Beauty, tattoos and getting old

Recently my 16 year old step daughter started talking constantly about wanting a tattoo, and to illustrate her seriousness began drawing it on her arm in pen, eyeliner, sharpie... whatever she could find that was water proof. And honestly, its been bugging the hell out of me!

I don't have an issue with tattoos. I don't have any myself, though Ive considered it a couple times, and my husband has several. I have seen many tattoos that I think are very beautiful works of art, and

I believe in the idea of "your body, your rules"

So is taken me a while to get to the bottom of why Ive been reacting so negatively to her getting one.

The tattoo that she wants is the word "Beautiful" written in Japanese characters.


The idea that she wants to somehow establish her identity as "beautiful" permanently in ink made me think about my own looks and my changing relationship with my own sense of beauty, which is at an interesting juncture at the moment. As I'm getting older the way I look is changing and I don't have the same kind of beauty I did as a girl, and I'd be lying if I said that I haven't had moments where I feel a little sad about losing that very easy attractiveness of youth.

But its once again made me realize just how much my beauty is not actually a part of me. It doesn't really even belong to me.  The way I look is an accident of genetics, and it wont last.

The way I look is not who I am.

I found myself wondering who I would be if I took away the way I look, and what I'm going to be like when I'm much much older, totally unrecognizable from the way I look now. I plan to be a wonderfully eccentric, outspoken woman with three lap dogs, interesting art on every wall, great stories of my life and travels and a penchant for too many mojitos. And I plan to have a wealth of life and exploration and endless curiosity till the end. Which brings me to my point.

Why is our "beauty" even relevant?

Its fleeting. Temporary. Its not WHO we are.

The reason my step daughters tattoo choice bothers me so much is because she is SO much more than just beautiful. She is courageous, strong, creative, selfless, fiercely protective of her loved ones and very intelligent.

I would much rather she tattoo all of those amazing attributes on every inch of her skin, than focus on the only one that is meaningless.