ONCE UPON A TIME
I have always loved dying my hair. At first, in middle school, my mom would only let me use lemon juice and Sun-In to add highlights, but I circumnavigated this by spraying that stuff all over my hair to achieve the usual brown-red shade from which Asians cannot escape. I have run the gamut from blue-black to browns and reds, to pink and blue, to several attempts at blonde (it didn’t work). I was completely bald, I spiked my hair with Elmer’s glue, I had dreadlocks, I shaved the sides and used Cray-Pas to color in the designs on my scalp, I got a perm every time I went to China (so cheap!). My hair is beast.
I was in awe when I discovered one could slide a safety pin through the surface of their eyebrow without any pain and just the tiniest drop of blood, but my body generally does not respond well to piercings. My ears were infected for over a year from my second ear lobe piercings, my cartilage swelled to an abnormal size before finally settling down, and my nose, lip, and tragus all got keloids and had to be taken out. I have kept my septum piercing, but I almost always have my retainer in, so it stays hidden from sight.
I currently have 17 tattoos. Getting my last one was a totally pain-free and entirely enjoyable experience. Sometimes bodies are very adaptable.
ALONG COMES PRINCE CHARMING
Noah likes me all the time, but he really likes a more natural-looking me: no facial piercings, no hair dye, no more tattoos than what I already have. He is also very supportive: when I told him I eventually wanted a sleeve on my left arm, he gave me money towards it that he had made from selling miniature figurines he had painted – money we had specifically budgeted for his hobbies – saying quite sincerely, “You are my hobby.” He wants so much for me to feel loved and supported.
Over the weekend, I almost dyed my hair, only because I was bored and wanted something to do. But I realized that, as Noah has told me time and time again, I have some damn nice natural highlights! Why would I want to cover them up with some cheap store-bought color that will merely perpetuate a vicious cycle of constant root cover-up?
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
I am beautiful.
I have not often thought I was pretty. Growing up, I always wanted to be a white girl, with big, round eyes the color of not-poop and long, curled eyelashes, freckles, pink nipples, and the prerogative to dye my hair blonde if I so desired. While these are issues to expound upon at another time, in short, to compensate for my lack of perceived beauty, I tried to be cool. When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and lost all the hair on my body; simultaneously, I gained 20 pounds. I felt like a fat little Chinese boy.
“Hair was meant to be played with,” I would say, after my hair grew back and I made changes to it every few months. Part of the experimentation with my looks was selfish teenage rebellion that has become so expected in our culture, but a lot was simply insecurity and the desire to prove myself. I wanted to not be another Asian girl with long, straight, jet black hair. I wanted to not be a dumb, Christian girl with long skirts and high necklines and Chapstick. I wanted my physical appearance to reflect how I thought of myself as creative and bad ass and different from my peers.
Really, I just wanted attention.
Today I realized that I do not want more tattoos. Sure, I like to get matching ink with people I love as a bonding activity and lasting memory, and I like to get tattoos abroad as souvenirs, but I would be fine not getting any more, and I certainly do not need a sleeve. In fact, I don’t need to do anything else to my body. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am unique and intelligent and beautiful and wonderful. My Creator says so, and he has given me my husband to remind me all the time.
Update: Noah and I got 1-year anniversary tattoos in July 2013. That was #18.