Most people have no idea I even have a tattoo, it is on the back of my neck and it says “beautiful”. Sometimes I even forget it’s there. When I wear my hair up, people may see it and exclaim, “I never knew you had a tattoo”!! But they don’t say it in a good way. They say it in a judgment way, or at least that’s how it makes me feel. Judged. A lot of people have tattoos nowadays but I feel like it’s still a stigma to have one. Plus, my tattoo is kind of embarrassing because it says “beautiful” in black script. Some people mistake this as being conceited. Then I have to launch into my personal and painful story about WHEN I got it, HOW I got it and WHY it says beautiful.

I got it when I turned 18 and after my boyfriend dumped me. He was always calling me ugly duckling and other assorted names. It started off just like teasing but eventually it really started to affect my confidence during the 2 years we dated. I started to actually believe I was ugly. About a month after he had enough of me, my friend and I were in Ft. Lauderdale on Spring Break and I got it then. NO, I wasn’t drunk. I was SAD and lost. I thought the tattoo would be a symbol of my independence, that I didn’t think I was an ugly duckling. And the reason why I chose to get the back of my neck tattooed was because I saw Nicole Richie had one and I thought it was super cute. And I knew I could wear my hair down if I ever needed to hide it. As the years went by, I never really thought much about it.

After I moved out of my parent’s house, I decided to take a year off of college. I was tired of going to school. I worked a lot of office jobs and was even a waitress at a restaurant across the street from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I made decent money but I wanted more out of life. A friend of mine talked to me about how much money she was making at Wright Patt and that I should look into it. I’d always thought about joining the Air Force because it was such a big part of the town I lived in. After researching different jobs in demand in the Air Force, I got up enough courage one day and went over to the recruiting center. On the drive, I was actually excited. I was tired of spinning in life never going anywhere.

The recruiter talked to me about everything, whether I was mentally ill, did I use drugs, had I ever been arrested, do I have asthma or health issues, was I afraid of the dark, etc. The recruiters did not notice or ask about my tattoo during my initial visits. But on my final interview, a recruiter noticed by beautiful tattoo and said it had to be removed before the enlistment process could be finalized. She said the tattoo was unacceptable and against their policy.

I couldn’t believe that a 4-inch tattoo would be such a big deal but she explained that many military branches prohibit any visible tattoos. And since you have to wear your hair pulled up in your uniform, you can see it. I was devastated but I kept working and saving my money so I could get it removed. It’s been 8 months and I’m so happy to say it’s almost completely gone. When I’m employed by the Air Force, it will be a whole new life for me. I can’t wait. I feel like I really have a goal now. I want a career in Public Affairs and down the road I plan to go to Officer Training School to become an officer. And, although that tattoo ended up creating more problems in my life, I don’t regret getting it. Wrong decision or right decision, you have to make your own choices and live your life your own way. I’m just grateful for the ladies at Skin Renew. They’ve been so supportive at helping me get my life back on track. There’s nothing stopping me now.

Note: This story was written by one of Skin Renew’s clients. It was edited by our blog writer. Any names have been changed. We welcome client stories. If you’d like to share yours, please email.