Inside my left wrist, I wear a simple tattoo: 41.
The number has great significance to me. Not only did I turn 41 the year I got the tattoo, it marked my declaration of independence post-divorce. It is also meaningful in that “41” happens to be the name of my favorite song by Dave Matthews Band. The lyrics are about coming out the other side of a soured relationship a better person, having grown and learned something about one’s own strength.
I will go in this way
And I’ll find my own way out
I won’t tell you what to be
But I’m coming to much more me
Rituals help us to process and to honour major events in our lives, and in 2016, tattoos are now considered a customary rite at junctures from births to deaths, and the marriages and divorces in between. A divorce tattoo can be a powerful and empowering gesture; a bold symbol of your change in status, a celebration of newfound freedom and a means of taking your body back. Yes, it hurts, but hey, it’s only a needle. We’ve been through much worse and this too, shall pass.
Tattoo.com says that while getting a divorce is painful, it is also a catalyst to starting a new chapter in life. “Because there are many emotions that it carries, getting ink to commemorate this change in life makes complete sense. It’s a way to re-claim who you are, now on your own. It’s also kind of a rebellious act, to get this display of freedom permanently inked on skin.”
With Pinterest pages devoted to inspirational divorce tattoo galleries, it appears that the choice to wear one’s heart on their sleeve is growing in popularity as divorcees get inked in a deeply personal way. Divorce tattoos have been dismissed as merely being part of the “survival trend,” as if people accumulate skin-deep badges of experience the way soldiers of war receive medals of bravery. Some say the ink will only lead to regret if the recipient chooses to get one while in a heightened emotional state, and that part is true. Always think before you ink.
Cynics may scoff that a divorce tattoo is a reminder of heartbreak that will only cause additional grief; but when someone gets a tattoo in memory of a loved one who has passed away, do people ever say, “Gee, won’t that remind you that your best friend/grandma/dog is dead and make you feel sad all over again?” No, of course not.
Yes, you will someday move on from the pain of divorce and be able to love and be loved again, but your tattoo will forever take up real estate on your body. So choose wisely. Make sure the design reflects who you are and who you will become, and not only the circumstances that forever altered the geography of your heart.
As for my own ink, I am glad that I chose to permanently commemorate my new beginning. Each time I see it, it serves as a reminder of what I’ve been through, how strong I am and how far I’ve come. It is as personal as it is meaningful to me. When people ask me what the tattoo means, I smile and simply tell them it’s my lucky number.
I’m only this far
And only tomorrow leads the way