I got my first tattoo when I was 22 years old. I have an idea of what I want to make but I have no clue who should make it. At that time I was looking for ones who understands the art inside out, have the principle and most importantly I can make a connection with them. I finally met with Aman Durga Sipatiti and Ade Itameda and got all my five tattoos from them.
My first tattoo is a Dayak scorpion on my upper right arm by Durga. Ade made the next one: the word “Moksha” contained inside an impossible triangle on my chest. The third and fourth one are made simultaneously within nine hours, a double Bunga Terung on my left and right shoulder. The last one is a lotus flower on my upper left arm, which I suspiciously filled with magic when I was in Bali. I got all of them in the span of two years and I hid all of them from my parents for seven years.
My parents are like typical suburban parents who still engage the world, embrace technology and keeping an open mind. There are however several topics that they always avoid like sex and death, tattoos, however, weren’t always like that. I recall my mother made grunt-like sounds while smiling when his uncle’s show his tattoo during one of those family reunions. My father was half jokingly said I will look badass if I have a tattoo when one day he saw a stamp on my right lower arm.
There are a few reasons why I hide it for seven years. First, I don’t understand them. I have not spent too much time with them because I have been living on my own since I was 17 years old. I don’t understand how open they are about me. Second, around the same time when I made my tattoo, a series of events happened to our family and it made my parents grew more religiously. The lack of understanding and that series of events made me more secretive about the tattoos I had.
By now you understand why I chose to hide my tattoos and you probably want to ask how did I hide five tattoos for seven years. It’s actually very simple, just a combination of discipline, self-awareness and knows which shirt to wear during sleeping. Hiding a tattoo from my parents is much like crossing a road in Jakarta, you really need to be aware of where they could come to notice your tattoo.
The lack of understanding and the fear of disappointing the people who are close to us drive us to become dishonest to ourselves and to others. In another case, we try to compromise and did not address the elephant in the room and creating a fragile comfort zone. Some tried not to compromise at all and pretend not to care, diverting their attention to something or someone else entirely starting a case of infidelity.
Over the course of my relationships with other people, I have learned not only to accept but also to learn about others. I realize sometimes we need to swallow the bitter truth rather than waiting for it to implode in our faces destroying everything in the room. Sometimes we need to make the first move and sometimes it was presented to us so we just need to walk through it. For me and my parents, it was the latter.
Here’s the story of how they knew my tattoos; one day I come back from the office, as always I unbutton my shirt’s second button from the top and I never forget to button it again when my parents are around (except for this time). My parents were in my apartment and I need to go right away for a meeting, so I unload my bags and fill it with my meeting material. The following were my conversation with my mother:
Mum: Are you going to have dinner here?
Me: Nah, gonna go for a meeting. I am going to have my dinner in Citywalk.
Mum: Is that a tattoo on your chest?
Me: (realize I haven’t button my shirt up) Nope. (Looked at the mirror and it was clear as day, they can see the tattoo) Well… uh yeah, that’s a tattoo…
Mum: Come closer let me see that… (looks at tattoo and touching it), does it hurt?
Me: Yap a bit….
Mum: You know, it looks ugly so don’t make another one.
That was it. The past seven years I have been afraid of their rejection and disappointment only to find out that they were disappointed that my tattoo is ugly. Not because I never told them about it and not because I rebelled against the rules.
Originally published on Medium July 4th, 2016