I’ve clearly been having a bit of a body-modification thing these past few months. And so I thought it might be fun to do a roundup of all the tattoos, mostly because I love hearing the stories behind other people’s (tell me yours, tell me yours!).
I don’t know why I’ve never talked about most of my tattoos before – but I started thinking about this tonight, and I suspect the reason is that every time I start to write about them I get stuck. Not because I’m nervous to share my reasons for getting each one – I may not agree with those reasons anymore, but I’m a firm believer that the point of tattoos is not to be totally, all-in certain that THIS IS THE ONE, FOREVER, but rather to mark moments in time that meant something to you (and that’s something you can never be sorry for doing). No, I think I’ve never talked much about them because some are easy to explain, but others? I’m not confident that I can convey why I chose to put those marks on my body. Not well enough, anyway. And I don’t want to render them trite, because to me they’re not.
That’s why art exists, after all: sometimes words just aren’t enough.
But hey. Let’s give it a shot.
First, there was The Lower Back Tattoo. I refuse to even consider the label “tramp stamp” because I think that’s just a completely terrible thing to call…well, anything, but most especially something that a lot of women I know have and that for many – myself included – was an early experiment in independence and self-expression.
You know what I think about tattoos generally, and lower back tattoos in particular?
That’s what I think.
Now, I don’t particularly “like” the tattoo I have on the small of my back, if we’re talking aesthetics – it’s a Gemini symbol (I know, I know) surrounded by stephanotis flowers (which I added several years later), and it’s not even an especially pretty Gemini symbol; it’s sort of blocky and clumsy and and harsh…but it’s also a tattoo that I got in Rhode Island during my freshman year of college, when two of my best friends and I drove down from college for the day because tattoos were illegal in Massachusetts at the time, and we laughed and ate pizza and were so nervous we almost cried and then so excited that we had new tattoos and that we’d done it together, and it was wonderful then and is still wonderful to think about now. So.
Next, there was the dreamcatcher. When my father and I drove cross-country after I graduated from college we spent a lot of time in New Mexico and Arizona, and I picked up a dreamcatcher as a memory of that trip (I still have it to this day). In the months that followed, I found myself constantly doodling this one design – a sort of dreamcatcher-star-compass hybrid – on a notepad next to my phone whenever I was chatting with my mom or with my agents or whoever, and so one day my boyfriend Rob took me to a tattoo parlor, and convinced me that getting a huge tattoo on my arm was a badass move.
In retrospect, wow, that was an aggressive spot for me to put it, just because…you know, it’s very there. There’s really no hiding it. But I am so, so glad that I have it; I love how much it symbolizes a moment in my life when it felt like my whole future lay ahead of me. I love that it’s inelegant, and the shading is weird, and the lines aren’t straight because the tattoo artist clearly didn’t care all that much and that’s the way that it was that day. I love how it’s faded over time. And mostly I love how nearly everything has changed since that day, but some things – the most important ones, I think – have stayed exactly the same.
Oh, let’s go ahead and add some random flowers. One day, maybe a year after I got the dreamcatcher tattoo, Rob and I were housesitting for Mira Sorvino (this is true and also weird; I tell the story in my book) and sort of moping around her Malibu mansion all bored and unemployed (this was less glamorous than it sounds; the reality is that we were probably hiding from her pack of rabid dogs and/or worrying ourselves sick about everything in our lives), and he asked me to design him a big hawk tattoo to go on his arm.
So I drew a hawk, and we decided that next time we went to the city we’d go to a tattoo parlor to get it done. And then on the morning of the day we had booked our appointment, I decided what the hell, I’d get a tattoo, too. And then my mom decided she wanted to go also. So I drew some white flowers for me, and some pink flowers for mom, and the three of us headed downtown.
You can see the flowers in that sunset-at-the-pool photo above; it’s probably my least favorite tattoo, just because it doesn’t really have meaning beyond “I don’t like the way the Gemini symbol on my back looks on its own and I think I’d like to add some white flowers.” The artist was pretty good, and the flowers technically symbolize good luck and travel, but…
Eh. Not my favorite.
Still, though: no regerts.
A return to the East Coast…and some impulsive romance. A few weeks after Kendrick and I met, I said something to him along the lines of how I was surprised he didn’t have any tattoos (you know: musician, et cetera), and he said that he’d always wanted one but had never known what to get. And within a few days we were on the Lower East Side, and he was getting a huge arm tattoo of…
Now, this was quite obviously insane – we weren’t even engaged yet – but I’ll tell you what: at that moment, and for every moment since, it felt like the most logical thing in the world. And so I decided to return the gesture with my own grand, impulsive display of affection, and had a “K” tattooed on my foot.
Next up: The Moody Quote. The Tom Waits quote that I put on my arm shortly after Goldie was born – it says “anywhere I lay my head” – is a very closer runner-up for favorite tattoo. It’s a song that meant a lot to Kendrick and me when we first met – we both felt very lost, and were very much searching for a home both literally and emotionally – and now has come to mean that no matter where I go and no matter what happens, home is where my family is. And so I added two little birds to the sides of the quote: one for my son, and one for my daughter.
And finally: That Sun/Moon Thing On My Back. The most recent tattoo I got was initially more about the getting of the tattoo than the tattoo itself; Francesca and I wanted to go on a little adventure together, and to get something to commemorate our friendship. She decided to get a moon on her ankle, while I decided to get a sun on my back (since we met in California, and sunny days by the water were such a big part of our time living together). And then while I was drawing it out, I remembered that my daughter was born during the Supermoon, and that my son’s first phrase was “moon…stars” (oh, my heart)…and so I made it into a sun. And a moon. And a star. With a little dose of Compass Rose, because these people in my life who I love more than anything…they’re who help me figure out how to chart a course through this life.
And so there you have it: the stories of my tattoos…which are the stories of my life, drawn in my own hand. (Except for that Gemini symbol, which I’m pretty sure came straight out of a book on the tattoo artist’s table. We’ll just let that one slide.)