Should I Get a Huntington’s Tattoo?

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by Alexus Jones |

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community events, fears, mom, tattoo

When I was a sophomore in college, I debated going blond. It was January, and every winter, I usually cut or dye my hair. I always need a change of pace during winter. Normally, I go with red or black, and my mom can easily dye my hair. Going blond isn’t as simple, as it requires a lot of bleach. My mom refused to do my hair at home considering how many ways it could go wrong. This meant I had to pay to go to a salon. 

I went to all the salons in my area, and they estimated it would cost between $200-$300 to get my hair to a light blond. On top of that, roots need to be touched up monthly, adding an upkeep cost. This was more than I planned to spend on my hair as a college student. However, I wanted to know how I would look as a blonde. These mutually exclusive desires led to a bit of a dilemma. 

My mom grew frustrated with the back and forth and told me I just needed to make a decision. So I did: I got a tattoo (a completely logical connection at the time). My friend recommended a quote from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen that says, “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others.” It was a change like I wanted, didn’t require monthly upkeep, and was cheaper than bleaching my hair. 

Afterward, I decided each of my tattoos would tell the story of who I was at that moment. That way, even if I changed, I would never regret a tattoo. Following this theme, my second tattoo was an outline of a cat. I have a lot of cat-like behaviors (i.e., deciding when I want attention, thinking the world revolves around me, etc.), and it describes me well. After my second tattoo, I realized I really like line art. (It hurts less when it doesn’t need to be filled in.) 

As most people with tattoos can attest, it’s an addiction. Once you get one, you’re planning the next. I started planning my third in January, about a month after I got my second. My current plan is to get the skeletal structures of the CAG DNA building blocks, the repeat responsible for Huntington’s, on my arm. 

Part of me loves this idea. The tattoo’s scientific aspect really appeals to me, especially because I work in life science consulting. It also fits my themes of line art and telling my story. Huntington’s will always be a part of my life and who I am. The tattoo could also help raise awareness for Huntington’s if I share what it means.

The other part of me is hesitant. For one, I don’t know if I want to think of Huntington’s every time I look at my arm. It could be very draining, but it could also help desensitize me. I don’t know if I want random people asking me about it, either. While the tattoo could raise awareness, would I be exhausted from answering that question?

With this tattoo being almost as permanent as my DNA structure, I want to make sure it’s the one I want. Because I’ve been thinking about it for nine months, my mom believes I would know by now if I didn’t want it. On the bright side, I have to wait to get it due to COVID-19, giving me more time to think.


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