Years ago, I sat for my phoenix tattoo and soon after wrote this blog. I had just gone through a divorce and felt as though I might not survive. This phrase is commonly used in a laughing matter to express frustration or recount something unpleasant like a bad commute in traffic. For me, I literally questioned if I was going to be able to live through that moment in time.
My tattoo allowed me to work through a mountain of issues in five two-hour settings by purely experiencing physical pain. I couldn’t be more proud or love my phoenix more. Ask any friends of mine and they will agree that I cannot go anywhere without someone commenting on how badass it is or who did my work.
It’s 2019 and there are still people that think tattoos are fleeting forms of drunk ideas symbolizing an irresponsible decision or a mechanism of passing time while you were locked up. They don't see that it can be a form of therapy; just something to regret. Unfortunately, my father's side of the family fits in this judgemental and outdated category.
Three years ago, my sister was engaged and I was concerned I had not heard any news regarding the wedding, bachelorette party, or bridal shower. Truth be told, I wasn’t thrilled she was getting married as young as she was. I had spent my adult life making a “thirty or after” wedding rule, but this was her decision and I was willing to support her choices. However, my family had other plans for my role at her wedding: a back row seat near the exit. I was not allowed to be in her wedding party but was invited to buy gifts for her shower. The details regarding this exclusion are small and can sound petty on paper but the feelings around family dynamics are big and serious.
First, a bit of background. I waited my whole little life to meet my dad. My parents ended their high school relationship scorned and angry. They have their issues that have nothing to do with me personally but would trickle down and permeate my entire childhood (but that’s another blog). When I turned 17, I used to lie about going to a sleepover and drive to Houston (1.5 hours away) to visit this magical man that looked like me and shared my name. Most of these visits were conducted under two hours because of the logistics of the lie.
During college he would come and pick me up for dinner to “feed this poor chick” and I cherished these moments. He was fun, loud, and also had giant thighs. I could tell he had hesitations about me, his oldest daughter, because of my collection of resistance propaganda in the form of piercings. You could see the “this wouldn’t have happened if I had raised her” look in his eyes. But he didn’t raise me, he chose to take a backseat in my life.
Back to the present. The wedding sent me into a spiral of feelings for almost a year. The words “we love you but we don’t love your tattoos” resonated with me like a hammer to my knees. Today, that shallow, self-righteous attitude still makes me angry but more in the form of sadness for my sister, dad, and stepmom. Judgement cloaked by religion and the inability to empathize must be a heavy burden for them to carry. I am not sure how they sleep, but I am guessing it must be pretty sound when you only have to be accountable to yourself and your own narrow worldview.
I do have a giant tattoo but I have taken the piercings out. I am a responsible business-owning adult. My friends are the shit and I love my job. Overall, I feel I am a pretty badass bitch. Unfortunately, my sister won’t get to know that ever again. Since the wedding, I have had zero communication with her. She attempted to approach me and initiate a topical conversation at a funeral but I just don’t have room for that in my life. I have tried to stay in contact with my father but it's rarely what I want and mostly sends me into a mini-depression for days, so I quit.
Two weeks ago, I walked into a local restaurant to pick up an order for lunch and there he was. Dad in a booth on a business lunch. Sometimes he texts saying he is coming but rarely follows through to actually meet. This time was just too much of a surprise. I’m not sure what happened in my body but the old swift kick to the back of the knees feeling came on hard once again. I try to keep these harsh but mostly sweet and sad feelings in Houston where they live. Now they were here right in front of me at my favorite lunch spot in Austin. Vomit rose in my throat as I stayed in his line of sight while adjusting my hair. Surely he would see me, surely he would make eye contact, get up rush over and hug me because he was so glad to have run into me. Please get up! I stared at him, giving him every chance to look up. Nothing. I left and lost control of my emotions in the car. I texted friends. I cried. I threw my salad in the trash and went back to work.