Why I Finally Got A Tattoo After 50 (And What I Got)

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About six months ago my dear friend Carrie showed me her tattoos. I was amazed. Never in a million years would I have considered ink on my bod. But I was more than intrigued. I was in awe of how cool it looked and how proud she was of her war paint. I sat with the concept and one night sat bolt upright in bed and shouted, “I’m going to get a tattoo!” If Peter were still alive, there would be no way I would even consider this notion. Peter was a total prepster. White shoes after Labor Day was a breach. A tattoo would have beenverboten. But now that he is gone, I have a strange sensation that Peter would have loved this idea. He would have cheered me on and helped me pick out a design.

It was clear to me that I had to start small and I immediately knew what design I would choose. I was going to honor our 47 years of love with a heart saying LBG loves PG. People choose to do a tattoo for many reasons. They do it for for self-expression (check), for individuality and uniqueness (check), as a fashion statement (check) and most importantly, to honor a loved one (double check). In the back of my mind I knew I had a safety net, since Sephora offers Kat Von D’s special concealer for tats if I wanted to hide my handiwork on formal occasions.

I was a little nervous about the process but Carrie assured me that the Shamrock Social Club was top of the line. This is NOT a time to economize. You want la crème de la crème when someone is pressing a needle into your flesh. I logged onto the website which listed Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Adele, Drake, Brad Pitt, and David Beckham among its clientele. The logo of the parlor is “where the elite and the underworld meet.” I was convinced even though I liked the elite part better than the underworld bit. I was definitely not afraid of the pain. I previously had eyeliner tattooed onto my eyelids, I went through childbirth, and the pain of grief outplays any pain imaginable.

I surfed the web looking for designs but ended up sketching a picture of what I wanted hoping that my tattoo artist would be able to capture my message. I also read some “dos and don’ts” like no Aspirin, Aleve, or Advil type medications 24 hours prior. I was intending to have a shot of Vodka for the pain but also read that alcohol increases the bleeding so I decided to go cold turkey. The real reason not to drink is many people come to tattoo parlors completely blotto and then wake up with a tat they don’t remember getting! The article said to have something to eat prior to tattooing but not a full Thanksgiving dinner! I chose to have a few pieces of sushi, which would hold me. According to the website, a cash gratuity was in order. Who knew there was tattoo etiquette? I wore loose and comfy clothing and was ready for my big night — tattooing is strictly a nocturnal activity.

We arrived promptly at 7:00 p.m. and our guy Danny was a no show, stuck in traffic. 7:00 p.m. is like 6:00 a.m. in Tattoo Time. We’re talking the first call of the day. We negotiated for Isaiah to be my guy but had to wait at least 30 minutes while he tattooed a lion on someone’s lip. Ouch! You read that right. The place was abuzz with some surprisingly friendly normal looking people waiting their turns. There were also a few wigged out, very inked up people with tattoos I can’t begin to describe on Huffington Post Fifty, or any Huffington Post blog EVER!

At 8:15 p.m., Isaiah was finally ready and drew a perfect rendition of my tattoo, which I heartily approved (no pun, I promise). By this time, Carrie, and I made friends with the tattoo artists and were laughing, which distracted the mild pain of the needle burning into my flesh. I felt Peter’s presence and a wonderful sense of strength come over me. I didn’t flinch for a second. I was doing this to honor Peter and it felt so right. I was inking myself permanently to emblazon my body with the memory of our love.

Despite my protestations, the other artists assured me that I would be back for another since it becomes addictive, but in a good way. To quote the movie Animal House: “Thank you sir, may I please have another?”

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”
― Sylvia Plath

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