Friday, April 20, 2012

Midlife and Tattoos: Why I Ink.

No, I am not barreling at the speed of light toward a midlife crisis, I'd like to squash that idea right now.

Yes, I realize that at 40-something many people are removing their tattoos not getting them.

No, I am not desperately clinging to my youth by pretending to be edgy and cool - I'm ALREADY edgy and cool, just ask my kids and then ignore their snorts and eye-rolling.

Yes, I may possibly be out of my mind, but the crazy is what keeps y'all coming back for more so I'm  unleashing a whirling dervish of it here in today's post. You're welcome.

I am getting another tattoo. 1 + 1 {will soon} = 2.  (pfft, who says I'm bad at math)

Saturday I have an appointment with a tattoo artist to realize an image I've carried in my head for a long time. I'll be armed with printed examples, several of them, and a whole bunch of vague ideas of what I want. With any luck, Mr. Artist won't hang up his stabby-inkgun-thingy forever when he's done with my consult. Check out my inspiration wall.

Why? Why am I marring my body forever? Again.

I suppose saying "because I want to" isn't enough of an answer, so I'll try and explain.

I've wanted a tattoo since I was a teenager - way, way back in the day when parlors were few and far between and the only people you saw exiting them were likely on a first name basis with the booking officer at the local jail. Where I grew up the tattooed teardrop next to the eye was all the rage - a favorite of the gangs, who were usually the only ones sporting ink. The tramp stamps, tribal bands, sleeves and torso/back covering murals were virtually non-existent - at least they were not on public display.

Yet, I loved the simple tattoos I did see and I've watched the craft evolve into a true art form over theses many years. Call me crazy (if you haven't already, you know you want to), but I love the idea of using skin as a canvas. Also, is incredible the amount of skill and talent necessary to create a work of art on the human body. Tattooist, good ones, are amazing.

I know, I know...your fingers are poised over your keyboard, ready to regal me with all the virtues of not marring my body for the rest of my personal eternity. Here, let me save some time - just visit this link to the Mayo Clinic and it will cover all the basic health risks. Yes, there are more, I know. And, you can research the risk for contracting AIDS and such via tattooing on the CDC website, but I think you'll find the risks are just as great, or greater, in...say...going to the dentist. Yup, through a clean reputable tattoo parlor the risk for illness is very small.

The biggest risk of tattooing? Society - mainly the perception of me they'll form once I show inked skin.  In other words, if my ink is in a highly visible spot, getting a job might be THAT much harder.

Societal perception, as a whole, is very negative toward The Inked.  But I want to challenge those stereotypes and preconceived ideas - ideas formed through word of mouth, not real experience with an individual. We form our ideas based on outward appearance - you are less likely to trust the teller at the bank with your deposit if you can see lots of inked up skin. So, companies ask their employees to cover them up. Isn't that person still the same under their clothing? Does dapper attire make a person more respectable, responsible and trustworthy? For heaven sake, our politicians and smarmy bank executives who've bilked oodles of money from people wear suits and 'respectable' attire! I don't know what their skin looks like under their suites, but I'm willing to bet it isn't covered in tattoos (and honestly, I really don't want to envision them nekkid so soon after eating breakfast).

I want to challenge you to think of that heavily tattooed (or not so inked up) person as someone who can help balance your checkbook, not just your tires. I want you to think that person is able to manage a successful business or care for your children, not just serve up perfect foam atop your cappuccino. The number of tattoos does not translate to a lack of brain function or propensity toward crime, manual labor or living a lifestyle on the fringe of society. Many of you already know this and I'm likely preaching to the choir.

But some of you don't and will no doubt tell me that it is a bad idea to join the ranks of The Inked. This post is to acknowledge that your concern is valid and to thank you for it. It is also to let you know that I fully understand my one person crusade will not change eons of negative attitudes toward tattoos.

I love the way ink looks on the body, maybe not the scary and gross ones, but generally...I love them. As my skin ages, the tattoo will morph and age as well. Some day it will likely become a wrinkled mess, I realize that. Have you seen the skin of old people? It is already a wrinkled mess, often filled with liver spots and bruises, because old people bruise easily - that is just what happens to our bodies, all of us.

If I'm lucky, I'll go into my twilight years with much of my memory in tact (I hope), so when my grandchildren ask what that mark on my skin is, I can tell them that it was once a beautiful butterfly that reminded me of all the people I loved who battled cancer. "And the other blob, grandma? What did that one mean?"  That was a compass, each way point bearing the initials of my family, so that no matter where I might roam or what direction life would take me, those way points always point toward people I love - people who hold the true meaning of 'home' to me.

When I'm 80 and my skin decides to make my ink more of a puzzle than a portrait, I'll still know what they mean. I'm o.k. if they won't look attractive, I'll be 80 - I'll be farting in public, wearing an adult diaper and pondering the early bird special for supper at 3:00pm. With any luck, I'll be conspiring with my grand kids to give their parents gray hair, stealing the car keys to go on a joyride or giving my own children headaches when I try my hand at shoplifting for the first time.

Hmmm...perhaps these tattoos DO lead to nefarious thoughts and actions. Well, I've got another 40-ish years to come up with a few doozies!

Please stay tuned for the next installment of Melissa Ink's, where you'll {hopefully} see pictures of my next memory in the making.



  1. You say marring, I say decorating :)

    1. Well, "marring" is a word I've seen used often toward tattoos...and, if you think about it, it is THAT idea that I'm trying to refute. But yes, you are correct...decorating, adorning, embellishing!

  2. Eh to me, for most of us, ink is simply letting our souls show. All though my mother still seeks support because her daughter has tattoos *gasps*.

    1. Very true, Em! As for your mom, I totally get it and like I said, when I was younger tattoos really were for the fringe of society, but not any more. Older folks still remember those times and it is hard to change (PSA - not ALL older folks, there are plenty of progressive thinkers out there).

  3. Anonymous11:27 AM

    I cannot say it enough, you are one fantastic woman and I am so pleased every day to call you friend. I, too, want to challenge those perceptions, to make society realize that the BRAIN, THE GUTS, THE HEART are what matters, not the skin. You'd think after all this time...


    1. Thank you for such a fantastic compliment, my friend! You said it perfectly, Brain-Guts-Heart - the innards is where our character lies, not upon the skin.

  4. I'm inked. Most of my friends have at least 1. You've seen pictures of Spux and of PJ. And we're successful, happy people. Perhaps not the most well-adjusted but then again who is?

    You go, Girl! Get your ink. It's just more proof of life :).

    1. Yes, I've seen pictures on your blog! Well-adjusted, meh...who needs it. :-)

  5. Yeah, I have a huge back piece. I've been wanting more, but it will have to wait until I can afford it!
    I think you rock - tats or no tats!

  6. Someday I hope to get a tattoo. My best friend just got a shooting star over the scar from when she donated her kidney to my Mom. SO good. Also? love the blog makeover!