Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And I hope that each time you listen, you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello there. Welcome back to the show. You’re listening to Live Free Creative podcast. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And this is Episode 136: Tattoos, Taboos, and Trusting Yourself.
This is going to be a candid, different episode, where I share a little bit about my personal feelings and experience making a decision that fell outside of the guidelines or the traditional boundaries within the culture and faith community that I was raised in.
It’s something that I’ve shared on Instagram a little bit here and there. And I always have so much interest and so many questions. And I don’t think the questions are all stemming specifically around the idea of getting a tattoo, because I think that’s a fairly well understood idea.
I think it more is the question of how or why did you make this decision that a lot of people would agree is not a correct decision or a holy decision or a righteous decision, especially having been raised in a similar religion, organizational faith, as I have been, and still actively participating in.
So that’s why I am talking about not only that experience that I had having gotten a tattoo, but also about the idea of why some things are taboo and others aren’t and also how and why I feel like it’s important to trust yourself and to learn to be able to sometimes step outside the lines if you want to, if it feels like something that feels important to you and it feels like it adds to your own support of you, you being the unique, glorious individual that you are.
So as we get in today’s episode, I want to just at the very beginning, pause for a poem.
Pause For A Poem
The small woman
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
There’s something really poignant for me about that poem, about the idea of keys being dropped for the prisoners. And, at the risk of sounding a little bit dramatic, I love the idea that we are the ones who hold the keys to our own freedom. That we have the ability to make choices.
Main Topic: Tattoos, Taboos, and Trusting Yourself
The idea of our ability to make choices is something that goes deep in my own personal faith tradition and my own personal faith.
I believe that our ability to choose is a gift. In the Mormon faith tradition, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints call it agency. The idea refers to our divine ability to make personal choices. That’s something that we have been given as a gift as an indication of love and trust.
Of course, that also means that we’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to choose things wrong all the time. And we do. And in fact, all of that goes to the very heart of Christianity and the idea that we are going to make mistakes and have need of help of intervention and redemption, of the ability to change and to become better and to grow and to repent and to progress.
And all of these feel like really hopeful things. To me, they’re all pieces of my belief system and of my faith that I really love.
Now, I want to share that I have an episode coming up about my nuanced faith within organized religion. And that’s something that I’m super excited to talk about. And I think that this episode will touch on fringes of this idea, which I am excited to explore a little bit more fully.
I think it will come up a little bit today because my impression is that one it is of the curiosities that many people have had and expressed in their questions about tattoos and taboos.
The reason that it feels taboo is because of the intersection of this conservative Christian faith and this decision that is discouraged by the leadership in the church. And so I look forward to exploring that a little bit more in detail. It takes a little bit more preparation and some deep diving, and it’s a little bit vulnerable, of course.
And so I’m working on that episode and excited to share more thoughts about it with you. Being really intentional in my faith practices is something that is important to me just as being intentional in the way that I shop and the way that I create and the way that I share and the way that I parent.
All of these things play well together in the idea of living a purposeful, fulfilling, adventurous, creative life. And I know that that’s what you’re here to listen to and to hear about.
The Idea Of Getting A Tattoo
So let me just back up a little bit and share a little bit about this idea of getting a tattoo. So I got my first tattoo three years ago, I didn’t announce it or share it. I didn’t call my mom and my sisters and say, Hey, I got a tattoo.
I made this decision to get some ink on my shoulder as a personal decision. And kept it personal. Not that it was a secret, but more that it was not, it was very clearly to me, not an announcement. It wasn’t for show. It was not for anyone else. It was for me. And I was wading through all of the details in real time.
Anyone who has made a decision that, in a lot of ways, conflicts with their upbringing, with the stories they’ve told themselves, with some of the belief systems that they were raised to embrace–whether or not they feel deeply entrenched in them–can be a little bit confusing.
And in order to almost protect and preserve myself, I needed to be able to make decisions with the clarity of knowing that it was not a public decision. And I think that everyone understands that what it did present though, was kind of an interesting discovery process as people slowly recognized that I had a tattoo.
It came into play with both my family members and my friends, some friends that I had told, of course my immediate family, Dave and my kids knew, and I had talked to them about it and some of my really close personal friends.
It was an interesting process. And over time slowly, because I share pictures on social media, it was something that people asked about. And I decided I was ready to talk about it a little bit more.
I’ve shared a couple pictures–of course it shows up occasionally in pictures, it’s on my shoulder. I usually have sleeves, but I run a lot and exercise and swim and sometimes have tank tops on. And so once in a while it pops up and whenever it does, I get a barrage of questions about it.
Making A Controversial Decision
This is something that has felt really interesting to people who, especially, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or otherwise part of a predominantly conservative Christian evangelical upbringing with more Orthodox hard-lined type of values and a real emphasis on obedience and on following directions from leadership and guidelines from the authorities of the church with exactness, exactitude.
There’s a little bit of tension there when you make a decision that falls outside of the boundaries of what you have been taught and what you have been raised to, in a lot of ways, believe and I think there comes a moment in our lives, whether it’s about tattoos or about something else.
I think all of us, even just making the transition from child to parent or from youth to adult, start to recognize that maybe all of the things that we were raised to believe don’t ring exactly true for us. Maybe not every single box needs to be checked the way that we expected that it might, or maybe we have a little bit different viewpoint, even though the core principle and the core value is this the same.
For something like being healthy or honoring our bodies, the practices that we choose to embrace surrounding that value may feel a little different. And I will say just from the outset, I think it’s kind of interesting to note if you’re familiar with Gretchen Rubin and her four tendencies, you probably know what tendency you are.
Of course, we have a little bit of all of them. But my core tendency is that of the questioner. I have no problem following directions and following rules and following guidelines. And I really want to know why. I really want to know what’s underneath them. What is the true purpose?
I think this is part of what’s led me to the practice and the sharing about a purposeful, intentional life that I have now, because I’m not only interested in the result, I’m also interested in the purpose. I’m actually sort of uninterested in the actions unless they have some purpose.
And if I can’t answer the question for myself, why or what do I really think about the underlying principle of this, then it doesn’t seem purposeful for better or worse.
I am a questioner, which means that I’m not naturally inclined to just nod and say yes. I want to know a little bit more. I want to explore. I want to identify. And I find all of those practices and principles and ideas of asking questions, wondering about things, meditating on things, doubting things, digging a little deeper.
I have found that to be incredibly enriching in my faith. Incredibly empowering in my ability to form deeper relationships with myself, with my family members, with my friends, with my communities and with the divine. I’ll talk more about that in the upcoming episode about nuanced faith.
A Bit About Tattoos
I want to talk a little bit more about tattoos.
So just as like a general background, I am a person who loves tattoos. I have loved them forever. I don’t remember the first time that I saw a tattoo, but I remember always being fascinated by them and interested in them and thinking that a lot of them were beautiful.
Of course, there’s a lot of tattoos that don’t appeal to me, whether the placement or the design or the symbolism or the style that just doesn’t appeal to me.
But in general, I have a lifetime of memories of really loving tattoo art and body art. I remember as a youth, maybe 10, 11, 12, looking up some of the policies of the church regarding tattoos, because I knew that I wanted one and I wanted to see what it be okay if I got a tattoo someday.
And it was very clear from the beginning that it was discouraged. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not one of the 10 commandments. But it’s something that the leaders of the church have said “You probably shouldn’t do this,” or “We discourage marking your body this specific way.”
And the reason for that is because of the idea of honoring your body as a temple and believing that our bodies are sacred, that they’re gifts from God, and that we should treat them as well as we can, that they shouldn’t be “defiled” in that way.
Despite the negative attitudes from my church, I still loved them. I still thought, “Gosh, I wish that wasn’t the policy because I really love them.” And I liked the idea of them. And I remember thinking when I was sitting in a conference center of youth. I don’t remember exactly the year. It may have been 2001.
The president of the church at the time, over the pulpit where I was sitting in the building, reinforced this idea of discouraging tattoos and discouraging more than one modest piercing for women. And I remember at that time I had multiple piercings in my ears and I thought, “Oh, dang, I really like my piercings. And I really like tattoos.”
And I actually I remember clearly the thought that crossed my mind was I wish I already had gotten one. Because then I would have this sort of excuse of, “Oh, I hadn’t heard that directly in front of me from the president or the authority of the church. And so dang, it’s permanent. Shoot.” I remember feeling like I had missed my chance to not directly go against the guidance of a leader in the church.
Fast forward to being on my senior trip, I was really lucky in junior high and high school to have a very close knit group of girlfriends. There were a small group of us that went to California on our senior trip together. We had no chaperones.
I’m thinking now. I mean, my son is going to be 12 this year. And that means in just a few years, the handful of years, he’s going to be a senior in high school and going on a senior trip. And I’m thinking. That is wild. There’s no way I’m going to send him off as an 18 year old without anyone, without any chaperones. But there we were, renting a house on the beach in California without a chaperone.
And one of the ideas that we had was to go get matching tattoos. And we went so far as even go to the tattoo parlor. And I remember kind of going in and wandering around. And we were looking at pictures. The tattoo parlor that we were in was just a random one.
Now I wouldn’t recommend just stopping into a random tattoo parlor and getting a tattoo.
But we thought, you know, we should do this.
And then ultimately we couldn’t decide on something that we all wanted to share. And so our moment of sort of peer pressured, conscious rebellion ended, and we went home. And again, I remember sort of being disappointed that I didn’t have this like, Oh, that moment would have been so great to seize.
And to add insult to injury, a couple months later I found out that a couple of my girlfriends, those high school girlfriends, had met up later and gone and gotten matching tattoos on their own without the rest of us, which actually, I wasn’t jealous of not doing that. I just thought, ah, they did it.
I was excited for them and thrilled for them. And I remember just thinking, gosh, I wish that I had. I wish that I was doing that and I was sort of waffling back and forth between this is something that I am taught not to do and yet it’s still something that I want to do.
Around the same time, my younger brother came home with a really beautiful, massive tattoo and he has since gone on to get many, many, many tattoos. I think at one point, we were on a trip together and I was sort of joking with him, interviewing him about the different tattoos that he has all over his body.
We were up to a count of like 30 or 35, each with a story. And he remembered who had given it to him and where. It was awesome.
In my own family, it’s not unusual for people to have tattoos. My younger brother was the first one of us. My older brother, soon after, had a couple of tattoos. My youngest sister came home from a trip to Italy and had this beautiful olive leaf tattooed on her wrist.
And now this was only a few years ago and this was one of the moments when I thought here, my little sister, who’s so sure of herself and so confident and able to trust herself to make this decision. She was an adult. She was 18 or 19 or 20 at the time. And she went ahead and made a decision to do something she wanted to do, even if no one else agreed or not everyone agreed, or she would receive some sort of backlash from family or friends or judgment from strangers or from women at church.
I settled into understanding that over 25 years, my reaction to people close to me, family and friends, getting tattoos was feeling like they had honored themselves, feeling like they had been brave and confident and had trusted their own desire. And that when faced with the decision, the tension between what do I think and what will they think, they were able to move forward with the idea of, you know, what I think matters too, and what I think might matter more.
In the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which came out last year and is a really great book about honoring yourself and about really coming into your own and trusting yourself. One of the things that Glennon Doyle points out is watching her teenagers. There was a group of teenagers sitting, watching a show or something, and she asked who’s hungry and the boys all answer yes or no.
And the girls all look at each other to decide if collectively they’re hungry or not, rather than looking inside themselves to decide, am I hungry? And it doesn’t really matter if the other girls are hungry, but am I hungry.
Women especially tend to look outside of ourselves to make decisions. We tend to look around the room for the consensus. We tend to wonder what will she think, or what does she think, before going inside and asking what do I think.
One of the quotes that I love from this book is “When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.”
One of the questions that I had to ask myself and face in this decision to step outside of the guidelines of my culturally embedded and deeply entrenched faith identity was whether this was objectively right or wrong? Is a tattoo objectively right or wrong, a correct or incorrect, righteous or unrighteous decision.
This is something that I don’t believe is objectively righteous or unrighteous. Tattoos have been around as long as humanity has existed. They have cultural significance in a lot of cultures. They have religious significance in a lot of religions. The practice of symbolizing different ideas and identities with ink in your skin is an ancient practice.
I also had to answer for myself the question of, do I believe that my worthiness as a woman, as a daughter of God, as a member, an active, faithful, engaged member of this organized religion, does my worthiness depend on this decision? Is this something that will count me out of covenants and promises and of rituals that are meaningful to me within the organization, as well as within my personal relationship with the divine?
And as I looked at both of those questions and relied on my entire upbringing, 35 years of testimony and a faith building and faith changing and faith transformation, I came to the answer myself for myself that no, getting a tattoo wasn’t inherently wrong. And it also bore no weight on my worthiness before God.
That might not be the answer that someone else comes to. That might not be the answer that you come to.
If you want a tattoo and you are a member of my church or another church that advises against getting tattoos, you may find that you really like the idea of getting a tattoo. And when you go deep and ask yourself whether it’s right for you or whether it will affect your eternal standing, and you feel like “No, it’s really not worth it for me. I would rather stay inside this line.” That’s okay.
This past year, a friend of mine passed away. Many of you might know of her, Annie Blake, who was a beautiful artist, a mother and inspiring and empowered woman. She was kind and she was thoughtful and she was open and she was fierce.
A couple of years ago, she shared on Instagram about her experience getting a tattoo, also being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I can’t ask her whether or not it’s okay for me to share this, but I am going to rely on my instinct that she would celebrate me sharing her words with you.
And she said:
As I walked through the open house of a local religious building last February, I thought our bodies are temples. And every inch of this temple is painted or carved or marked somehow with symbols that remind us of important things and direct our attention to divinity. And I knew that I would mark my body. I would mark it to claim it as my own. I knew I would mark it with a circle, a symbol of the divine feminine wholeness, inclusiveness, cycles of life, cycles of learning. We are all connected. Life is endless and repeating. Circles have no beginning and no end. Or lots of beginnings and lots of endings. Circles unite, include, and connect. Women are round. We are soft edges and also the wheels that work and carry the world forward. Revolution. When we sit in a circle, there is no hierarchy. Today I will imagine a world where female identifying people are valued for all the labor they provide and sit in gratitude. Happy International Women’s Day everyone.
Well it’s appropriate that it’s now international women’s month. International Women’s Day was here last week. And I loved her words. I remembered them echoing with me. This idea that, yes, my body is a temple and temples are buildings that are filled with symbolism and with markings and with paintings and with beauty that points our minds towards divinity and reminds us of what is most important.
As a side note, if you’re not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we have two separate types of meeting houses. There are meeting houses that are regular buildings that we attend for Sunday worship and activities during the week. And there are temples which are set apart. They’re set aside for special, more sacred worship.
In order to attend the temple, you go through a process to get a special recommendation from some leaders within your local and area congregations, and then you’re able to attend and perform some special sacred rituals relating to your relationship to the divine.
I remember as a child of 12, the first time that I had my recommendation and I was old enough to go in and perform some rituals within the temple, that I was shocked that it wasn’t completely white inside.
Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there’s a really clear association, culturally, between white, the color white, and purity. So white fabric. I think this is within a lot of cultures and religious practices as well. This is why babies are blessed in white gowns and why women are married in white dresses.
You know, the idea of virtue and purity and, whether or not you agree with that idea, it was shocking to me. I was like baffled as I went through the doors of the temple, I expected in my head that everything would be white and like mirrors and crystals. I thought it would just all be like an ice castle.
And I walked in and there was like a regular hallway and there were chairs that were wood with green and yellow upholstery. And there was carpet and there were regular cabinets. And, you know, beautiful furnishings and beautiful decorations and wallpapers and tapestries and draperies and all of these things.
And, and it just was such a mismatch with the idea of what I had in my head as the temple being completely white, clear, and pure in that way. And I think that my adjustment and my comfort level with the idea of a temple not needing to be completely white in order to be sacred. And likewise, my own body not needing to be totally unmarked, in order to be honored.
The choice that I made to get a tattoo can actually be a symbol of my relationship with my children, with my family, with divinity. I could also get a tattoo of a McDonald’s Diet Coke on my arm, and that wouldn’t have a whole lot of symbolism and it still would be fine. Ultimately, the question comes down to, are we willing to honor our deepest desires?
If, when we ask our question, we connect to our deepest self, our truest self, we touch base with the divine. If that relationship is important to us, which it is to me, when I would touch base with my truest self, in my relationship to God about the idea of getting a tattoo.
The only thing that I ever felt was love. I didn’t feel like it was wrong or hellfire and damnation. I felt like, okay, great, it doesn’t matter. And I think that sometimes we need to be able to get there for ourselves.
And like I said earlier, I don’t think that this is the right decision for everyone. And I also don’t think that it’s ever the right decision to judge someone else’s choices.
Like in the poem at the beginning, the small woman who went around building cages for everyone she knew. I would much rather be the Sage dropping keys and empowering and inviting those that I know to be their truest selves, whatever that looks like, and to honor their own desires and to trust their own relationship with faith and with connection and with community and with God, whatever that looks like for them.
A Bit About My Own Tattoo
To finish out this episode, I wanted to share a little bit about my own tattoo, and then I’m going to do a question and answer session. I put up a question box on Instagram and had a handful of questions that I want to answer that are a little bit more specific. And so I thought that I would share the answers to those here.
But first I wanted to share about my tattoo.
The design that I settled on for my tattoo is the constellation Orion’s belt. Now Orion’s belt is just a part of a larger constellation. One of the most recognizable constellations in the winter sky in the Northern hemisphere. There are those three stars that you can recognize, that you can see lined up during the winter months when the sky is dark from early in the evening until late in the morning.
Because of how long the nights are during the winter, Orion’s belt was the first constellation that I recognized.
It was the first one that my dad pointed out to me when I was little and that I was able to recognize from young. And we spend a lot of time outside when I was growing up, camping and hiking and backpacking and going to the lake and spending time on the beach.
I have memories from all of my life pointing out Orion’s belt and recognizing it in the sky and feeling at home wherever I was.
I have really specific, clear memories of the winter mornings when I was waking up early to go to early morning seminary, a religious class that happened before school and my school started at 7:30. So I was getting up and going to school at six in the morning in the winter in Salt Lake.
It was snowy and cold. And I would be walking out to my little truck parked in the driveway and Orion’s belt would be shining right above the point of Mount Olympus. My whole view as I got into the car in the morning was looking at these three bright stars and recognizing them and saying, Hello there Orion. Yep I’m off to school again.
As I’ve traveled and lived in different countries around the world, I’ve seen Orion’s belt from all over and it’s been something that has connected me emotionally, symbolically to my past, to my family, and now to my future.
When we decided to have three children, I knew that that number would feel significant to me. As Plum was born and our family felt complete, I had a new love for Orion’s belt. For these three unique stars, their individual stars, they all are named stars that make up this grouping, that shine so brightly in the sky.
In Spanish, the stars of Orion’s belt are often referred to as Las Tres Marias or Los Tres Reyes Magos, both references to religion, to the Christ child being born. The three Kings going to give their gifts. And also the idea of the three Marys who exist in the Bible around the crucifixion of Christ and also the resurrection.
So woven in there for me are symbols of my past symbols of my family, symbols of my upbringing, symbols of my connection to nature, symbols of my connection to my children, symbols of my connection to my faith and they all wrap up in this one beautiful, simple constellation.
As I head into sharing some questions and answers, and also just as an acknowledgement of this whole episode of sharing something that is personal, it was a personal decision and has also has a lot of personal history and symbolism for me.
I’ve learned over the years that it’s not always appropriate, actually. In fact, it’s not often appropriate to ask someone about their tattoos. To ask, Can I see that a little closer? or I noticed you have a tattoo, what is it? Could you tell me about the meaning for it? Some people might be interested in offering that information and a lot of people might not.
It can be a little bit offensive or a little bit startling for people to ask about something that’s on their bodies that’s personal, that’s within their actual skin and their own space.
I want to just acknowledge that I am freely offering this information now and welcome the questions–I invited the questions about it. And just as a heads up, asking direct questions about someone’s tattoos or really anything about someone’s body isn’t always very respectful and it might not be well received.
So just if you’re unfamiliar with the world of tattoos or you feel a little bit like, Oh, I’m so interested. I want to see. I want to know more. Know that that can feel offensive to people. And so I would just caution you to be a little bit sensitive when addressing that idea in general.
Okay. So that said, let me jump into some Q&A’s. Again, I asked for these questions and I’m happy to answer them here.
Q1: How did you talk about getting a tattoo with Dave? Well, like I mentioned Dave and I talked about tattoos a lot, because it’s something that I like, just like someone else might have talked about art or buildings or architecture. I have always loved tattoos. I’ve pointed out cool tattoos when I’ve seen them on online or on pictures. I’ve talked to my own family about them.
Of course, he noticed that a lot of my family members had tattoos. And so from the time we were dating, it was something that we talked about. And I actually probably told him, you know, at some point I might decide to get a tattoo. How would you feel about that? And he always said, great. If that’s something that you want, then that’s good with me.
Actually it’s been interesting, in a lot of the things that we’ve talked about in our relationship having to do with the organizational structure and policies of the church and guidelines of the church, I tend to be the one who has all of these really big feelings about those policies and the perception and the culture around it.
And I don’t know whether it’s because he’s a man or he really doesn’t see the same sort of cultural stereotypes that I have seen or experienced, he’s kind of like, Oh yeah, well, no big deal. It’s kind of whatever you choose, where I often expect a lot of kickback and things like that.
So that’s just an interesting note. Dave has been onboard with me making whatever decisions about my body that I want. And I love him for that.
Q2: Why did you feel it was important? And this is kind of an interesting question because I went back and forth for 20 years about why. Why did I feel like it was important? And the answer is, I don’t know. It’s been a deep desire and a deep interest of mine since I was young. And I don’t know why it was important to me, whether it was a little bit of rebellion, whether it’s just that questioner in me, whether it’s that when I asked myself the question, does this matter in the eternal scheme, do I personally really believe that my relationship with my savior and with God are effected by my decision to get a tattoo or not?
The answer I always came up with was no.
And so if I am weighing this really deep interest and desire that I have with the idea that it might not matter as much as I have been taught that it does, or as much as I have built up in my head that it does, then maybe I can wade through some of the tension of what other people will think, or what will the judgments be and get down to if this feels important to me, then maybe I just honor that whether or not I understand it.
And I will tell you that I’ve had my tattoo for three years and I have not regretted it. I don’t have a day that I think, Oh gosh, I wish I didn’t have that. More than anything, I felt more of myself. I felt like I have honored myself. I feel more whole and more empowered because of the decision that I made.
Q3: Will you get another one? And the answer is: probably. I have a few ideas right now. I do not at all mind the idea of getting another one. I like the idea. I think right after I got it, I was like, Ooh, okay. What do I want to get next?
And like I said, I really like tattoos. And so I probably will get another one. I don’t have a plan right now. I don’t have an appointment right now. But I will probably get another one at some point.
Q4: How do you reconcile this decision with the church’s discouragement of tattoos? I think that I’ve done an okay job in this episode saying that there might not be a full reconciliation, more a belief that it’s okay to make decisions that don’t align with specific policies within an organization where you don’t personally believe in or align with those policies. So that’s where I stand on that.
Q5: How did you pick something that will be permanent? What if you don’t like it later? I think a lot of people relate to this idea. I’ve had several friends that have said, I would love to get a tattoo; I just can’t think of a single thing that I would want to have on my body for my whole life.
And yeah, that might be true if that’s the way you’re thinking about it as well. Like maybe we are changing, we’re always evolving and progressing and growing and maybe there are things that you would get and think later, I wish I didn’t have that, or I don’t really care about that anymore.
One thing that I thought was really interesting in talking to my little brother about tattoos. And again, he has much experience in many different tattoos, as I told you about sitting down with him and chatting through these different stories and histories, a lot of the tattoos that he had weren’t meant to be like these long-standing symbolic things.
They were almost like capturing a moment in time or an era in time or a memory. And he, whether or not the same feelings existed now that existed then, they were like a snapshot of that. And I think that also can be a way to honor your life, the symbolism of your life. If you have something that you like, and then in the future, you don’t, you wouldn’t necessarily get it again right then, but it does remind you of a time when that was something that you wanted.
I don’t know. I don’t think I have a great answer for that. But I think if you have the feeling, I don’t want to get a tattoo because I don’t want anything permanent on my body, then you shouldn’t get a tattoo. That’s easy.
Q6: There were a couple of questions about the physical pain of getting a tattoo. I will say that I have a pretty high pain tolerance. I know that about myself. I wasn’t worried at all about the pain. I didn’t even think about it. And when I was actually getting the tattoo, the only part that was noticeably painful for me was when the needle went over an area that had already been tattooed.
So my little constellation is very small. It’s very thin lines. And there was just a couple areas where like one of the stars is an actual five-point star where the line crosses over itself, like the way you learned to draw stars in elementary school. And so as that was being tattooed–it’s tiny, two millimeters or three millimeters wide–but as the lines crossed over a freshly cut needle line, that was really painful, but just not like screaming and crying painful. Just like, Ooh. Ah, I can feel that.
So pain was definitely not an issue for me. I’m sure there are more sensitive areas. And if you were getting a larger tattoo or getting a lot of color filled in, I think there’s a lot of variation to the actual pain.
Q7: Would you let one of your kids get a tattoo before they were 18? My answer to that is: no. I told my kids when I came home with a tattoo and talked to them about it. And they were really excited to see, and I told them they each got to choose a star and that these stars are for them.
And they thought it was cool. And I told them that when they were 35, they would be able and allowed to make the decision to get a tattoo as well. I was kind of joking with them because of course, you know, they’ll be able to get a tattoo at any point after they’re 18 or don’t live at home and they are adults and can make adult decisions.
I do think that it’s an adult decision to choose what to do with your body. And my kids may or may not want to get tattoos and I won’t tell them that they should, like, it’s really cool, everyone in our family should have one. And I also won’t tell them when they’re adults that they should or should not. That’s something that they’ll get to choose.
Q8: I thought this question was interesting. Do you believe your tattoo will reappear in the resurrection? Now, it just needs a little bit of context within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we have a doctrine that all of our bodies will be restored in the resurrection.
So just as Christ was resurrected from the grave on Easter, that’s what we celebrate that our bodies will all be restored to their flesh form again someday. That gift of the resurrection is something that everyone will have the chance to experience who has experienced earth as a mortal.
There’s a lot of specific language around not one hair of your head being lost and your body being restored to its perfect form. So this question kind of goes to the point of the doctrine of, if your body’s restored to its perfect celestial form, will that be a tattooed form or not?
And to be totally honest, I have no idea. I don’t think anyone has any idea. I don’t think that this is something that there is doctrine around, but the question makes me think about a couple other things just in general, just kind of principles around this.
If you believe in a perfect resurrection or your body being perfected in the resurrection, what does that word mean? What does the perfected body look like?
One very common bodily alteration that is permanent, that I can think of is getting braces. So our bodies are formed with jaws and teeth that grow in and they grow in a second time as we lose our baby teeth. And then we have these adult teeth.
And in a lot of cultures, especially in middle to upper-class American culture, many, many children and teenagers and adults get braces to permanently correct their bite and align their teeth so that they have a glowing, perfectly aligned smile.
In my mind, this is a similar alteration of our bodies in our God given form as getting a tattoo or having any type of plastic surgery, which I will say, I feel similarly about all of those things, which is: if it’s something that you feel like you want to do with your body, then great.
I don’t believe that there’s like this clear line of right and wrong when it comes to those things. I am curious though, if the person asking this question has ever asked themselves, will people who had braces have perfect smiles in the resurrection, or where will our teeth go back to that whatever they would have been had we not had braces, which some people would have relatively straight teeth and some people would have not aligned teeth because the way that our bodies are made is different and not everyone’s teeth are aligned from the time they’re young.
What does it mean to have a perfect body? What weight will you be at? What height will you be at? Our bodies change so much over time too. What does that even look like or mean? I don’t know, to be honest, I have no idea. I. We’ll be thrilled in the resurrection either way.
If I’m resurrected and God has wiped my body clean of tattoos, then great. I will accept my Celestialized body form. And if I’m resurrected and I have perfected tattoos as well in the resurrection, then I will feel thrilled by that as well.
Q9: What did you tell your kids? When I came home from getting my tattoo, I showed the kids that I had gotten a tattoo and I told them all about it.
And we identified Orion again. I had already told them about the constellation of Orion. It’s something that they can identify in the night sky. And we talked about it and I told them each they got to choose a star that these stars were representative of them. They thought that was really cool and exciting.
I think maybe because my kids are young and we also haven’t grown up in such an insular church culture because we live outside of a predominantly Mormon area. So a lot of our good friends over the years have not been members of the church. And so tattoos are really common in our area. They were really common in Austin and tattoos are really common in Richmond, Virginia.
There’s a lot of really cool tattoos on the parents at my kid’s elementary school. So I don’t think it felt very foreign to them as foreign as it might if they were growing up in an area with a higher percentage of more orthodox conservative LDS families.
Also, like I mentioned, my family, my own personal family, their aunts and uncles have tattoos. And so it’s something that they’re familiar with and we have never taught our kids that getting tattoos is wrong. And I don’t think that they’re to the point in their own personal experience within the organized religion and going to church and primary–they’re young enough that no one’s telling them yet don’t get a tattoo because it’s wrong or you shouldn’t do that.
They’re, they’re too little for that. And I think that that’s something that they’ll have a renewed perspective on when they are older. And if someone happens to mention that in a class or For The Strength Of Youth or they’re going to their youth church classes is something they’ll be able to have a different perspective on and say, you know, my mom has a tattoo and she thinks that they’re fine. And you know, I might want to get one, one day.
And I also don’t think that’s a big deal. And you know, maybe that will be positive to just open the conversation, because some people will be part of the church who do have tattoos and it’s okay. In fact, I think it’s really interesting that in the last few years there’s been a spokesperson for the church who even published a book called The Tattooed Mormon.
And I don’t know her personally, she seems like the most wonderful, lovely, bright girl. She’s got a ton of tattoos. I mean, to the point that this is the title of her book, The Tattooed Mormon, and she goes around and gives talks about discovering the church and finding the love of God. And I love the idea of her message being embraced by the church community.
And, you know, she’s really served as a spokesperson for the church in a lot of ways over the last couple of years, speaking at conferences and being on videos and things like that. And that to me is an indication. Now you could say, well, she got all of those tattoos before she joined the church and she hasn’t gotten any new ones, but the idea that there is a spokesperson out there for the church who has lots and lots of visible tattoos.
It seems pretty clear to me that this is not something that’s going to preempt her from participation and from engagement and from having a full, beautiful faith journey. I think that these things are not mutually exclusive. You can have tattoos and have an incredible relationship with the gospel. So that’s what I will teach my children about tattoos.
Q10: And the last question I thought was pretty funny. Why do so many people care? Anytime I get a question about my tattoo on social media and I answer it, I have a lot of people say, why are all these nosy people asking questions about your tattoo? Who even cares?
And I think, like I mentioned, at the very beginning of the episode, the only reason I think people care at all is because it’s a little bit interesting to see someone make a choice that differs from the norm and the widely accepted cultural identity of a conservative Christian religion and not to do so in defiance of, but as part of and inclusive of it.
I know that over the years, as I had wanted a tattoo and I was interested in getting one and I hadn’t made a firm decision for myself yet, I looked for examples of people who were not just leaving the church and changing their whole lifestyle and getting a tattoo, but who had also decided that these things could co-exist, that you could choose to get tattoos and love tattoos, and also remain interested in maintaining your faith and your relationship with the divine and with the church.
And that was helpful for me to see examples of that. And I think more and more information has made so many things evolve and change. I think there is a collective awakening, especially over this last year, with social justice and with inclusion and with love and with the idea of What does it really mean to be a Christian? What does it really mean to love? What does it really mean to not judge and to be open and to be inclusive?
And I know that I want to find myself on the side of love and of non-judgment and inclusion more often.
And one way that I can do that is by starting with myself. Allowing myself to trust my own desires. And not judge myself. And trust my own ideas and not judge myself.
And that helps me then recognize that other people are doing the same thing, that we’re all just doing the best that we can with what we believe and what we know, and that those things might be a little bit different. And that’s okay.
In fact, that’s beautiful. That’s wonderful. We are created as unique glorious individuals with so much potential, not just to all follow the line, but to also explore and to make choices. And to exercise our ability to decide for ourselves.
So that’s probably a lot more than you ever needed to know or wanted to know about the idea of tattoos and taboos and trusting yourself.
That’s the show today though, friends. I hope that there’s been something in here, whether just being entertained and listening to a story, or whether you’re struggling with an idea of an identity or a desire where your tension is between what do I think and what will they think. I want to encourage you to trust yourself that even though sometimes there might be fall out–
Now, I didn’t talk about some of the fallout, some of the hard conversations, some of the disappointment that I saw and experienced and heard in some of my relationships, as well as some wide, innocent love and acceptance.
You would think this is not that big of a deal, right? And at the end of the day, it’s really not.
And also we all are wrapped up in our beliefs. We all are wrapped up in our ideas, not only of what we want to do, but what we think others around us should do, or those close to us how they should live. And I want to encourage you that the more you love your own decisions, the less it matters what other people think about them.
And also the more you love your own life and your own decisions, the less it matters how other people choose to live differently.
I want to thank you for being here and for tuning into the episode today. I hope that you enjoyed it and that you have something to think about. Some, some new ideas to consider that you might not have considered before.
I want to encourage you to live your fullest, most beautiful, creative, intentional, and adventurous lifestyle.
Part of the way you can do that is by joining me this summer at grown up summer camp in Thatcher, Idaho. It’s going to be incredible. It’s July 28 through 31st. There were just six beds left for glamping spots and four campsites left. So if you want to grab a girlfriend or come on your own and make a bunch of new friends, I would love to have you for our rivers are soaking in the hot springs, our book discussions, our craft nights.
It’s going to be so much fun. A way to connect to yourself, to connect to others and to reconnect to nature.
You can visit the show notes or look up livefreecreative.co/summer-camp. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait to see so many of you there.
Also, I just want to remind you that if you enjoy listening to the show, one of the best things you can do is to share it. Take a screenshot, share it on social media, and invite your friends to listen in.
I hope you have a great one. I will talk to you later. Okay. Bye-bye.