Beyond Skin Deep: My Thoughts on Tattoos

In my youth I was a very judgmental person. I freely admit this fact and have no shame in acknowledging that I was wrong in a lot of my judgments. One of the biggest judgments I had was against tattoos. My father, who I do not have a relationship with, has a lot of tattoos and I equated tattoos with bad people. I instantly thought of biker culture or people with criminal pasts. I would see a tattoo on someone and instantly judge their character.

2015 came rolling around and something within me changed in regards to tattoos. I’m still not sure what it was, but I decided that I wanted to honor my high school, Regina High School, and also honor my struggles. So I decided to get a small crown (Regina’s mascot was “The Royals”) next to a small semicolon to commemorate the fact that my journey is not over. The semicolon, from The Semicolon Project, was honoring those who struggle and fight with mental afflictions like depression and anxiety. I wanted a reminder of where I came from and the foundation I built at Regina, while also acknowledging my battle with anxiety and depression and knowing that my story was certainly not over. So I got a small tattoo on my wrist.

I thought the whole “tattoos are addictive” thing was some overplayed excuse. But cut to 2017 when I made the decision to get my second tattoo. Also on my wrist, this tattoo was faith, hope and charity, which is a cross that is on top of a heart and turns into an anchor.

And then just a couple of days ago I went and got my third tattoo. This is on my finger and stands for “God is greater than the high’s and lows,” followed by three red dots that represent the Trinity and is also a nod to my Sicilian heritage and the three points of the island.

None of the tattoos were a fun experience, they really hurt! And especially for me because I have a very low tolerance for pain. But during my third tattoo I realized something profound in this painful process. pain is temporary. No matter what type of pain it is, it can’t last forever. So while I was dropping all sorts of expletives on this poor tattoo artist, I kept thinking “it will be over soon”. And as soon as she was done, the pain was gone. And I was left with a symbol and reminder of who I am and who I want to be.

Obviously my feelings toward tattoos have changed a lot. And I now understand the joys and lessons that can come from this process. It’s a test of the resiliency of the human body and spirit. On a deeper level, I also learned it’s not right or fair to judge an experience I’ve never been through. When I judged others with tattoos I was just lumping people together and not recognizing that tattoos are an individual choice that people make for a multitude of reasons. Tattoos are meaningful to the individual getting them and that’s all that should really matter.


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Michelle Sabato

Michelle is an actor and writer who was born and raised in Cleveland's Little Italy. Some of Michelle's hobbies include: reading, writing, film and carrying conversations solely made up of movie quotes.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I, too, have changed my thoughts on tattoos and am planning my first very soon. I agree that the deeper lesson pertains to judgement. I have taken on the mindset that if someone’s choice (tattoos or whatever) does not impact someone I love or me then who am I to judge? Had to learn this one fast when my son grew an unruly mustache, got a nose ring, and his first tattoo. None of those things changed the amazing person that he has always been. Thanks for writing!

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