… so here goes. I’m not sure the story of the tattoos is really that interesting, although in hindsight, it did involve scary-biker-men who didn’t speak English and prostitutes, so maybe it’s a little out of the ordinary after all.
Everyone knows in life, that if you want a child, or even better, a rebellious teen or young adult, to do something, just tell them that they can’t. Such used to be the case with tattoos in Oklahoma when I was growing up. Oklahoma was the last state to legalize tattooing (at least I *think* it’s legal now) but when I was growing up, tattoo parlors were illegal. That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, but I am nothing if not a rule follower, so was never willing to go to any of the unregulated, “underground” tattoo parlors in the city. Not that I even knew where any were. Because, yeah. I’m pretty much NOT in the cool crowd, so wouldn't have even known where to go. But like every other young adult from Oklahoma who was told she COULD NOT GET A TATTOO ABSOLUTELY NOT ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND IT’S AGAINST THE LAW, MISSY, I always wanted one.
So when Blaine and I traveled to Germany on vacation (1994, maybe?) to visit his brother and sister-in-law, I got a wild hair to get a tattoo. What better holiday souvenir, right? So one night, Blaine and his brother left for a boy’s night out, and no, it didn’t actually INVOLVE prostitution, at least not in the sense that anyone paid for or received sexual favors, of course not …. But let’s just say that prostitution is a very above-board, legitimate profession where they lived and since Blaine had never actually stepped foot in a house of ill repute, especially a classy house of ill repute, he JUST HAD to go see what all the fuss was about. In other words, gawk at pretty, scantily-clad women. Sort of like eating at Hooters in this country, only with way more potential. So off they went.
My sister in law and I went out and shot a few games of pool (Who am I, The Female Hustler?) and then headed to the local parlor. I kept thinking about how cool this would be, to get a tattoo in a foreign country. I thought about what a great souvenir it would be, and thought about what a neat story it would make. What I *didn’t* think about, unfortunately, is what image I wanted to get tattoo’d on my body. Which meant I had to make my choice from the selection they had at the shop.
Skull heads with bleeding eye sockets, naked women on the backs of Harleys, she-devils, fire-breathing dragons, etc. ….. shockingly, no Polly Pockets or Care Bears anywhere. Seriously, not one single image I was willing to have permanently placed upon my body. My sister in law suggested one of those Chinese sayings, maybe the sign for “love” or “happiness”, but I’ve always been a little suspicious that some tattoo artist with a warped sense of humor would put the sign for “gullible asshole” on me, and that just wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.
So I decided to design my own tattoo, perhaps not the best idea for two reasons. Well, three. One, I have no artistic talent whatsoever. Two, the artists, big scary German bikers guys, were waiting for me and not the most patient in the world. I’m not very quick on my feet so had trouble coming up with anything original under the gun like that. Three, and perhaps most importantly, neither of the gentlemen spoke any English.
I decided on getting my initial, the letter “K”, in a nice cursive script, with a trail of roses curving around the back (straight line) of the “K”. Personal, simple, feminine, what could go wrong? I wanted the tattoo on my waist area so it wouldn’t be readily visible, that much I knew. I got into position on the chair-recliner thing, and he got started. Naturally, I couldn’t see what he was doing. My sister-in-law, who is a very artistic type of person, kept making these strange faces, and saying things like, “Oh, yes, I see. That’s, yes … oh, um, ok.” I guess things weren’t going well.
When he finished, I assume he asked if I liked it, but since I spoke no more German than he spoke English, I couldn’t be sure, so I just paid him and left. We headed back to the bar where we had been playing pool earlier, where Blaine and his brother were now waiting for us, in very high spirits for some reason. I guess staring at pretty women will do that.
“Well, did you get it?” Blaine asked. Proudly, I lifted my shirt on the side of my waist and showed off my new design. It was met with silence for a few seconds, then Blaine blurted out, “It looks like a cattle brand.”
I went into the bathroom to take a closer look, and sure enough, because I had been stretched out on my side when he did the tattoo, the “K” looked more like an “X” when I stood up. And instead of a delicate trail of lovely English roses, he put one big fat rose down at the bottom.
Truly, one of the ugliest tattoos ever done. And perhaps the worst vacation souvenir EVER.
A few weeks later, acknowledging that I couldn’t live with the cattle brand the way it was, Blaine drove me to Texas for some “repair” work. (Yep, gotta love having no legal tattoo parlors in the entire freaking state.) We stopped at the first shop we saw across the border, and I explained my dilemma to the artist there. He tried, bless his little inked heart, I know he tried, but I think he made it worse. He added clouds above and a rainbow going through the initial, going for a sort of happy-aura scene, but to this day, it just looks like a big fat ugly cattle brand with clouds, a rainbow, and a blobby rose, all discombobulated and slapped on my waist. Of course, I blame the tattoo for the fact I will never be hired as a bikini model, therefore, there’s no real need to diet. So in the end, it has served me well, don’t you think?
But I still wasn’t happy. I wanted a tattoo that would look nice, darn it, a tattoo I could show off with pride! So for my 30th birthday, we spent the weekend in Dallas with a group of friends, and I treated myself to another one. This time, I went to a very well-known parlor in Deep Ellum called Tiggers. I had my image selected already (hey, I wasn’t making the same mistake twice) and knew right where I wanted it. For that tattoo, I got two blue dolphins chasing each other round in circles, sort of a yin-yang design, on the small of my back. Let me just tell you that even someone as chubby as me does not have a lot of fat on the small of my back and that one? Stung just a wee bit. But, it's also served me well since every time I've ever given birth, the anesthesiologist just aims for the middle of the circle for the epidural --- automatic target practice.
The things is, tattoos are addictive. Ask anyone. (see, also: deep fried foods) So after Kendrie was born, I was ready to get another. I was 33, living in Ohio, and was well-ensconced in my Americana-country-treasure-folk-art decorating phase. So I selected an Americana heart, which I like to this day. I also felt a bit more daring, so had it put on my left shoulder. You can see it when I wear a swimsuit, or a shirt with straps, if I have my hair up.
At that point, I felt done. I wouldn’t mind getting a few more, except I’m not willing to get one anyplace that is highly visible. I think they look cool wrapped around ankles and biceps, but not for me. I wear shorts in the summer, dresses to church and work (when I used to work) and personally, don't want a tattoo that would be easily seen. I like thinking that I’m somewhat discreet with them, even though to some people I imagine that defeats the purpose.
I still like them, and I’m glad I got them. Well, not the ugly cattle brand one, but the other two are fine. I do wish that I had gotten, however, and encourage my kids all the time, if *they’re* ever going to get a tattoo, to get a temporary one. Six months or eight months or however long those things last would have been long enough for me. I could have put one in a more visible location had it been temporary. I don’t regret mine, but don’t feel the need to have them on my body until I’m wrinkled and bent over in a nursing home. But I will, because even more than that I don’t feel the need to go through the time and expense of having them removed. Am I sorry I got them now that I'm older, as anti-tattoo people always predict? No. Would I get them again if I could go back in time? Eh, probably not. Although I probably would, just to prove my point about being told NOT TO DO SOMETHING my whole life.
Next time I go to Germany, though, I’m bringing home a beer stein or nice cuckoo clock.