Small Southern upbringings can be quite sheltering. I grew up believing that everyone graduated high school, that only bad girls stayed out past midnight; I thought that a nice house and a nice car meant that you had a happy life. Boy, did I have a lot of learning to do.
I grew up in a house in the middle of town. Our backyard was thick, lush Louisiana grass that never needed watering, lined by pine trees and that led to an acre of garden which would feed my family throughout the year.
We wore our jeans cut off and didn’t wear khaki ever. It was a simple upbringing. We spent a lot of time outside and with family. Summers were spent with the cousins or other family members drinking a lot of sweet tea on those hot humid evenings.
It was a small town. I still remember the first time I saw someone with a tattoo in the grocery store. I was fascinated. The colorful swirls and the script was beautiful to me. I remember reaching out in awe before my mother grabbed my arm and pulled me back. The man in question was checking out in front of us at the grocery store. He wasn’t scary looking but I remember looking around. My mother was quietly admonishing me for being rude. But other people were staring at this man in open disapproval. My mind was struggling to understand it all but I came away with the idea that tattoos weren’t appropriate.
It would be another 10 years before my fascination with tattoos would rear its head. Happily married and expecting our first child, I was mere weeks away from welcoming her when we ran errands one Saturday morning. I dropped the better half at the parts store and went to the grocery store. An hour later, I waddled into the parts store looking for him when the counter guy just smiled and pointed next door: TATTOOS.
I was speechless when I opened the door and there he sat, halfway through his first tattoo. His big ole smile while a big ole tattoo was creeping across his upper arm. It would be many years later that I would find myself in the tattoo chair as we were approaching our 15 year wedding anniversary. Years before that, I had drawn up a doodle for my tattoo. It would be a little mix the things I held the most dear — his initials, my initials, the girls’ initials and some elaborate Southern scroll work in the mix. I had sat on that drawing for years.
It was just an ordinary Tuesday when the urge struck and I found myself in the chair. I guess usually you take a friend with you but I went solo. An older coworker of mine had just gotten some new work done on his arm and recommended a local guy by saying he was “clean and solid.” That was high praise from my coworker, a retired Marine. He offered to call ahead and tell them I was coming.
I showed up expecting what in my head would be a clean and solid place. It was a hole-in-the-wall dive from the outside, but as I sat there in my little car idling and working up my courage... the door opened and a hulk of a man came out to gently tap on my window. “Are you the lady Linus sent?” he asked. I was escorted inside and there among the bright lights and bright red walls, that huge man helped me to start my first tattoo.
Turns out, I’m one of those odd ducks that didn’t mind the tattoo process. There wasn’t a lot of blood and I was fascinated by the elegant scrollwork coming alive on my wrist underneath his needles. It was charming. And, having waited so long, I was 100-percent confident in what I wanted on my body forever. I wasn’t shamed by the charming little tattoo that I carry. In fact, afterward my sweet other half even went back with me to meet the hulk and watch as I got my finishing touches added. Several years later, I would end up in another chair, having a reminder put on my left foot. My charms.
— Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Now living in the remoteness of North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.