What do tattoos say about you?

I spent Sunday in Malibu, which is one of my favorite places on earth.  It was sunny and warm with just the right mix of locals and tourists.  It was busy but not overly crowded.  We scoped out our spot and settled in.  It was about 11 am and our fellow beach bums were families with young kids, older groups of ladies, and a sprinkling of couples.  It was a relaxed day and everyone was friendly.

We decided to go for a long walk along the beach and it was glorious.  I can walk along the ocean with no thought of distance.  The waves were gentle, the sun was bright, I was with my Englishman and his kids, and I felt happy.  Having my son away has been hard, but being with his girls makes it easier.  I am 12 days from seeing my son and the beach brought me peace and comfort.

When we returned to our beach spot it was as if we took a wrong turn and got lost. In the hour we went walking the beach changed its tune.  We were surrounded by kids in their early 20’s who were drinking beers and talking about how they were trashed the night before.  One guy was talking in detail about how his girlfriend was mad that he had gotten drunk and kissed another girl.

The boys looked like the after photos of meth addicts you see online, and the girls were covered in tattoos that made me think they must have experienced some sort of trauma to mark their bodies in such a way.  To me, their bodies told the story of pain. I love tattoos and think they are art.  I have a few of my own and they mean something.  They are small and discreetly located.

My tattoos have commemorated moments of meaning in my life and they are strategically placed for privacy, or not.  They honor my son, father, faith, myself, and my life.  Nobody knows what they mean unless I tell them, and while some may think a woman with tattoos is trashy, I was an adult when I got them, knew what I was doing, and do not regret getting any of my ink.

I’m not one to pass judgment on how a person looks, but I found myself disturbed by tattoos I saw on Sunday.  One girl in particular made me a little sad.  She had beautiful strawberry blonde hair, a truly magnificent body, and tattoos that were shocking.  None were particularly pretty, all seemed rather harsh, and from experience I can say must have been painful.

Her tattoos included claws on the breasts, flowers all over her stomach and private areas, tigers, dark images and foreign writing all over her back.  She was a beautiful girl who could have been a beauty queen and yet her tattoos painted a picture that inspired sadness.  I love tattoos but wanted to cover her up in a towel, give her a hug, and offer her some money and a sandwich.

I am disappointed in myself for judging her.  I’m sure she loved hers as much as I love mine because she was not afraid to show them off.  That said, it was a hot day and she was covered in tattoos so unless she is going to sit in the sun fully clothed, there was no way to not show her ink.  I could not tell if she was proud or embarrassed but I guess it doesn’t matter.

I have seen women with full body art and it was beautiful.  This young girl however had tattoos that looked violent.  It got me thinking about what tattoos say about people.  Do people see me, a “nice Jewish girl” and automatically think I am damaged or broken for having marked my body in this way?  Is the assumption that I am a bad Jew for having tattoos?

We are all judgmental of each other I suppose, and perhaps the girl with the tattoos and made her own assumptions about me.  In the end tattoos are personal and I hope she looks at hers and loves them as much as I love mine.  It was a fabulous and interesting day at the beach and I learned that spending time judging is not as valuable as spending my time keeping the faith.