I walked into the crowded coffee shop in all my early 90’s glory, thigh-high suede boots, black tights, stone-washed cut-offs (repurposed former full-length jeans), black turtle neck and distressed leather aviator jacket. I scanned the room looking for the man behind the voice. I knew him only by telephone through work. Cautiously, I walked up to a man sitting alone, nerves pulsating through my body. “Are you Tom”? He replied, “No, I’m not”. Giggling with embarrassment I wanted to disappear but just as I was turning to walk away, he said: “Yes, I’m Tom”. We laughed and I could barely look at him. He was so attractive. Sparks flew! About an hour later, Tom asked me what I felt like doing. My response “I want to get a tattoo”. His response “Ok, let’s go”. That’s how it all began.
I can’t remember why I wanted a tattoo. I don’t think I knew anyone with tattoos at that time. There were no sleeves, tramp stamps or even barbed wire tats around anyone’s upper arm that I knew of. I ended up getting a small rose on the back of my hip as Tom sat there and watched with a smile on our first date. I had it strategically placed so my mom would never see it. Upon completion, we were instructed to and did purchase Preparation H to keep the area moist and protected only to realize later, when I got home, we had purchased suppositories. Answer: microwave. Tom and I didn’t stay together and that tattoo was subsequently covered.
My second tattoo was a cup of coffee. Not the Starbuck’s type of cup with the sleeve. Mr. Schultz and not even purchased Starbuck’s at that time. Ironically, Starbuck’s just recently allowed employees to have visible tattoos but not on their face or neck. Sorry Lil Wayne, as if your future destiny involves Frappuccino making… No, it was a classic diner cup and saucer with steam coming from the top. Why? Because, to paraphrase a classic, if you like it you should have put a tattoo on it. Wuh uh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh uh uh oh…
After going Chock Full O’ Nuts, the next tat was a vine going down my spine, to connect me to life like the vine that grows from a tree…People, there were about 3 major tattoo shops in a 10-mile radius at the time and pretty much a choice of three genres, Traditional, Black and Grey and Irezumi. (I bet I just taught you a new word). We had Sailor Jerry’s traditional tats, not like the ink of today. I met a really nice guy while getting that one. Too bad he had just been released from prison and I didn’t see the possibility of an LTR.
Baxter came next. I woke up in my clothes on a Labor Day morning having overindulged to drown out the unbearable pain of putting my little 5 yr. old Pug to sleep the day before. He had suffered a severe stroke and would never be able to walk or eat on his own. Broken-hearted, I searched through the yellow pages to find a shop that was open on the holiday.(For younger readers, the yellow pages was a ginormous book we used to find phone numbers) Beyond grief-stricken, I knew that morning, I had to have a tattoo of Baxter to be with me forever.
Fast forward, two really bad tats from a so-called artist with whom I had a crush, (Lesson learned – hot does not equal artist and sleeping with him would have been better short-term decision), Bettie Page down my rib cage during my biker phase because she was a force as “The Queen of Pin-ups” later to become an Evangelical Christian, to then finally covering my disparate tattooed back with one huge traditional back piece.
Injecting a little trivia here. What do you get a woman who has everything for your 40th wedding anniversary? Well, if you’re my late dad, a Mensa & Veterinarian born about a decade too premature to be a hippy, you get her name tattooed on your arm. Good thing her name is “Jan”.
Here I am now, 52 years old, not quite the younger version of myself and certainly not the same person who would make the same choices again and I have no regrets.
I now understand why I got them. I was swept away by life to be who I thought I was supposed to be. I didn’t know how to express myself artistically until the past several years so I put art on my body. If I could have them removed would I? No, they are part of my journey in this weird life. I will always appreciate the art of ink, my art and yours (well some of yours) I consider myself somewhat of a “Pioneer”, a “Trail Blazer” who will pave the way for aging gracefully with ink. In the meantime, I can cover my art in my soul-sucking corporate career but I can never cover the artist I was born to be.
I thought for a moment if I were to get any more tattoos they would be the words “Hope” and “Love” but I don’t need those words in ink. I just need to live by them every day while I am the Girl Draggin’ the Tattoos.
Live the journey, learn the lessons, regret not.