The first two walked into the little coffeeshop, on this night that it was turned into a pop-up ramen bar. After careful deliberation, they chose a small table at the front window. It was a hot night in August and one woman was wearing coveralls with a minimal top that allowed her bare arms to be seen. They were heavily decorated with colourful tattoos. Vines and flowers, growing things covered the surface of her skin from her shoulders to her fingertips. I think there were animal forms too. Not your typical tattoos. She had a blunt short haircut with light brown hair that framed her face and big round eyes that made her look like a young girl, someone with wonder and enthusiasm. When she looked at the waiter, it was with total engagement.

The other woman had longer, slightly blondish hair, pushed back from her face with a headband. She favoured retro-clothing, a flared skirt, handbag and a white, short waisted jumper. Her movement was more tentative, cautious, like a small animal that wasn’t fearful exactly, just choosy. The first woman was very attentive to this woman, asking if she wanted to sit facing the window, so she could see out it, or if she preferred her back to the window. I couldn’t hear their speech, but could see them gesturing back and forth and I could read their body language. They both circled the table, trying out the views and then the second woman sat down in the chair facing the window.

My ramen came. I was sitting a few tables away. I turned my attention to my meal and ate. A little while later, another woman entered the small restaurant. She came through the door and she was stunning. A large woman with a large personality, she had a carefully composed face and had taken great care in her appearance. She radiated personal power. Her makeup was perfectly applied. Eyebrows, eyelashes, and her lipstick were all solid and definite. Black and red. Her nails were the same bright, shiny red as her lips. Her black hair was straight, thick and long and she had a short fringe and it was neatly combed, framing her beautiful face. She was one of a kind. She wore a black poodle skirt and a short sleeve top that offset her ample bosom. It was banded in many colours. How bold! But what was most striking of all were her many incredible tattoos. They seemed to cover he whole body and appeared as natural to her as a zebra’s stripes. Every inch of her exposed arms and hands had curves and lines with unusual tattoos drawn in such a way that they seemed to compliment her own movements. I was hypnotised by her and watching her move was like watching an animation. It was dreamlike and wonderous. The words ‘tattooed lady’ entered my mind, something with a history of wonder.

Despite her size, she moved in a dainty way, very aware of her own body and careful of others. Giving a warm hug to each of the other women, she sat herself down in one of the two empty chairs and fluidly engaged with them both. She seemed to be a Queen, at ease. Stately, regal and wise. And the other women were clearly taken with her, attentive and interested in everything she said.

I kept looking at the tattoos and how each one was so artfully rendered. I have only one small tattoo on the inside of my left arm. It took 20 minutes and was excruciating. I like my tattoo, but I couldn’t imagine how these women managed all of these. I found myself wondering what their story was, wishing I could be at their table, in their club. What I noticed and envied was how they carried themselves. There was celebration, confidence and power there. These women celebrated themselves and each other. It made me feel like they had broken free of something. Was it the cultural norms or restrictions women placed on themselves? I pondered this for a while. They had a beauty to them that was totally unique and themselves.

The fourth woman in their party came in and apologised for being late. She also had on bright, colourful clothing–a dress, and she too had tattoos that complimented her outfit and her overall appearance. She was part of this tribe and took her seat with them, joining the party.

These women were in a class by themselves, in a world of their own. It looked like a wonderful world indeed. They were proud of their bodies and their spirits radiated strength. They were unique and had somehow learned to treasure themselves and each other. It inspired me. It made my night. Thank you, Tattooed Ladies. I love Hastings.