Tattoo You: Let’s Think About It


Now that's a meaningful tattoo! (From
Now this tattoo tells a story! (From

I love a kid with a tattoo. Everywhere I see young darlings in fully inked sleeves hanging out in malls or at local stop and robs.

I wonder how their designs will play out in the coming years. Skull and bones on a wrist that hands out mini-muffins to kids at a Montessori class. Someday at a corporate presentation, will a sleeve of Samurai swords vie for attention with a laser pointer?

That’s what I adore about kids – their sense of immortal youth. They have no idea one’s beam may broaden leaving that butt rose in over-bloom someday.

I’m not against tattoos. I only suggest they be inked with thought, which always reminds me of my daughter’s high school friend, John.

In 1981  he was a big lump of a lad who’d hang out at our home. One day I sat at the kitchen table studying his multiple arm designs. As a mom, I had a license to be nosy.

I gave John an affectionate poke. “The dragon on your forearm? Nice touch. So what does your mommy say about all this, little boy?”

At 6’2″ the sixteen-year-old shrugged. “She never says anything. I guess she thinks they’re cool.”

Feeling existentialist, I asked, “But, John, what does it all mean?”

He surprised me with an anthropological intro.

“You know, the tattoo is an ancient art form. It was considered by many indigenous people as a way of expressing sacred symbology.”

Wow. Multi-syllabic words, I was impressed.

I tapped his upper arm. “So what’s the sacred significance of your 8-Ball?”

“It was the only design large enough to erase my old girlfriend’s name.”

John then confided the mindset of the multiply tattooed, “You know, it’s like a blank canvass. Once you start, it’s like you can’t stop.”

The dear child needed a “whoa-buddy.”

I said, “Whoa, buddy! Return to symbolic significance. Why don’t just you wait and have a tattoo done once every ten years? Make the design symbolize what the decade meant to you.’” (Somebody needed to slow this kid down.)

Now it was John’s turn to be impressed. “Hella-cool idea!” (This was 1981).

We high fived each other and I added, “Why riddle your body with meaningless signs? Get one that really tells a story, Johnny!”

I’ve since lost touch with the big goof, but I wonder if something esoteric ever followed his 8-Ball.

I have no tattoos, but I try to imagine a fitting symbol for myself, perhaps a gryphon, or the planet Saturn, or maybe Georgia O’Keefe’s bright red poppy. The truth is there isn’t one piece of jewelry I’d wear every day for the rest of my life, so why would permanent ink be any different?

But I am fascinated by the tattoos of others. So tell me, what is the sacred significance of your Yosemite Sam?



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29 thoughts on “Tattoo You: Let’s Think About It”

  1. I’ve been contemplating one for a long time, mostly leaning towards a cattoo but what keeps holding me back is the creepy thought that it could be a way to easily ID a dead body. The older I get the less I worry what others think. It seems more a shame to put ink on perfect dewy young skin yet a great way to perk up my saggy ankles or stretch marked hips.

    1. Jill C, don’t let the idea of those standing around the morgue slab commenting on your ink stop you! Me likee the idea of a tattoo covering up sags, bags, and scars. Genius!

  2. Oh and sorry Donna, but I’ve had my belly button pieced for years. I did it when I was 3 weeks prego with my daughter Ali. It was important to me to keep a crystal right near each of my babies to bring in good energy. Little did I know that it was my creative center, and I’d wind up here!

  3. When it comes to tattoos, I am so with you. If they aren’t going to mean something to me forever, then what’s the point? That’s why I didn’t get my first until I was 40 yrs old. It is on my right shoulder blade and it says, “Forever Grateful” I look at it almost every day. It reminds me to be appreciative that I look 10 years younger than my actual age, that I am still very active and athletic, and on the “bad days”, I am most grateful for being alive. I am always finding ways to remain “Forever Grateful” thanks to my permanent reminder. This year I will be getting one on my wrist that says, “All is well. You are loved.” It is a quote from my book, SUKI. If I told you how much it truly means to me, I would ruin the experience if you decided to read the book one day, so I won’t. I will just say that that phrase calms and centers me, and fills my heart with a love that is indescribable when I find myself caught up in the chaos of my life. Great post!

  4. I once knew a girl who had a line tattooed across the lower part of her back and in small letters written above it read, Must be this height to ride.

  5. I started getting tattooed at the ripe age of 55. Someone saw my tats (now numbering 12 and let’s not forget my nose ring) and said, “Won’t you regret it when you get older?”

    I responded, “Well, should I have the fortune of living to 85, I might smack myself on the forehead and moan, ‘Ach, the foibles of youth!’”

    That went over like a lead balloon.

    1. Maura, at 55, your tats are well considered, no 8-balls for you! I have an older friend with a giant back tat that cost her a fortune, and she said, “Let my heirs walk.” Hahaa!

      1. Funny! She meant not on her back, but after she dies, right? And not on her back even then?

        BTW, due to your article, I’m pining for another tat…

          1. Big John was right. It’s like eating potato chips… you just can’t have one. Indeed, will keep you posted about the next one…

  6. About tattoos and IQs: I work in a university that is well known for its selectivity and snobbish insistence on high academic achievement. One time a man came to my reception desk who was literally covered in tattoos, at least on all the parts that showed (including head, face and neck). What did he want? He wanted to know about a lecture that was taking place!

    You never know.

    1. Kathy, you’re right. You never know and I don’t associate tats with low intelligence. However, once when I was with my then five-year-old daughter, we passed a guy with a great big spider web tattooed on his cheek, and I said to her, “Now there goes a guy who’s looking for a job.”

      Yes, I made an assumption. I’m only human.

  7. My favorite tattoos are the ones that people do when everybody, including the tattoo artist, is drunk, and then he misspells words. My friend walked around with “In menory of Shelley” for years before she had it removed. Well, it’s “memory” and the dead chick was Stacey. Soo…

    1. Journey, NOTHING worse than a misspelled tat, except maybe a bad translation. Ever watch that TV program, Bad Ink? There was a woman who wanted “bad girl” tattooed in Chinese on her neck and it came out “no good woman.” Somehow it lost its cachet, don’t you think?

  8. No tattoos unless an IQ test is performed first! I will admit that after my daughter got her belly button pierced, I made her sign a contract that she would not get another piercing nor could she ever get a tattoo until I was dead. I made her sign it while the pain of the piercing was at its peak, but it was still legal. Had it notarized.

    1. Donna, my daughter while in college had the sign of capricorn inked between her shoulder blades. She went through a nose piercing phase then, too. She called to warn me of her piercing before she came home for spring vacation, and I said, “Is it on the side of your nose, or in the center like a bull?”

  9. One of my imaginary kids has a tattoo and the other hasn’t. I can honestly say with hand on heart that I love them both equally but I guess I am in a unique situation with my kids and that the tattoo is the least of my worries!

  10. This is why you should only date people with short names like Ann or Bob. Date someone like Chester Arthur and you’ll need a school bus tattoo to cover it up.

    1. Cary, I wouldn’t put it past the big goof. As I mentioned earlier to Kathy, Big John definitely fell into the category of “looking for a job.” But who knows, he was 16 then. He’s probably a CEO somewhere scowling at underlings in a skull face tat.

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