My “Dear Host Family” letter is officially complete. *Insert sigh of relief*. Considering the fact that I’ve successfully written one before, I assumed it would be an easy task. It wasn’t. It’s so entirely different this time, and I guess that’s because I am. Not only has my work experience, volunteer experience, education and passions changed, but my skills and characteristics have, too.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, of course. There is the last bit of the letter that worries me. After hopefully WOWing every potential HF that reads the chronicles of my life, there comes the awkward moment when I sneakily slide in the fact that I have tattoos. A lot of them. 14 to be exact.
In my first letter, I didn’t bother to mention it. I was advised by my organization to mention it in my phone interviews. That is the route I took, and I’m taking the alternative route this time and putting it all out on the table. I had too many host families whose tones drastically changed at the mention of my numerous tattoos (9 at the time). I tried to comfort them by explaining that they are NOT offensive or gang related. You know, a rose here, a quote there. Pretty typical girly stuff. Some host families were flat out against having a tattooed Au Pair, and one requested pictures of each tattoo to verify (this freaked me out, and I ended up not sending them). Others were accepting, and my final interview with my would-be host family, the response was “great, my son will love them!”. *Insert another sigh of relief*.
Despite being on the tattooed side of the stigma, I get it. I’ve written papers about the marginalization of tattooed people, read numerous social science research papers about perceptions of women with tattoos, and I’ve lived with it since I was 14. Despite “getting” it, however, it’s still hard to accept. None of the stigmas associated with tattoos apply to me (excessive drug use, criminal history, sexual promiscuity, etc.) .. or to 99% of people I know with tattoos, really. Every one of my tattoos memorializes a person or event so significant that it is permanently inked on my body .. for life. It’s commitment and loyalty in my eyes, not deviance or self-harm. And it certainly does not hinder my ability to be a rocking Au Pair.
There’s still black marks on that county road, where we drag raced our pick-ups and mustangs
And weathered all the sun and rain
And to this day up on that overpass, even underneath the new paint, you can still see,
“Allie, will you marry me?”