When I was 18 years old, before I knew anything about Orthodox Judaism, I got two tattoos. It was the thing to do – I was in college and a bunch of my friends were doing it. As well as the fact that it was an excellent opportunity to upset my parents. I didn’t know that halacha said you are not allowed to get tattoos, I wouldn’t have known what halacha was anyway.
As the years went by, and I became frum, it was a problem. One of the tattoos is in a place where no one sees it, but the other is on my ankle. I had three options – get it removed, either cover it up all the time, or deal with Orthodox Jews seeing (and possibly commenting on) my tattoo.
I didn’t have the money or the pain tolerance to get it removed (yes, it hurt a lot to have it put on, but I didn’t care – for the reasons stated above). So that wasn’t really an option.
For a long time, I always kept my ankles covered. In the summer, I wore socks with my tennis shoes, never braving sandals. When I wore shorter skirts, with stocking, I always put a Band-Aid over my tattoo. I didn’t want it to be so obvious that I was a BT. And I didn’t want to endure the comments and judgments that I knew would be hurled at me when people caught glimpse of it.
But after a couple years, it got hot always wearing socks in the summer. And I got tired of having to always be stocked up on Band-Aids. I started allowing my tattoo to show.
I reasoned that if someone judged me for it – that was his or her problem. To me, my tattoo was a statement of how far I have grown in my life. It shows where I came from, something I am not ashamed of. And it shows that I have made huge changes in my life to get to where I am today.
So now my tattoo shows on many occasions, and while it isn’t something I show off, it isn’t something I hide either. To me, that tattoo is part of me, and is a symbol of the journey I traveled to arrive at the place I am today.