A simple world that means so much. A seven-letter word I will always carry in my head, my heart and on my toosh.

Photo by Marco Ovando

Photo by Marco Ovando

Yes, it is real.

What may look like some slutty tattoo actually holds a lot of meaning for me in my life journey. It was something secretive for me to share with only those I chose, but in lieu of a recent photo-shoot, and my mission to make the world more understanding, I chose to bare it all. Share my secret. Share another story. Share myself.

When I was six, my mother, who is one of my heroes, fell gravely ill. She like so many women went in to give birth to my sister, and decided as a grown mature individual to have her tubes tied. Something simple they said. It was not. Complications arose and seven years later, through doctor visit after doctor visit we were left guessing what had happened. I could go into great detail about what it is like to be six and know your life has changed forever, but its probably best not to for the sake of my mother and the sake of your interests. All you need to know is that my mother, after years and years, eventually bounced back as best as she could, but not without many obstacles.

I will share that from that moment on, I knew I had to be different, mature, sensitive, caring. Look beyond what I saw, and remember that everyone has a story to tell. Simple mundane problems couldn’t matter, and I had to be “a big brave dog.” A phrase I have used since I was young to remind myself, “I can do anything.”

You may say, sure that’s nice and all, but how does this translate to the word imagine on your ass?

Photo by Marco Ovando

Photo by Marco Ovando

Well, when I was 15 my mother surprised me with a ring for no reason. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t a holiday. It was just another day. I don’t really remember anything else about that day except the ring. It was a silver band with the word “imagine,” engraved into the front of it.  It was part of a John Lennon collection, thus the back of the ring had engravings of his self-portrait and signature. Simple. Elegant. Sacred.

I have always loved The Beatles and think John Lennon is a true icon, but to be honest the ring was more about something intimate, special, unique between only my mother and I.

Two years later she gave me two more pieces from the collection, but there will always be something special about that first ring. The start of it all. The meaningfulness.

I knew since she gave that ring to me that I not only wanted, but also had to have it with me always. A tattoo. A promise. Permanence.

When it would happen was fated in the stars.


Fast forward to my freshman year of college at NYU. April 9, 2007. I was booked up in my advanced writing class with a professor, who was a Slam Poet South African Hippie Masterpiece. She was discussing some cool notion of life and started saying, “Imagine blah blah blah.” I blacked out. All I heard was ‘imagine.” In that moment I knew I had to get my tattoo.

After almost 5 years of waiting, the stars had aligned, and it was time. I turned to the girl next to me, who I knew had tattoos, asked where she got them, and booked it back to my dorm the second class was over.

I rushed to my best friends room, told her I wanted to tell her something. She said she had something she wanted to tell me. After five minutes of us bantering back and forth like idiots, asking the other to share their story first, she finally caved and said she wanted to go get her tattoo. It was destined.

I called my mom, told her it was time. I sent her an email with a few variations of the tattoo. Different fonts, sizes, uppercase, lowercase. This tattoo was for her. It was hers to pick.

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Then came the decision of where it should be. Without hesitation she picked where you can or cannot see my tattoo. It was the final piece to the puzzle. A spot that would be covered for most of my life. I would forget I have it most of the time. It would be covered by underwear for photo-shoots, by bathing suits at the beach and in general just covered. But what makes this spot so special is that it is where Barbie Dolls get their Mattel stamp. An iconic doll my mother had collected since she was a girl.

I would forever be my mother’s Barbie.

What felt like only 5 minutes of a cathartic pain and it was done. I was inducted into the majority of the US population, tattoo nation, inked. There is something very intense mentally about knowing you are inflicting a type of pain onto yourself for something you want so badly. It is addictive for some, healing for others. For me it solidified my being, my mother’s love and my love for my mother.

April 9 was the day I would be permanently marked, and it wasn’t until after the tattoo, when the excitement wore off some that I had realized it was the day before my mom’s birthday. It truly was all encompassing. Poetic. Full.

The tattoo was a way for me to always have that ring and what it stood for with me. Something I wanted with me forever.

Sadly, when I was a senior in college it did what it likes to do in NY and it snowed. I ended up having a snowball fight with some of my fraternity brothers on the way to a bar and in the midst of the cold, my fingers shrunk, and my ring flew off into the abyss of white.

I lost my ring. It killed me. I even went back to the scene of the crime a few days later when the snow had melted and looked for it. It was gone. However, there was a sense of calm about me the whole time because I reminded myself I would always have the ring with me through my tattoo.


It has now been over ten years since I got that ring. Almost eight years since I have had my tattoo, and countless more life experiences. This simple word has reminded me to look beyond what I see. Look past myself. Be grateful. Imagine.

It is a great reminder right now as my mother now faces another battle, one that will test her yet again. I know she is a fighter, but that doesn’t make it less scary. Any easier. I just know that as long as I imagine, she will be with me from now until forever, and she will continue to overcome the boundaries thrown at her.

While you may see a kind of risqué tattoo, I see a message. A reminder. A story.

Photo by Marco Ovando

Photo by Marco Ovando

I hope you remember to dream, love and more than anything else in the world, imagine.

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Posted on March 4, 2014 .