Random Musings ~ Tattoos and Identity


I think we can all agree that tattoos have gone viral.

There is something very fundamental about choosing your symbols. They are our protectors, our journey markers, our identifiers and our story.

Whatever the reason you get a tattoo, ultimately it is a symbol of something which has a meaning to you. Being tattooed I think  is us wearing our symbols on the outside. Equally and ironically, this makes our  inside world and our life markers ( the things that often only those closest to us knew) a highly visible outer cloak. Perhaps something which is overriding  an even deeper layer of self or maybe freeing us up to live a more authentic life with our values and life experiences openly expressed. Some people I have spoken to mention an increase in their sense of personal power, their belief in themselves.

I was attracted to the idea of writing about tattoos in what is now becoming the series called The Painted Sisters, early 2011 ( yes it has taken me ages to write the first one, what can I say life!!). As I started to work with a story around a surgery in Edinburgh, I found* that my Victorian heroine had extensive oriental tattoos and was OCD about buttoning up and scrubbing down. Hiding them of course given her time in history.

*Yes your characters surprise you all the time…’What you’re tattooed?? How come, you’re a Victorian woman…. What? They did that, then they what??? OMG let me write that down.’ Yeah that’s how it can go.

As a romance writer I liked the idea of exploring how this would affect intimacy. For example, when we are tattooed  extensively like a full torso, we will never really be naked again. We will always be dressed to the eyes of a lover. In fact with time we would forget what we looked like under our symbolic overlay. But equally the magic of our experiences, symbols and identifiers rippling over our muscles would add a beauty and life that is not seen in someone who is not tattooed.

I have talked with many people who are extensively tattooed and some tattoo artists. I found that it is different for everyone what draws them to the art and what direction they choose to go, i.e. small, large, tribal contemporary…. What I did find was very common was that it often sparks off a burning passion to get more.

I’d love to know what you think about tattoos.

If you have time do the survey below and leave comments you’ll make me a happy woman.


© Elsa Holland