I’m 25 years old and when I was 21 I got my first tattoo. It was a memorial tattoo for an uncle and I’d been thinking about it for a few years, so finally I decided to do it. My mom took me to her tattoo guy and after it was done I posted a picture on facebook.
Now, my grandmother hates tattoos, and I didn’t tell her about it beforehand, so she found out on facebook. Two days after getting the tattoo and posting about it, she called me to tell me how disrespectful I was for not telling her about the tattoo, how hurt she was to have found out about it on facebook, how my mother and I are so disrespectful toward her and what’s next? Is she going to find out I’m engaged on facebook, too? Why didn’t I tell her I was planning this? I didn’t know what to say, but after the phone call ended I cried and felt like an awful, terrible person. It had been 100% intentional to not tell her beforehand, because I know my grandma and she would’ve seen me telling her I was getting a tattoo as a discussion about whether or not I should get a tattoo. I knew she didn’t like them and I didn’t feel like being lectured. Moreover, I didn’t want to pretend to ask for her permission because, at 21, I didn’t need anyone’s permission to get a tattoo in memory of my dead uncle. (I should note that this uncle was not her son, but her ex husband’s brother, and a good friend of hers.) My mom got super upset with my grandma about the phone call, saying that she was trying to make me feel guilty, and they talked and nothing was resolved but we sort of came to a peace about the issue. My tattoo isn’t visible, so she never has to see it, and I never mention it around her.
Almost two years ago I got a second tattoo, this one on my wrist. It’s visible. My mom once again took me to her tattoo guy. It was a week before Christmas. We decided that for the sake of peace I’d wear long sleeves to Christmas dinner.
But I still haven’t told or shown my grandma that tattoo. I’m afraid of another incident, and I know the longer I put it off the worse it’ll be, but it feels like it shouldn’t matter? I’m an adult. I barely told anyone about the first tattoo beforehand, and I didn’t broadcast the second one; people have found out about it as they’ve seen it. Maybe I should’ve told my grandma that I was getting the second tattoo before I got it, but that felt too much like asking for her permission – which, again, I don’t need. But I don’t want her to get upset again and act like I’m a terrible granddaughter over this. I want to get another tattoo, and I want to be able to be around my grandmother without choreographing my movements so that she doesn’t see my inner wrist. Should I sit down and have a conversation with her? Should I just say fuck it and let her notice when she notices? Am I a terrible granddaughter for hiding a tattoo from her for almost two years?
(I feel like adding that my mother has two tattoos, and three of my grandmother’s second husband’s grandkids – her grandkids, basically – also have tattoos. Two of them are younger than I am. Was there any reaction to their tattoos? Of course not. Just mine.)
Potentially Terrible Granddaughter
Dear Not Actually Terrible Granddaughter:
I vote “fuck it!” Wear what you want. Let her notice when she notices.
When she gets upset (she will get upset, anyone who monitors your body to that degree will get upset) and asks why didn’t you tell her right away, say, “Well, you had such an emotional reaction to my other tattoo, I figured I’d just keep this one my business for a while.”
Or, you could rip the bandaid off and say, “Grandma, I got another tattoo. I didn’t want you finding out on Facebook again, so, here’s a picture.”
- “Grandma, what’s this really about?”
- “Grandma, you seem really upset about something that’s on my body.”
- “Grandma, are you saying you want to be part of the tattoo Selection Committee next time?”
- “This conversation is really uncomfortable and weird, Grandma.”
- Keep letting your mom run interference for you, sounds like she’s awesome and really gets you.
- Remind yourself that your body belongs to you, and not to your Grandma’s projections of who she thinks you are.
- Facebook is a totally normal way of finding things out about other people.
- It’s okay for your Grandma to not be 100% happy with your decisions. People still love each other all the time despite not agreeing about everything.
- Your Grandma’s feelings about tattoos are not yours to manage.
- You are not terrible.