbos or yom tov and had to keep the tattoo covered for 26 hours or more, my skin was all wrinkled by the time I took off the bandage.
I usually made sure to be wearing long sleeves with a tight bracelet holding the sleeve in place, even when I was wearing a bandage. And for someone who likes to pull my sleeves up to my elbow, this was kind of torturous… It also meant when I washed for hamotzi (mostly so as not to draw attention to myself as the only one not washing), my sleeves inevitably got wet.
My mother asked me about the bandage once. I said “oh, it’s nothing, I scraped myself, don’t worry.”
She responded with her trademark, “Of course I worry, it’s a mother’s job to worry.” But she didn’t press the issue.
By now, things with my family have changed drastically. I don’t dress tzniusdik when I go to them (although that comes with a host of problems of its own). And I don’t cover my tattoos.
This summer, my mother even asked me what the tattoos say.
I think she may have been relieved to see proof that I was not actually slitting my wrists. And so in a weird twist of events, she was relieved that I have a tattoo.
Update: A few years on, I no longer speak to my parents. The truce was an uneasy one and didn’t last.