I Ink, Therefore I Am

*Are you fascinated with tattoos and the stories that go with them?

*Are you creatively trying to disguise your ex’s name on your bicep (again)?

*Do you see someone decorated with ink and immediately ask yourself “Why?”

Whether you love them, hate them or are indifferent, tattoos are a form of expression and have been around for centuries. So, how did they go from prehistoric tribal designs that signified the strength and skills of a warrior or from ancient Egyptian symbols that associated an individual’s religious worship to sailors preserving their superstitions and soccer moms permanently lining their eyes? We don’t know, but, of course, we do have our opinions.

Karen (F’ing Fifties)

My fascination with tattoos goes all the way back to my childhood. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandparent’s front porch, mesmerized by the fluid motion of a hula dancer dancing across my grandfather’s forearm each time he extended it to waive at passing neighbors. Fast forward 10 years to 1981 and a replica of The Rolling Stones “Tattoo You” album cover earned the most coveted position (the front cover) of one of my most prized possessions, my Trapper Keeper.

Even now, 40 years after Mick Jagger’s tattooed head protected all my important teenage documents (which in 1981, most likely would have been an issue of Tiger Beat Magazine with Rick Springfield, aka Dr. Noah Drake, on the cover), I am still fascinated by tattoos.

I admire the artistry and creativity. I pride myself on knowing exactly what season of HGTV’s My Lottery Dream Home is playing simply by the lack (or evolution) of host David Bromstad’s tattoos. But, I have yet to get one for myself. You see, I am one of “those” people, you know, who claim to have a terrifying fear of needles. But evidently that is a lie. As you know from a previous blog post or two, I have no issues with having needles full of botulism shoved into my forehead (twice a year if I’m lucky).

And, you know what else is a lie? Apparently, my entire childhood. That tattoo of the hula dancer on my grandfather’s arm? All lies. Turns out, thanks to a closer look at an old photo, it was not a glamorous hula dancer as my childhood memory would have me believe. It was a woman, but instead of a hula skirt, it seems she may have been wearing a beret, and had her head turned back slightly as if she were looking over her shoulder. I am, as the kids say, shook. What else was not as I remember?

At this rate, maybe getting a tattoo could be extremely helpful as I continue to age in dog years. Instead of a dainty flower or butterfly on the inside of my wrist, perhaps I should get a list of all my pertinent information, like my address, important PIN numbers or my favorite Starbucks order since I clearly have issues remembering things correctly.

I wonder what font would best display my “Venti sugar free, extra shot, no whipped cream, light ice, skinny hazelnut macchiato” tattoo?

Brooke (60-Something Baby Boomer)

Nope. Not a fan. While I’m aware this particular point of view thrusts me squarely into Boomerland, allow me to justify my fusty, antediluvian perspective. While I ignore the sneering and eye rolling of my colleagues, I’ll side with my people – only 13% of whom are sporting ink – while almost half of their peers are tatted up.

Bad news is – Gen Z is eschewing the ink so embraced by their parents. As I’ve stated previously in this forum, what’s old is new again and the kids are not likely to look to dad the accountant for hipster tips. Part of being young is doing something your parents wouldn’t do and tattoos are no longer an indication of rebellion.

In my day, tattoos were the sole province of the sea-faring set. I imagine maybe three design options gracing the walls of the tattoo parlor of yesteryear: an anchor, a hula girl and “mom”. On the upside, the rampant proliferation of shops and infinite design options will ensure employment for the over-inked who (according to a recent study) are viewed negatively by 88% of recruiters.

Generational rebellion, like art, evolves. The lone tattoo (or perish the thought, the “little butterfly on my ankle”) has given way to total body ink, multiple piercings and (gross!) frisbee-sized ear gauges. The inevitable next step, I predict, must be unmarked, pristine skin as the ultimate in-your-face show of youthful rebellion. And once again, I will find myself on the cutting edge of cool.

Amanda (30-Something Millennial)

When I was 16-years-young & dumb, I wanted a belly button piercing. My Mom agreed, but her “out” was that my Dad had to agree. I asked after dinner one night and he said “yes”, and my Mom almost fell out of her chair because she thought he’d never agree. Quite honestly, the one rebellious thing I did in my teens had both of my parents buy-in. BUT the rule was, piercings were OK, but tattoos were not because they were so permanent. As a teenager, I got my way and thought it was a victory and I have to say, I never really thought twice about a tattoo because I can’t imagine being on the beach when I’m old and wrinkly showing off my lower back tat.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that tattoos are so cool…if they weren’t forever. When people have tattoo sleeves, I find it hard not to stare because I am in awe of the creativity and captivated by the story they tell. The talent that tattoo artists have is mesmerizing. Particularly when they do tattoo corrections – like they take the mistake of someone’s ex’s name and turn it into a beautiful mermaid. I just don’t think I need a tat to tell my story or remind me of anything. I especially don’t think I could handle the pain of getting a tattoo.

Another parenting “win” for my parents was that they let me go with my friend in high school when she got a tattoo on her lower back. Watching my friend be in extreme pain for a sun where the sun doesn’t shine was a big factor in why I don’t think I’ll be taking that needle to MY skin.

Lindsay (Fabulous 40’s)

I find tattoos fascinating. I am a watcher of the show Ink Master strictly because I find the creativity and artistry to be mind-blowing. This is coming from a woman who cannot draw anything other than a tree, sun, and flowers the same way I did when I was 5 years old. I am also in awe that anyone would put something on their body thinking they’ll love giraffes just as much when they’re 50 as they did at 20.

I had the idea of getting a small fairy tattoo on my butt cheek in my twenties, and I can assure you, if I did, that two-inch pretty fairy would now be three inches big, and she would have dimples. SHEW! Saved myself there.

I am all about people doing whatever makes them happy, but remember our last blog about hair parts and fashion? That same thing will happen with tats. You may love it now, and you may love it again, but for at least two to three decades, it’s a toss-up. The movie, We’re The Millers, sums it up perfectly “NO RAGRETS”…. not even one letter.

What is your Inkspiration??

Do you have any tattoos or “ragrets”?

Let us know, we’d LOVE to hear from you!

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10 thoughts on “I Ink, Therefore I Am

  1. I love tattoos! Especially when they actually have a meaning behind them. I have three, but all of them are concealable. My first was the worst as it’s a sihouetted wolf howling at a two toned crescent moon: although the head looks less like a howling wolf and more like a strange creature with a gnarled beak. I was 19 when I got it in my first year at university and it represented me having left the pack of my immediate family and become a lone wolf on the journey of discovering my self. It’s terrible, but 22 years on, I’m still proud I had it done.

    I find the stories behind the tattoo fascinating, although I wouldn’t do a sleeve myself, I can appreciate the work other people have had done.

    1. Your first may be the worst but I bet the story behind it is the best!

      1. Thank you, and you’re not wrong!

  2. Great post. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this before, before I love the “team effort” aspect of this blog. The four writing styles are unique yet cohesive, which makes for a smooth read without the noticeable speed bumps that often mark the tonal changes in collaborations. Nicely done!

    For the record, I believe I’m the Karen in this mix, and I have the fond memories of searching for that perfect Trapper Keeper to prove it. I would go to several different stores, carefully reviewing every option (and often hiding my favorite contenders behind mundane things on other shelves, lest someone snatch said candidates during the extended review session). Once I had scoured the city, I would make a final decision by lighting votives and consulting with my spirit guides. (Okay, I’m stretching it with that last bit, but I DID take my quest very seriously.)

    Sadly, despite my efforts, I would often discover that half of the kids in my new homeroom class apparently had the same spirit guides. Oh well, you try and then you move on, such is life… 😉

    1. Dang, I just noticed the typo in the first line. That second “before” should be a “but”. Sigh. People are always telling me I need an editor, perhaps I should finally listen… 😉

    2. Thank you for your kind words, we truly appreciate your feedback! And, as the Karen of this group, I admire your school supply shopping technique. I was not as fortunate as I had one (and only one) opportunity to make my selection and I must now apologize to you and all of my peers. You see, because I only had one opportunity to secure the most coveted of designs, I would painstakingly search behind every nook and cranny and would gleefully snatch up a stray option floating around somewhere that it should not have been, never realizing that the odd location was not due to the result of the lazy, minimum wage stock person from my geometry class, as originally assumed, but strategically hidden there by somebody on the same mission as myself. I’m sorry, my bad.

      1. So it was YOU who snagged that limited-edition, faux-leather, turquoise Trapper I had shoved behind the display of Pet Rocks that were still mildly-popular in Oklahoma at the time but were quickly waning, thus giving me a false sense of security about my subterfuge. I never got over that day when I discovered the hidden repository had been violated. Never.

        Just kidding, natch. Have a great day!

      2. Faux-leather turquoise? I wish!

  3. When I saw the subject was about tats, I was hooked. I had a fascination of tats since I was a young girl. Not sure why exactly, may be it was rebellion, may be it was being cool, or may be it was a way to express creativity that I don’t have through someone else. In high school and college, I would look at pictures of what I would want my first tat to be. I mean, it had to be symbolic and meaningful because it would be there FOREVER (in a creepy whisper like voice). I looked at tribal tats, cute animals, hearts, my name, any name… I even thought of getting Asian characters, however, I feared what they might really mean (I know many people that found out what they thought the characters meant was NOT at all close to what they wanted). Anyways, at the age of 37, I got my first tat at a Tattoo Convention at Navy Pier -5 stars in an S shaped down my spine. It was designed by a very good friend of mine. As the sound of the pen started, the artist said, “don’t worry, it won’t hurt. imagine a cat scratching you, it feels like that”. Innocently, I said, “OK”–PS I don’t have a cat, so didn’t have a clue. After 8 minutes, it was done. I loved (and still love) how it looked. I could go to work and not be looked at as “OMG, she got a tat” and, most importantly, I was still adhering to the dress code (no visible tattoos). Fast forward to the the present, at the age of 50, I have 4 tattoos. All carefully thought out, all designed by friends and family, all placed in areas that only my very closest friends could see. The one I’m most proud of is the one that I got as a tribute to my family. My dad even thought it was cool. When COVID hit, I was preparing for my 5th tat which is already sketched out. I look forward to getting that soon. I know as soon as that piece is complete, I will already start thinking of my 6th one. Thanks for the great read and appreciate you letting me share.

    1. The thought process and sentiment behind each design, as you continue to capture the story of you, is what I love most. Thank you for sharing. PS. Cat scratches can hurt and, coincidentally, may also look like tattoos gone wrong!

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