Inaugural Tattoo

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It was 2002. I was 29 years old. I was in what would later be known as the twilight phase of my marriage to my children’s father. I had always been a “good” kid who wanted to change the world for Jesus. I never drank. I never smoked. I never did drugs. I never partied. I never had sex until my wedding night. I believed that racism, sexism, and classism were wrong. And I was going to turn my convictions into proactive advocacy as an adult; that was my passion.  I wanted to work with an organization called World Impact, who places missionaries in inner-city neighborhoods to live amongst those you minister to.

That all changed when I MET my ex-husband/children’s father. A native of Trinidad, but having grown up in the ghetto of Washington, D.C., he was not about to move BACK to an inner-city. So, I acquiesced my dreams and convictions for him…. something I became rather good at.

The blatant abuse started on our honeymoon to the Bahamas, where he told me that he could kill me, then disappear into the “island” population, because he would blend right in, and no one would ever think suspiciously of him. Whether that was true or not, that was when fear began to override my practical, logical thinking processes in dealing with him, and our marriage. The “train” started derailing with that seemingly simple, but loaded phrase, whispered in a guarded rage over something that wasn’t even worthy of a thought…. And this abrupt turn in our relationship was in spite of the fact that we had known each other for over two years, and had been in intense premarital counseling for eight months.

Fast forward to the end of the nightmare of our twelve-year marriage. Our relationship was marked by a raging cocaine addiction and regular domestic abuse on his part…. a norm for our street address from the time we moved to that property… Having been accused of every possible transgression one can commit, repeatedly, over the previous twelve years, I was desperate to “prove” to him that I was a good wife and mom. A babysitter of ours, a girl that he had taught ( another story for another post) had just got her first tattoo. He thought it was cool. And I thought it was cool. But more importantly, I thought that maybe, if I got his name E-T-C-H-E-D into my skin, he would know that I was loyal only to him ( something that was never proven, in spite of how hard I tried,and in spite of never giving him a reason to think otherwise). So, with the babysitter in tow, I made my way to Berkeley, where I received the tattoo pictured here, only his name was where the shamrock is now.

The tattoo artist sternly  warned me that day against getting my husband’s name permanently inked into my skin, saying that names of romantic partners as tattoos are never encouraged by the industry. But I was determined to show my husband that he was important to me, so I took that risk.  I had a tattoo of him, and my children’s names, tattooed on my back, with a Celtic trinity symbol, to symbolize my love of being Irish, and my love for God as well.

Fast forward two more years, the summer of 2004. After having to leave my home and marriage, with my 3-and 6-year-old  in tow, through a police escort and full restraining order in place, due to escalating physical abuse on my husbands’ part,  I was a 100 pound shell of my former self. Broken. Drained. Limp….. I sat one night in my, “void of anything, but what I could carry out of my home in ten minutes,” apartment, remembering the little memorial stone on my back. All of a sudden I felt violently sick. I had to get his name OFF of my skin… A couple of incredibly painful and expensive attempts to get his name lasered off, and I finally went back to the same tattoo artist who had inked the first one. After telling him my story, he, in its’ place, inked a shamrock, for my Irish heritage, to match the Celtic trinity symbol. For free. Without judgment of any kind. With instead, the utmost IN kindness. And then he told me to NEVER put another man’s name on my body again. And I haven’t. And I won’t. Ever.

This memorial stone is a reminder to me of the length and price to which we will go to “prove” our love to someone; when, once you realize that you are at the point where love has to be “proven”, you learn that it was probably never true love to begin with in the first place.

Tattoo 1: Spring, 2002, “edited”  Summer, 2004.

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