When I was 15, my mother told me that I could dye my hair any color I wanted, but I could never get a tattoo or piercing. (PS this was pre-crazy colors. She would later eat her words when I dyed it purple.) Her logic at the time was sound; she had worked as an HIV counselor at the Red Cross and was understandably wary of tattoos, especially back in the day when there weren’t as many sanitary precautions in place. Also, I recall her saying something about only sailors, soldiers, and prisoners getting tattoos.
Then one day I was watching an episode of The Nanny, and Fran was debating getting a tattoo. Her mother forbade it because it meant she could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery, which I thought was bonkers, of course. Still, it certified in me that tattoos were not something that I should aspire to.
Then came 18. Many of my friends ran out to get tattoos and piercings, but I declined. My mother’s words echoed in my head, telling me that I would have it forever, and what if I regretted it? Still, I picked one out: drama masks.
Cut to today, at 38. I never got that tattoo, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t, because my stint in theater wasn’t as lifelong as I had hoped at the time. I mean, I could have adapted the meaning. Mark has a similar tattoo, after all. Alas, I’m glad I never got it. But, I am furious I never got anything.
I let all those old fears hold me back, worried about what my parents would think. I am damn near 40 and I’m WORRIED ABOUT WHAT MY MOTHER WILL THINK OF IT?? My sister got a tattoo when she was like 19 and hid it for years. I even knew a guy once who got a white ink tattoo so his mother wouldn’t notice it…I mean what is even the point there?
Also, now that I am older there are several tattoos that I want that I don’t think I will ever regret. The first is a St. Brigid’s cross. Preferably with a flame behind it, to represent the goddess as well, and I’d like it on my wrist. The second is one I want to get with Bernie, a Celtic sisterhood symbol, which would be large and colorful and on my shoulder. And if I mange to go though with those, then I’m going to get a crown tattoo on the back of my neck, which I surmise will hurt the most. Alas, they all represent things about me that are never going to change. So how could I regret them?
And why am I so held back my old stereotypes and concerns? Almost everyone I know has a tattoo nowadays. I recall being petrified bringing Mark home to meet my mother, because of the ink on his forearms. In the end, she didn’t care, just like she didn’t really care when Bernie got hers. Which is probably the same reaction I will get.
The way I figure it, I have been poked and prodded so many times during this illness, what’s a little pinchy-scrape feeling? I think I’ll be fine. And I think I will love what I get, because the more I age, the less I give a crap.