July 14, 2012

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

After we’d exited the Studio B tour – WITHOUT my honky-tonk piano (I should add) – Dawn and I did a quick run-through of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which has to be one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture out there before rushing off to get my peacock tattoo arm sleeve, of which I was now wildly vacillating about putting on my body.


I learned two things there:

a) Taylor Swift has a kick-ass guitar

2) The curator of the Country Music Hall of Fame frowns upon one LICKING aforementioned guitar, even after you explain that it “seemed like a good idea at the time.”

We sorta sped through the museum so that we could make the drive back to the tiny house on the semi-frightening road. We got back to the car, stowed carefully in the Hilton’s parking garage and made our way back to the tattoo shop, the gorge rising as I couldn’t quite recall WHAT, exactly, the tattoo would look like:

What was I DOING? Was I making another tremendous mistake? What if I’d actually wanted something else so people didn’t call me “Bird Girl” for the rest of my days? What kind of nickname is “Bird Girl,” anyway?

Dawn’s GPS decided to play hardball and direct us through routes that were all closed for construction. I was about ready to sink my teeth into the damn thing and make it my bitch, but Dawn handily wrestled it back from me before I could do any real damage. Fear makes you do weird things and I’d begun to question everything from whether or not I should get a tattoo or if I should date the guy sitting on the side of the road drinking what appeared to be malt liquor from a brown paper bag.

The tattoo shop – Archangel Tattoo – and neighborhood had finally, after a long, surreptitious and annoying drive, appeared before us, and, quite frankly, appeared a lot less scary in the light of day (but, really, so do I). Ready for my 4PM appointment, I steeled my nerves and walked into the shop, Dawn following behind, prepared to push me in front of the adorable dude with the twang so I could – at the very least – see if I really did, in fact, want a new tattoo, or if I was simply a walking divorce cliche.

The tattoo guy, Terry, appeared before me to show me what he’d drawn up.

“It’s really fucking big,” he twanged to me, like it was some sort of challenge.

“Fucking perfect,” I beamed. He’d taken what I’d wanted, researched it and drew up a peacock arm sleeve that would match my phoenix flawlessly. I felt, for the first time in weeks, as though I was exactly where I was supposed to be. A thousand pound weight dropped from my shoulders as I smiled a genuine smile for the very first time that day.

“I just need to redraw it for the right arm,” he said. “You guys wanna take a walk and go grab a drink or something? There’s a store about three feet away in that direction,” he drawled as he pointed vaguely east.

“Sure,” Dawn and I agreed.

We trudged out into the late afternoon heat, trying to avoid the raindrops that were falling lazily down upon us.

“I feel like this is something we needed to do – like we were supposed to do it,” Dawn announced as we dodged rain drops. “I feel really good about this.”

I smiled – knowing exactly what she meant.

Armed with a bottle of Diet Pepsi (apparently the South has 47 flavors of sweet tea with absolutely no diet Coke in sight)(also: I’ve never seen so many flavors of pig skin on display like people EAT that shit or something), we marched back through the lazy raindrops and waited.

“Come on back,” my tattoo artist called, leading me back to a room decorated from top to bottom with different types of local art, Lynyrd Skynyrd lazily singing about Tuesday “being gone with the wind,” the comforting buzz of the tattoo gun being used on another customer soothing my nerves. I noted on the wall that I’d happened to be lucky enough to be tattooed by Terry, who’d been winning tattoo awards left and right, or at least, that’s what the plaques on the wall stated. I suppose he could’ve made them himself, but he didn’t seem the type.

Carefully, he lined my arm with the peacock he’d drawn, the purple outline clearly stating that I would be getting not a half-arm sleeve tattoo, but 3/4 of a sleeve.

I smiled.


And thus I began a new chapter in my life – one that would involve taking big risks, learning to lose the fear I’d acquired through my marriage, while reminding myself that while I may feel as though I’m a motherfucking coward, it is not true. I will be brave enough to rebuild my life and do it with grace, dignity while allowing my freak flag to flap in the breeze – there’s no shame in being me.

sparkle chuck t shoes

Gratuitous – yet pointless – shoe shot!

After what seemed to be about five minutes – five minutes of mild-to-extreme pain, let me be clear here – my tattoo guy drawled, “I’m done with the outline – let’s go take a break.”


Out to the quaint front porch we went, where we sat in rocking chairs, rocking slowly back and forth, enjoying the sunset. I asked him the question I ask everyone who has been doing a particular job for a long while:

“What’s the worst thing that anyone’s asked you to tattoo on them?”

He chuckled for a good long while before answering, “I don’t know – most people want bullshit tattoos. I can only do so much with those.”

I nodded, having seen a fair number of particularly awful tattoo ideas. Of special note is the one tattoo I saw that had been clearly done out of some guy’s basement, in which Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbs) was peeing on the word, “X Wife.” Way to keep it classy, people.

Soon enough, darkness began to replace the waning sunlight and it was time, once again, to go back to The Chair. The tattoo pain was somewhere between my back – which barely hurt – to my feet – which hurt like a motherfucker, so while I wasn’t jumping to get back in the chair, I knew that he knew his shit and that my tattoo looked FULL of the Awesome.

I steeled myself for the pain as he began to shade the outline in.

 shading arm sleeve aunt becky

By this time, I was clutching Dawn’s hand like it was a life-raft and trying to remember to breathe. I hadn’t eaten properly in two weeks and while I’m not prone to fainting, the pain had gone from “ouch” to “fucking ouch.” But hey, this was the only birthday present I’d be getting – aside from my “John C. Mayer’s Greatest Hits,” so I gritted my teeth and tried to go to “my place.”

I’d lost track of how many versions of “Free Bird” we’d heard throughout the hours (by this time, I knew it was “hours” and not “minutes,” because my arm now hurt like a motherfucker) when, once again, he announced that it was time for a break. Back to the rocking chairs we went, where customers ingoing and outgoing stopped to chat with me about my tattoo. Apparently, NashVegas doesn’t get a lot of girls requesting sleeve tattoos, which, SURPRISING AS FUCK.

shaded peacock arm sleeve tattoo

By this point, I’d started dreading Das Chair – while my migraines have given me an incredible pain tolerance (THANKS, MIGRAINES!), I could now feel each individual needle as it went into my skin. I’d have made an appointment to finish that fucker the following day (my birthday), but the shop was closed. So it was now or motherfucking never.

It was about halfway through the coloring of my now beautiful tattoo that it hit me:

This was my only birthday present.

This was one of the last things I’d be able to buy for myself as I was going to have to start finding ways to make money so I could become self-sufficient and move out.

I was getting a divorce.

It was over – my future was a black question mark of uncertainty.

And through the physical pain, my emotional pain began to burble out. While I consider 9-10PM now my “crying hour,” I hadn’t expected that getting a tattoo in a shop full of big dudes would evoke tears. But come they did. It was like a torrential downpour as I performed my favorite party trick, “The Ugly Cry,” to an entire room. Oddly, I wasn’t even mortified – it just felt right to be able to mourn the “never will’s” of my life.

coloring peacock arm tattoo

Soon, it was all over but the crying.

peacock tattoo arm sleeve

And that is how I will approach my new life, in the hopes that one day, someone may put on my tombstone: she was brave.

58 thoughts on “NashTucky: She Was Brave

  1. My husband eats pickled pigs feet. No joke. He is scary southern.

    Dude. You are totally brave. And your tattoo is AWESOME!

    I want your shoes.

  2. That sleeve is AWESOME! I was just talking about getting a full sleeve, but I was told that no one will buy insurance from someone who looks like a cast member of Sons of Anarchy. 🙁 Dammit. I’ll just live vicariously through you.
    Big fat hugs!

  3. Holy beautiful. I hurt just reading this but I have no tolerance for this kind of pain.

    Your tears? Beautiful release of all you’d been holding in. Well done and congrats on the new ink addition.

  4. Oh Becky, it’s beautiful just like the life I’m pretty sure you’re going to create for yourself. Sometimes it takes a kick in the ass and some pain to find the beauty we’re meant to see.

    You are brave. You’re brave for sharing, and you’re brave for moving forward.

    You might see this as a black mark of uncertainty for your future, but you have an answer for one part and it’s time to start the next part…which can more or less take any shape you want.

    Love you to bits.

  5. First of all, AWESOME tattoo!! Secondly, you can do this; I know you can, because we cancer girls are full of strength that we never thought possible until we absolutely need to find it! (And, our birthdays are on the same day, so I know you’re as strong as I am!) I was so afraid, walking out of my last relationship. It took turning to my mother (a person I really don’t like) and swallowing the last of my pride. It has taken some time, but I am finally in a place where I am living the life that I want and not what everyone else wants. Life is about you and your kids, and having been following you for quite some time now, I know you will make a success of it!! Best of luck in your new adventures, and remember that your pranksters are only a couple of keystrokes away if you ever feel the need for encouragement!!

  6. I have no clever words of advice or encouragement. But I HAVE to comment. Roadtrips to Nashville have become my relationship-ending salve. I’ve done it twice (I believe I commented once before bout that…) – once when my marriage ended and once almost exactly a year later when my first post-marriage relationship ended (which hurt SO MUCH more badly than the divorce did). I also got (just before Nashville trip #2) the cliched divorce tattoo, albeit much smaller than yours. But I’ve got to tell you — I sit in a MUCH happier place now than I was in while still married, and while with post-divorce guy. Figuring out the money situation SUCKS, but hang in there. In a year you’ll be AMAZED at what you’ve conquered!

  7. You know what? You ARE Fucking awesome! That tattoo is Fucking Awesome, I am soooo covetous, and divorce sucks long skinny, ugly warty, hairy cocks! I know, I’ve done it twice. And had some UGLY breakups, with some DUMB asssholes. You are a tough woman! His loss. People say that that, and shrug, but no one ever really thinks about it.. Think about it. You are awesome, talented, funny, and … wait for it… BRAVE as fuck! His loss.

  8. Ok, I admit that in the last post when you first said peacock, I kind of thought, “uh…???” But good goddamn if that isn’t a gorgeous tattoo. Go you. You ARE brave.

    (And now I want my own special divorce tattoo. Maybe Calvin peeing on the word “X Husband.” You know, something classy like that.)

  9. Beautiful. I love it! AB…there is so much emotion in your writing…my heart aches just reading your posts. You are stronger than you realize…so much stronger! Not a lot of people could put their thoughts into words at a time like this and I really think that is going to be your saving grace.

  10. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your telling of this transition. The tattoo is amazing. You should be proud of what you’re embarking upon. A new life, with a newer version of you, still just as awesome.

  11. It IS full of the awesome! I love it, and now I feel like a big pussy for whining about my “Spoonerfly” as my son calls it.

    I prefer to think of de-filing one’s body NOT as a divorce cliche’, but as a “chronic-pain-and-illness-and-no-control-over-anything-in-my-life-EXCEPT-body-modificaiton cliche'”.

    Hang in there, toots. This too, shall pass. You know, like a gall stone. Or gas.

  12. Becky, That. Is. Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your journey. You have no idea how much I am getting from your strength right now.

  13. Oh, Becky. How lovely… How BRAVE!

    I have to tell you … Friday I signed my divorce papers. Saturday was our five year anniversary. I was brave-ish, too.

    It took AN hour, not hours, but I let a large man use a sharp needle to carve these words into my ribs: “Out of the ash, I rise…” It’s a truncated line from a Sylvia Plath poem. Her poem is about suicide. My tattoo is about survival. It’s a wordy take on your phoenix (though I just found out about your pretty bird), but I love that concept…

    I still cry every day. I have to sit in front of a courtroom of people this Friday and briefly explain that my husband and I failed at marriage. I can’t even imagine. I can’t even stomach it.

    I’m waiting to rise. I know I will. Your strength buoys me and your sadness I relate to so much … I keep checking every day.

  14. Change the title of this post – “Nashtucky – She is BRAVE and FULL of the awesome.”
    Cuz Becky you are so awesome and brave. You have strength you haven’t even tapped into yet. You have a whole case of whoop ass just waiting. And your new ink is so pretty and matches the Phoenix like amazingly and all. Perfect. Crying in that place was no big. I’m sure you weren’t the first and won’t be the last to shed a tear in the chair. Crying is just strength oozing out of your eyes. That’s all. Much love to ya girlie. xo

  15. You are the bravest person i know. You have done an amazing job with the huge challenges in your (short) life. You are an incredibly gifted writer. I am sorry that you are mourning ‘what could have been’….My heart hurts for you. But there is no doubt that you will create a beautiful new life for you and your children.

  16. Aunt Becky, it’s drop-dead gorgeous. i’m not a tattoo person at this point in my life, in part because I haven’t learned to tolerate needles, but if i were to acquire skin art, I’d want something very much like yours.

  17. That peacock is just full of the awesome sauce. It is beautiful. Wear it proud. I’ve always felt that tattoos are to be used to remind of the moments of our greatest joy or our greatest pain. Use it to remind you that you are a strong capable woman who will overcome and kick ass like always.

  18. You ARE brave, you know. Brave enough to put yourself out there, sloppy emotions and all. Brave enough to say, “We all have our moments. You – anyone out there – are not alone.” and then prove it by setting up a website where everyone can band together. Brave enough to be YOU and to be there for others.

    You’ll get through this. For you, for the kids. Because – and excuse me if I go a little maudlin here – you are strong enough to get up one more time than you fall down.

    Happy belated birthday, Becky, and congrats on your gorgeous new ink. Internet hugs if you would like them.

  19. Hey AB, Gorgeous art, looks amazing on you! On a related note, I also have a phoenix tattoo. is about quarter sleeved size. I worried a lot about being ‘bird girl’, especially when my younger brother started to refer to it as my kelloggs rooster tattoo. That bastard.

    I don’t comment much, mostly because everyone beats me to it, but I often can relate and definitely see you as quite a like mind (aka I laugh my ass off all the time). Wishing you an amazing fresh start! The brave stuff is already there.

  20. You know…Phoenix tears heal everything…including broken hearts. I love the idea that your Phoenix was crying with you and from it was born courage and a kick ass gorgeous peacock.

    Happy Birthday Aunt Becky!!!

  21. Awesome! I’m 42 and just got my first tattoo in March. Call it a mid-life crisis or whatever, but fuck it, I call it ME FINDING MYSELF. I’ve always wanted one but it took me this long to figure out what I wanted…unfortunately, you can’t divorce a tattoo (except by laser). Mine goes down my SPINE and took 2 1/12 hours so I feel you on the PAIN factor. I haven’t debuted it on my site yet tho…that’s coming.

  22. Fucking brave… what a tank! You took that whole tattoo in one setting! *raising my hat*
    Totally love it… good work.

    Had to think about your seahorse tattoo the other day (while on a balinese beach)… and how you’re just going to be fine. Bobbing along your new chapter of life. Yay on more ink. I just spend my budget on a month long trip, so I’ll have to wait a little longer.

  23. Dude. You’re my hero. You’re so badass I can hardly handle it. And girl, I will be flying my flag right next to yours. We’ve got this!

    PS. Now I feel like a total wimp for putting off my tattoo that I want. Hmm inspiration?

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