Greek-Italian Rita Platanos (19), a first-year student of International Business, always wanted a tattoo. She took the plunge when she moved out. On her left upper arm she has a traditional-style tattoo of an open hand encircled by a snake.
“My parents divorced when I was less than a year old and have had a bad relationship for as long as I can remember. After the divorce my father went back to Greece and I stayed with my mother in Italy. I’d spend a couple of months with one and then some with the other. My father always badmouthed my mother, and vice versa. I understand why they split up; they’re completely different people and from very distinct cultures. Every time I had to readapt to new rules and customs.
My parents have always pulled me in different directions. They were good parents to me, but horrible to each other. My mother would be protective of me when I was in Greece with my father. She would think that my dad was a bad influence on me and tried to protect me from his ‘sweet words’ and presents. The same thing happened with my dad: he would think that my mom didn’t let me make my own decisions or wouldn’t let me go out with my friends because she has a very strong character.
I find the symbolism of tattoos very important; I’d never get one just because it looks good. My tattoo represents my own position in my parents’ relationship. I was always the innocent one who was manipulated by both. The snake symbolises their relationship and I’m the hand, which is open because I’m much freer now I live on my own. My parents don’t have as much influence over me anymore. That I got the tattoo at all is a symbol of my freedom. My mother would never have allowed it, she’s very conservative. The snake is wrapped around the forearm because I felt they were always pulling me this way and that; they’re both very protective when I was at the other parent.
Sometimes I get jealous of people who had a ‘normal’ childhood, with both parents in one place. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. My parents are so different; it wouldn’t have been a good environment for a child. And I also wouldn’t have had my younger half-sister and I probably wouldn’t be studying now in Maastricht. Because I constantly had to switch between countries, schools, rules and cultures, I’m good at adapting to new situations, I can talk to anyone and I speak five languages fluently. It’s made me who I am and I’m proud of that.”