I was 20 years old when I first started getting tattooed so I wasn’t that young and it was certainly not on a whim. I had a clear vision of what I wanted and was not going to let anyone talk me out of it. I thought about this idea for a solid six months. It felt exhilarating to create something irreversible; to not to be afraid of what others might think. I felt empowered by my decision. I was not afraid of whatever stigma society would try to place on me.
My favorite holiday is Halloween. When I was younger, like any child, I enjoyed dressing up and going out trick-or-treating with my friends around the neighborhood. What I enjoyed even more was the Halloween festivities: pumpkin carving, decorating and watching Halloween-themed movies. So when I was looking for inspiration for my tattoo I looked to my love of Halloween. I wanted to combine the elements of the spirit of Halloween and my favorite ride at Magic Kingdom, The Haunted Mansion.
When it came down to deciding where and who to get tattooed by, there were no questions. My tattoo artist is a long-time friend and the owner of two successful shops in southern Florida. I sat down with him and discussed my ideas for this tattoo. He immediately grasped what I was going for, and couldn’t wait to get started. Within no time at all, he had drawn up a sketch for me; a beautiful Victorian-style frame with a dapper skeleton reflection. From start-to-finish, the entire tattoo was completed in 6 hours spread across 3 sessions. My first session was the initial outline of the tattoo. Just over a week later, I came back for my next session, which was the coloring of the frame. We had decided on a vintage color palate. After the frame was colored in, I waited for it to heal and came back a few weeks later to start on the skeleton. I knew immediately that I wanted this skeleton to wear a bowtie and a top hat. My artist laughed at the idea but liked that I wanted to add a certain sense of character to him. By the end of the next session, my vision had come to life. I could not stop staring at this new piece of art he had created for me.
My decision to be tattooed was met with a certain level of skepticism by my family. They asked whether I would get bored with the idea and if I could remove it. My mother wasn’t too happy (as is the case with most mom’s) but I wasn’t expecting her to be. Even so, my tattoo reminds me of the optimism that characterized my early twenties and my innate disobedience. I wasn’t looking to rebel, but instead, I was reclaiming my individuality.
The year is 2009; my hair is long and black and my jeans are uncomfortably tight. My desperate attempt to establish my individuality consists of band tees, red lipstick and Converse shoes. I was dating someone during this time that lived the life of hardcore bands, which made me come to idolize the alternative look that he had: piercings, tattoos and a bad ass attitude to match.
That’s when I decided to ‘stretch’ my ears. During this time, I was not thinking of the pain this may cause or most importantly, the effect it would have on my future career. I should also mention that I was majoring in Elementary Education. I began to research the history of ear stretching and how to start doing it. As it turned out, this trend had been around for thousands of years. Otzi the Iceman, the world’s oldest mummified body was wearing an ear-stretcher somewhere between 7-11mm.
I purchased a “taper kit” online and impatiently waited for it to arrive. Within the next few days, my package arrived. One night, I slowly pushed the plastic taper through my left lobe, until I was at a 14mm. My ear was red and throbbing with pain but as far as I was concerned it looked really cool. I then pushed the taper through my right ear. Throughout the course of the next few weeks and months, I began moving up in sizes, 2mm at a time. I wore the taper for one week and then replaced it with the appropriate sized gauge.
My mother was not pleased, but I did not care. People would often ask: ‘Why would you do that to yourself?’ ‘Did it hurt? ‘Won’t you have difficulty finding a job?’ and other questions that I eventually began to ignore altogether or responded with ‘I don’t know’, ‘Yes’ or ‘Not sure’ . Now, however, stretched ears are a common sight almost anywhere. I wanted to achieve individuality, but now everyone seemed to have “huge holes” in their ears.
To this day, I still believe that my stretched ears are a defining part of my individuality and have never had any negative effects on my career. I would never want to work for a corporation that wouldn’t accept me for who I truly was. People often ask me if I have ever regretted stretching my ears. I briefly went through a time period of regret. I even considered getting a reversal procedure, which entails cutting and stitching the holes back together. I finally decided to be happy overall with the choice to stretch my earlobes. If my body is a temple, why not decorate the walls?