On the day of my mother’s wedding to my now step-father, she handed me and each of my sisters, biological and not, a necklace. On the end of each necklace hung a white rose pendant. So, a number of weeks later, I made the decision to get a tattoo of a rose leading from my ribcage toward the center of my stomach, ending just below the breast bone. Now, I am to understand that tattoos may be perceived as taboo or distasteful, perhaps meaningless and “basic” as some may refer to it. But I do not regret my decision, large and permanent as it may be. I do not care what others think of me based on the artwork I wear on my body. It does not bother me to know that people taint me with their preconceived notions of the person I am simply because of this ink. Why? Because it is special to me, and that is the only importance it carries.

Yes, this rose represents a gift given to me by my mother. It means so much to me that it is inherently symbolic of her, as she is the most incredible, caring, loving, strong woman I have ever had the pleasure to encounter and to call my mother. Yet the rose emulates so much more than that. My having received a token rose on the day of my mother’s wedding gives it the symbolism of new beginnings. A new family to get to know and to love, a newfound happiness for my mom, and a newfound release for my deceased father, as I know he would be stricken with relief to know that his beloved wife has found someone to nurture and care for her as she has done for others, especially her four children, all these years. Throughout all of life, there are changes to be made as you pass from one year to the next, and this rose is symbolic of all of those alterations, past, present, and future, that I will come to know.

Aside from the rose itself, the tattoo includes a long stem with prickly thorns protruding from its edges. Cliché as it may sound, these thorns, to me, represent the hardships that come with the changes I will face and have faced over the course of my life. The beauty of the rose does not mask these demons, as they are unencumbered by the lightness of one’s spirit and the goodness of one’s heart. This lesson is one that takes many people years to adjust to, as many are fortunate enough not to come face-to-face with hardship for the initial parts of their journeys. Yet through these obstacles, again, arises the rose, this face of beauty and of serenity. This light that is my mother, the one who has guided me through my successes and failures, who has taught me the importance of courage and strength, as I will be reminded each time I see this symbol.

So I implore you, whoever it is that has taken the time to read this, to judge me with all of the disgust and contempt you have for those who mark their bodies. Your words and your opinions do not change the person I am, and it is no fault but your own if you are unable to see my true character and the real, powerful truth behind what I have done to my body. For I am content with my decision, and will only grow to love it more as the days go by. And for that, I do not apologize, nor do I care for those judgments. For I control my body and the circle of those within which I find my own happiness.