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.
Loved this just as much the second time around, Shelley. So glad you chose to put this back out there!
Hi there Aaron! So nice to see you, well the 1/8 x 1/8 -inch little photo of you to the left of where I am currenlty typing. Thank you for your kind sentiments. Dennis has been graciously publishing some from the archives and I am finally inspired to be writing some new stories again. Wishing as much wellbeing for you and yours as possible friend!
I love this piece, Shelley! I have just recently reread Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.” One of the things I love the most about that book is the subtitle: Let go of who you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Thank you for sharing this one!
Thanks so much Melissa. I love that BB quote and I’m so happy you liked the story.
Shelly, regrets for any of us in our age group should not exist but rather bring about a better us. When we know better we do better, and we appreciate what we have.
Thank you Linda. I couldn’t agree more.
Shelley — What a great story AND attitude. I loved what Laura wrote: “No regrets as each action taken opens the door to another deed.” I’ve taken some doozy steps in my life – some very painful physically, emotionally and financially at the time – but things always seem to have a way of working out. Lesson learned.
Love YOUR artwork!
Thank you Jeff. Life’s lessons are precious aren’t they? Everything always does have a way of working out ❤️
Shelley, life is full of opportunities to learn from mistakes. I have always found tattoos to be repulsive. Back in the days when my wife and I used to eat at non-Kosher restaurants, we would not be served or eat any food from somebody who wore aa tattoo. We once went into a pizza place where the guy making the pizza had a tattoo that wen down his arm. While forming the dough it would land on that arm. When he would sweat we got sick at the thought there would be ink on the pizza. I never understood why somebody would want to deface their body. Thank you for writing and sharing your article. Stay well!
Oh, I so enjoyed this honest story of you gathering the art for your body as you then discovered the artist forever inside of you, Shelley! Our choices along our journeys may at times seem impulsive or inspired or “Oh, what the heck” yet, no regrets as each action taken opens the door to another deed, another lesson, an awakening. You live out on the court of life with no regrets rather than waiting in the wings wondering or worrying (well, there might be some of this at different moments but those moments seem very fleeting). A life filled with all types of experiences can become its own amazing beautiful, moving, ever-changing, permanent, impermanent body art.
From one who weaves the most remarkable, beautiful and honest tapestries of word art, your comment and sentiments embody so much knowing and love. The last line “A life filled with all types of experiences can become its own amazing beautiful, moving, ever-changing, permanent, impermanent body art.” is really viewing our lives with widened lens of to capture it all and intentionally seeing the the beauty of it’s entirety
Ab-soul-utely love your post, Shelley…your honest reflection, vulnerability, and the positive power of accepting who we are and the journey that got us here.
Oh Vicki, thank you so much. I wrote this several years ago and it really is about acceptance and even loving the journey that got us hear to an even deeper level of holding space to for what was and is.
In 2009 I was going through a divorce and my 18 year old son who is a musician came to me, I was 57 and said Dad, I want to get a tattoo with you. Well a few days later and after spending hours in the artist chair we both had our family crest from the 1100’s tattooed on our backs. We’re Scotts and fought with William Wallace. An experience neither one of us will ever forget and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Thanks so much Johnny. I love this meaningful story here and on FB. I didn’t have much of a story for each of my pieces just a story of journey of getting them which is a story none the less. I love that your son and you share that moment in time and now timeless memories you carry within and on you.
Shelley in the end it is all a part of who we are and what we learned. No Regrets.
100% Larry. No regrets. I wrote these essays several years ago before I began cultivating the practice of mindfulness and when I reflect on them, they are all part of the journey to where I am right here, right now. Thank you for your comment. Wishing you wellbeing.