It’s been a long time coming, but I’m making a few ‘alternations’ to myself…
I’ve held off cutting my hair because people were aghast at the suggestion, thought I couldn’t get a tattoo because ‘what would it be like in your mid-thirties’. That I shouldn’t wear anything sheer or too bright or ‘out there’. I had a classic case of being a woman in a society where we’re held to a standard we see in shampoo and body lotion ads, filling out the costly pages of the free ES Magazine.
The last few months were tough, but now I’m about to start a new job, and being ‘on my own’ is just a social construct. I don’t need someone else to be a ‘whole person’. But I am interested in looking deeper into my own identity, and the surface changes are like a little contract to myself to remember be who I want to be.
I’m still working on it though; an unloved pile of clothes and shoes sits in a corner; it’s time for a clear out.
The first change was my hair. After months of holding the front high in front of my face to emulate Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, I finally got the courage to tell my hairdresser Salma that I really did want to go short and crazy – my hair grows quickly after all!
I stepped out of Tigi’s Creative Studio at Boxpark Shoreditch with the biggest barnet I’ve ever rocked. Shockingly for me – someone who has always had to wash my hair if I wanted to leave the house to tame its frizzy self – I now don’t have to condition my hair every single morning. It’s great – I’m like a normal person who can get on with stuff and not have wet hair on the tube!
Later, I went even further. Going for DIY highlights (applied by my sister – which was, quite frankly, terrifying). I didn’t get them quite light enough to dye the ends with some of the fun temporary colours Bleach London makes, but their balayage kit was great – so I’d definitely recommend their range at Boots if you’re looking for a change.
I guess it’s the fact that the hair cut didn’t hurt that I decided to finally go for something that I knew actually would (at least in the short term). I’d been obsessively Instagramming tattoo artists and researching the best places to go when I stumbled across Emily Alice Johnston, who tattoos in black with that really cool style of deceptively simple looking line drawings that didn’t resemble anyone else’s work. In another daunting move, I headed to Into You Tattoo in Farringdon to place my cash deposit…
I knew I wanted something with a botanical theme and had been thinking about having forget-me-nots on my foot for a good few years, but in the couple of weeks before getting inked I swayed between thistles and poppy seed heads. Then, two days before, my mind finally settled; a dandelion clock.
When I met Emily she showed me her flash book (basically like a portfolio of signature designs) I saw some flowers I liked but really wanted something bespoke so mentioned my idea. After printing out a botanical drawing from the internet, she drew me what turned out to be more of a ‘lifecycle of a dandelion’, with different types of dandelion flowers and a very complex looking leaf! She asked me if I wanted it to be smaller, given that it was my first one, and I decided to go for it as it was!
For those of you wondering about the feeling of getting a tattoo, imagine the pain of an injection – say your BGC vaccine – and then imagine it being administered multiple times very quickly, whilst the scratching is simultaneously dragged across your skin. And yes, the foot is bony and therefore can’t cushion you from the pain of the needle as easily which means the pain is intensified.
And yet, despite this, getting tattooed was one of the most ‘zen-like’ experiences I’ve ever had. I had to focus so hard on breathing that I didn’t really think about anything else. Not that I recommend being in pain to meditate, but I think I learnt a lot about breathing in a short space of time… Also, there were some very cool people in that studio I did NOT want to embarrass myself in front of. Emily declared that I was one of the most silent people she’d ever tattooed – much to the amusement of anyone who’s ever been in the same room as me…
Here’s the thing about tattoos – I’m not going to feel hugely different about it in my mid-thirties, or any other decade. I’m going to be able to look down at it and remember who I was when I got it – a reminder to never let myself go. Not physically, but (and I’d rarely use this word for myself) spiritually.