Sophie Stoeger/The Daily Texan
As air rushed against her bare legs on the tattoo parlor’s leather seat, Emily Tran said her body prickled with nerves.
Resolutely looking away from the tattoo gun as it met the vulnerable skin of her inner thigh, the psychology freshman wordlessly locked eyes with the friend sitting across from her. Despite her hesitation, in the presence of such support, Tran said she couldn’t help but feel grateful.
“We’re basically sisters,” Tran said. “I can always count on (the girls in my sorority) for anything. … I could literally be like, ‘Want to go get a tattoo next week?’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah.’”
Last fall, Tran joined the Asian-interest sorority alpha Kappa Delta Phi, where students from different backgrounds, majors and hometowns come together to connect over culture and service goals. Explaining that her sorority sisters do everything from pitching in to pay for her tattoo to lending advice, Tran said she quickly found lifelong friends she feels comfortable taking on new experiences with.
“Everyone is completely different, and (the sorority is) probably the most diverse, personality wise,” Tran said. “It’s so cool being able to see the world through their lens.”
Though Tran chooses to place her tattoos in discrete locations to appease her strict parents, she said she enjoys the freedom they represent while allowing her to have fun without regrets.
“I always liked the idea of being able to choose every line that’s unique to you,” Tran said. “You have so much empty space (on your body). I grew up with parents who … would not approve of me having a tattoo, but I didn’t really (get to) express who I am. … I just like how it looks, too.”
Following the curve of her upper leg, a mix of black and white ink depicts a skeletal arm reaching out to a flower. Tran said she found the art on Instagram with the caption, “Life is Life,” and felt an instant attraction.
“It sounds depressing, but (the tattoo is) like the cycle of life and death in a poetic way,” Tran said. “I’ll die, so I might as well go live.”
Tran’s first tattoo — the word “pardner” on her ribs — and her most recent installation, drew inspiration from trips with friends. Tran said the two represent times shared with important people in her life who she is confident to showcase permanently.
“People always ask, ‘What if you regret getting (the tattoo)?’ but that doesn’t really matter,” Tran said. “Even if they’re no longer my friends in the future, they always have a special place in my heart. A tattoo will always be a memory of a really good relationship.”