I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was 45. As I’ve said before…it was a mid-life thing (assuming I live to be 90). It was cheaper than a sports car or plastic surgery and way less damaging than an affair. I got a simple Om symbol in the small of my back (yes…tramp stamp). I chose that spot because it was the place least likely to change regardless of what my body did as I aged…when I die at 90 it would be mostly recognizable. In addition, the symbol had, and continues to have a deep, spiritual meaning for me. My life was in the shitter at the time and I needed something. I expected it to help…it did…a little.
What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with all things ink. When I grew up the only people who had or got tattoos were bikers, sailors, gang bangers or trashy women. To have a tattoo meant that you were part of the dregs of society and any friends I had that got tattoos at 18 or so, were in the process of having theirs removed while I was going under the needles. But the art was evolving and I was fascinated. I wanted something that was private and just mine (at my age there wasn’t any danger of my thong and tat peeking out of my jeans at a party) and my new art filled the bill. I was in love.
So much so that I planned and thought about my next piece almost immediately. I had my daughter (the artist) design something around my Om symbol that would not only add color but make it more meaningful. Around my symbol she drew six cherry blossoms (for each of my kids), five little buds (for each of the grandkids) all of which paid homage to my hometown, Washington, DC. In my 50th year I had that one inked on my back during a business trip to Orlando. I got lucky and the artist did a wonderful job but thinking back, I should have waited and done some research…it could have gone very, very wrong.
By then I was watching Miami Ink, LA Ink, InkMaster, Best Ink, and any other tattoo show that came on TV. I love hearing the stories of why people want to change their bodies permanently and I love watching these amazing artists do their work. Some are silly and irresponsible while others are joyful and celebrate life. Then there are those that are sad and pay homage to loved ones lost. Some are ill placed (neck and hand tattoos????? risky) while others are hidden so well only that “special” person and the owner will ever see them. All are fairly expensive and the really good ones by the really great ones are sometimes actually cost prohibitive.
The one I saw that truly changed my opinion of tattoos forever was a picture in a magazine of a woman who had a radical mastectomy on both breasts and was left with horrible disfiguring scars. Instead of attempting reconstruction (always a deeply personal decision) she had the most beautiful tattoo done over her chest and under her arms to her back. It was breathtaking and for a moment, you didn’t see the scars…only the art. That’s when I realized the impact tattoos could have.
The most important tattoo I have is the one I got about a year into my sobriety. I got my sober date (1/7/10) tattooed on the inside of my right wrist…my “drinking” hand. That tattoo served many purposes. First it served as a constant reminder of what I was fighting for. Second it was like a talisman…guiding me through the tough times. And finally, it was a reminder that if I picked up, having it removed was going to be expensive and hurt like a sonofabitch! Let’s just say that simple, quick and inexpensive tattoo served its purpose.
I have a swirly hard to read tat on my right ankle that says “Let Go”. My friend and I got them together and they match. Whenever I’m having trouble remembering that I’m not in charge…I think of that little piece of ink. It works.
Finally, I recently decided that my sober date had served it’s purpose and it was time to move forward and stop looking back. I now have four cherry blossoms covering that date and the words “Be Still” in my favorite font below it.
It also reminds me that I’m not in charge..
“Be still and know that I am God…” ~ Psalm 46:10
What’s next? Only time, money and my impulsiveness will tell.