Charlie Gray


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by Meg Harder

by Meg Harder


Two years ago, Charlie got her first and only tattoo. It is a subtle thin circle that wraps around her forearm. “It is supposed to be brown,” Charlie laughs, but to most appears to be purple-grey. She had wanted something in an earthy red-brown tone but for some reason, no matter how many times she tried to articulate this to her tattoo artist, including a second inking to correct the first one, it still turned out greyish.  While the circle is nice and symmetrical, “which can be quite hard to do” Charlie offers, it has little irregularities in texture where it didn’t quite heal properly. She is fine with it now, saying that the graininess even makes it look a little earthier. It is now a humble reminder “that sometimes you just can't get what you want!”

Charlie's tattoo carries a duplicity of meaning for her. Charlie grew up in a conservative Christian family in which the triangle, or trinity, was a prominent symbol that came to represent an oppressive patriarchal system. For her, the circle seemed like a meaningful alternative after her world views had shifted. The circle reminds her of the connectedness of all life in both the spiritual and physical sense. It also represents her intuitions about cyclical time, a truth she sees as evident in the cycles and seasons of the physical world, but also in the patterns she has witnessed in her life trajectory. While a destiny to repeat the past might seem damning to some, Charlie perceives it as having opportunities to reconnect with the consistent parts of your personal identity and as opportunity to right past mistakes.

Charlie knows her tattoo might seem a little cliché to some, but she didn’t get it to impress others. It was conceived of as a very personal “anchoring symbol” amidst struggles with anxiety and an evolving spiritual life, painted in permanent ink in spite of inevitable judgement from her family. “I love the idea of my body being a blank canvas, waiting to be filled with my creativity. I think there is power in having the agency to present it how I choose.”


Books for Tats

Roxane Gay dedicates this book "for difficult women, who should be celebrated for their very nature." She does an amazing job celebrating women who have been branded "difficult" and portraying the obstacles they overcome in this illuminating collection of short stories. 

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Difficult WOmen

Roxane Gay