Random, Just Read It!

I Look Like the Type

There was a time in this country where the people who had tattoos were in the Navy or some sort of Hell’s Angels biker gang.  They were feared and scorned and tsk’d tsk’d by the more wholesome citizens.  I presume.  I’m not really old enough to know.

Then it became a hippie dippie peace and love sort of thing that really lots of druggies did.  And of course the prison culture loves their tattoos with the pens and radio parts fashioned together to make a gun (I watch MSNBC’s Lockdown).  But I think something happened around ’95 and it became not only commonplace for the regular person to have a tattoo, it became a rite of passage.

At 17 I told my mom I really really wanted a tattoo.  Before I graduated High School.  It would be awesome and I had my cartilage pierced since I was 15 so  I needed something cool and awesome and oh-so-badass before embarking on whatever came after high school.  And I didn’t want to go to Dago’s and get it cause I mean everyone knows they don’t ID and have you seen a Dago’s tattoo?  I’m classier than that.  I was going to  Ghetto Dreams. (true story).

And what did I get? A Chinese symbol of course! It was 2000.  That shit was fly.  And some of my friends and family members were all “how do you know it really says ‘happiness’ in Chinese”.  How you know it don’t? Let me have this. But the real surprising thing is that my mom was not only for it, she wanted one too!  She was once a 17 year old that wanted a bad ass tattoo but being that it was the late 70’s and she went to the whitest high school in town that really wouldn’t fly with her parents.  So she waited…then sorta forgot..then had a 17 year old of her own come down the stairs and ask for a tattoo.

So we went.  A very non-traditional bonding moment.  But we went.  And I was hooked.  My Chinese symbol was cool and in an obscure place, but I wanted something I could show off when I wanted.  I was in college.  I worked part-time!  I had some spare moolah.  I wanted a kidney belt! Kidney belt? In 2001 it was a kidney belt NOT a tramp stamp.  To this day I wish I had some sort of ©2001 on it so when you catch a peek at my lower waist you don’t giggle and say “tramp stamp”.  That wasn’t a thing then!  A nice foot long stretch of ink to show that I was in the tribe of the American teenager. Anyway, I went back to Ghetto Dreams and paid my $75 and became a little more awesome.

Fast forward a couple years to a friend calling me on a random weekday saying she wanted to add more to her sorority tattoo on her ankle.  Was I free? YUP.  Did I want a new tattoo? YUP!  Quintessential girly butterfly tattoo coming right up!

And I figured maybe this was enough.  I was running out of space under my shirt anyway and although my tattoos were cool, they didn’t mean anything.  There was no deep symbolic story behind my tattoos.  Why did I get them? Cause I was 17 and had some extra cash.  Cause I had space to fill on my body.  Cause why the hell not? Besides, I was getting into my mid-twenties and needed to be serious about life because that’s what you think the mid-twenties are about.  Time to settle down into the 9-5 world and who would really hire a girl with tattoos all down her arms? I’m not trying to be a rapper or work at Whole Foods.  I wanted a great soliloquy to form whenever I looked at it. I needed time to think about my next piece.  See how I would call it a piece instead of a tattoo? I went to poetry events.  I was thoughtful.

So I waited.  And got with my sister, an incredible artist, and asked her to draw me up a tattoo.  Sure she was only 16 but living overseas granted her the freedom to go get tattoos whenever she pleased and by then had a couple giant tattoos of her own.  She drew me the tree of life.  Basically it’s a tree in a circle.  The roots connect to the leaves.  Everything is connected.  Neverending cycle.  Life and death.  Heaven and hell.  All of it.  Tons of cultures talk about it.  Look it up.  She drew it.  I went to Vince at Bombshell (I had upgraded my tattoo studios by then) and talked to him. He traced my sister’s design and an excruciating hour and some change later I was done.  Right where your hand goes for the pledge of allegiance.  I had considered it on my back but Vince was like “so you never want to see it again?” so I opted for chest area.  He tried to sway me with the wedding dress argument but I’m not wasting my good tattoo showing off  years waiting to put on a dress one day.

Fast forward a few more years and I hit my sister up for another tattoo design.  Did I want another symbolic work of art? Nope.  My exact words to her were “a heart with some squiggles”.   With nowhere for it to go, I took a bold move and ventured away from under my shirt and onto my arm.  I feel some sort of way about the upper arm.  I will never grow my hair out for the back of the neck tattoo to be covered.  It’s still easily covered by a work shirt.  And I saw it on a Kid Cudi video!  Ink me up Vince!  Word to the wise, under the arm meat is tender and soft and delicate so piercing needles through the skin for 45 minutes will feel similar to someone dragging a blade across your arm, throwing ice in it, then lighting it on fire repeatedly for 2 hours.

I get the same line all the time about how I don’t “look like the type to have tattoos”.  The polos.  The Sperry’s.  The glasses.  The Mini Cooper.  I appear sensible.  Mild-mannered.  Easily approachable.  And I am!  I just happen to have several tattoos under my Gap t-shirt.  So what?!  Now I’m ready to be free about them.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that people my age are becoming the majority in the work force.  We once thought of ways to hide our tattoos for interviews and for appearance.  Cuffs and long-sleeved shirts.  Long hair and concealing foundation.  I notice more and more people are becoming free about showing off their ink.  I’ve gotten into several conversations about the next piece people plan to get, or when they got their first tattoo…at the office water cooler.  I know in a few years when I’m the school’s Open House with the kid I won’t second guess the teacher’s ability to teach my kid math just because she has a butterfly on the back of her neck.  I’ll probably lift up my t-shirt and show her the butterfly that sits a few inches above my hip bone.  And we can nod to each other in solidarity that we in fact, look like the type to get tattoos.


What’s your tattoo story?  When did you get your first one?  Do any have symbolic meaning?  Any you regret?  Plans for another?  Reason why you never got any at all?


23 thoughts on “I Look Like the Type

  1. I currently have 4 tattoos and 3 brands and I plan on getting more. Every piece of ink on my body has a symbolic meaning. My first tattoo was my daughter’s name in Japanese characters. It was 2003, I had to follow the crowd with something right? But nonetheless, my daughter’s name is obviously dear to me. Second tat, was fraternity stuff surrounding my three brands on my left arm. Third tat, was a on my lower right forearm of the Philippines sun and “Alibata” text that reads “Mabuhay” which is a well wishes saying in Tagalog. So that represents my Filipino heritage (Shout out to the half breeds). 4th tat was more fraternity stuff on my left forearm. By this time, I was already a few years into the corporate world and everyone knew i had tattoos so it was accepted. Last tattoo was adding fire to around my brands and tats on my upper left arm. That one took 4 hours and wasn’t too bad, until it got to the 4th hour. I swear if you were to breathe on my arm it hurt at that moment.

    I’m actually planning to get a half sleeve on my right arm. I want to a Koi Fish swimming upstream around a lotus flower. It’s going to be rather expensive so I’m saving up my nickels for that one.

    Great blog.

  2. I’m what you’d call a late bloomer. I’ve wanted a tat since like high school, but at the time the guy was doing them in the cafeteria I was like, I just can’t trust that. Then in college I really wanted one after I pledged, went to get what I had in mind priced and was like FML, I’m a college student living off $60 per month after bills. Then I was kinda like your mom and forgot about it.

    I currently have 3 and all have great meaning. My first one is for my mom, a line from her favorite gospel song, “All of my good days, outweigh my bad days, I won’t complain” over my heart. My 2nd is a frat one that takes up my damn near my entire upper right arm…repping that MILITIA! And my 3rd was added less than a month ago for my dad, a “Gone but not forgotten…” military style rendition on my upper left arm. My only regret is that I didn’t get the tattoo for my mom bigger, but it was my first one so I was just testing the waters.

    I too plan on joining the corporate america world soon someday, so you couldn’t tell I have tats if I wore a polo and I plan to keep it that way, so there will be no face or neck tattoos over here, ever…and I’ll probably steer clear of the forearm tats as well, even though I REALLY wanna put this “HOUSTON” tattoo I drew on my forearm.

  3. No neck tats or hand tats for me (back in the Funk, hand tats are the new neck tats), but I’ve gotten some awkward glances from coworkers asking “why would you get your area code tattooed on you???”. When I was in high school and showed up at the house with my last name across my back in old english, my old man (who has tattoos) asked “you just want everyone to know you’re Irish white trash, huh?”.

  4. I haven’t gotten any tattoos yet because I was one of those “What if…?” people. What if they do it wrong? What if I get a disease? What if I dont like it when I’m older? What will other people think of me? What if I dont get into med school because of my tats? etc. etc. However, as I’m getting older and been in med school… everyone is tatted!! Like you said, our generation is one that is more accepting and comfortable with seeing tattooing as a form of self-expression (or just something to do) and is not caught up innall that other crazy negative stuff generations of the past had it linked to. So soon and very soon I will be hitting up a tattoo shop – first in New Orleans then I will need to get Mr. Vince’s contact info… Its time for me to show my artistic side. And if you dont like it, thats fine… I dont have to save your life, deliver your baby or treat your cancer; go find another doctor with no tattoos – will be harder than you think =)

  5. I, like Brownlee, am a late bloomer. I’m still not tatted, but I have an appointment for the first one…coming soon. 🙂 aside from the fact that my mom will shit bricks and probably try to cut my tatted skin off, im going through with it. I’ve been wanting a tatto since my older cousin got her 1st one. Ha. My first tat has had tooooons of thought put into it and I love the meaning behind every aspect of it. I’m even getting an OSM homie to draw it up for me. All that being said…I have plans for a few more. Some that have some meanings…and some that are going to make people think I’m slightly insane. All of my tats will be in places that can be covered by work clothes, but honestly…I’ll be glad when our generation takes over & save for face tats…nobody’ll flinch over where they are or how many you have. I can’t wait to follow everyones lead. Lol. @GabbyJo…my 2nd tat is getting done in NOLA. 😉

  6. i don’t have a tat, but i really want one. I’m just not a big fan of needles, so you can see how getting a tat likely won’t happen anytime soon. I also ust have not thought of anything i want to put on my body FOREVER. Lastly, I’m with Gabby in that my moms would straight flip out if I got a tat, even now!!

  7. As Bre’ said, my first tat was when I was 16. I went to Borneo Ink, which on that side of the globe was the bee’s knees. I got an angel tramp stamp. I was so proud, yet now it needs something more to it. My second tattoo was inspired by a drawing I did of a cross with the Serenity prayer circling it. I’m not religious, but that prayer helped me through a lot (and no I don’t mean helped me with a drug/ alcohol addiction). That too needs something added to it so I see them as my base tattoos. That was done at Borneo, too. After those two, somehow I got into drawing other people’s tattoos. First, Geralda’s, which came out awesome especially since he added onto it. Then Bre’s Tree of Life and so on. After realizing I wasn’t half bad at doing tattoos, I decided to draw my own. I’m a Pisces so koi fish were perfect with hibiscus in the background and a giant red Heroes symbol in the middle meaning “God sent”. Nerd! This shit covers most of my left calf thanks to Vince not convincing me to make it smaller and to Bre’ rooting me on. My favorite by far. I got some shitty friendship tattoo at Dagos which I have already drawn the cover-up for so 4 tattoos thus far. I would love a half sleeve, but I’m a flight attendant and that shit won’t fly.

    Bre’, I’m off on the 14th. I should have told you to add me to the appointment so I can get my Sex Bob-omb tattoo!

  8. I’m not sure I’d call myself “a late bloomer” so much as I’d say it took me a while to first decide I wanted one, and then I woke up one morning and the image flashed into my head.

    I wanted the handle of a sword, with the words “Strength and Honor” (that’s actually from the movie “Gladiator”).

    Not on the blade, but on the handle-cross bar is written my last name. The symbolism is basically that every day I try to be like my father and uphold my family’s name.

    I take quite a bit of pride in my name, both parts of it b/c I am named after my farther (shout out to the other Jr.’s out there). Thankfully, my father is still alive, but he’s also the greatest man I’ve ever known and will ever know.

    Even now, my father is the only super hero I’ve ever looked up to.

    So I thought, hey, it’d be cool to pay homage to my father and my lineage by placing that on my arm.

    I actually got my tattoo two days before Christmas back in ’06. When my mother saw it she said, “What have you done to your arm?” When my dad saw it, he said the same b/c my mother was standing by him. When she went upstairs, this smirk came across his face as if to say “That shit is cool, but you know how your mother is.”

    Side note: I went to Dago’s and the dude that did it made it MUCH bigger than I wanted it. I think I told Tyrone/Geralda this story, b/c one of them said the exact same thing happened to them.

  9. De-Lurking…..

    My first tattoo was a 3rd year anniversary gift to the Husband, right next to my twat with his name n less…. Man I was young dumb and full of HIS cum. *smhl* fast forward 12 years later we are divorced so now my next step is to have his name covered and freshened up because I did like the design afterall.
    My second tat is a trap stamp but in my defense when I got it back in ’99’ they weren’t called that back then but fcuk it because I loves that tattoo it’s sexy (2 snakes in a heart shape kissing with a tribal rose banner)

  10. 1st tattoo, January 2004 – purple treble clef on my calf, because music is so much of my life. I came home from SWT on winter break. My aunt gave me some money to take my sister and cousins to their winter ball. I dropped them off, met up with my girls, and took that gas money to Celtic Odyssey. I also whimpered like a bitch the whole time. Lol. Hid it from my mom until one of my older cousins saw it and snitched.

    2nd tattoo I got March 2010. It’s a pendant I got from Paper Bear. An ankh flanked by 2 spitting cobras for protection. Nape of my neck. It hurt, but not so bad because there’s no shading.

    I love them and have plans to get more. They’re written on a sticky note in my desk. Lol

  11. As the mother of this blogger, let me start off by confirming that I supported my daughters’ artistic expressions. I’m a little on the Bohemian, quirky side, so having a tattooing session with both my daughters are treasured and unforgettable memories. My first tat was also on my back, but near the shoulder area. It was the Chinese symbol for Unity. Fast forward to daughter #2 at 16, and we’re in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I decided to have something unique, and I love turtles. (I know Bre’ is laughing right now, because she’s thinking of the Tosh.0 clip.) Borneo Ink has this girl that drew me a turtle in the Malaysian tribal art fashion. I loved it, so I had it inked on my right ankle. I have been working in corporate America for 30 years. I favor pants, but on the occasional days that I wear a dress or capris, it’s rarely noticed. Probably because I don’t look the part, so no one thinks to look at my ankle. The rare times that it is noticed, it’s met with shock statements like “Wow! Jana, is that a tattoo on your ankle? I had no idea that you had a tattoo!” My calm statement is always, “Yes, and I have two tattoos. Would you like to see the other one.” Total bliss!

  12. I have two tats. The first was an ankh that i got for my 22nd bday. The second is the Chinese symbol for trust. I have 3 more in my head that I will hopefully one day get tatted on my body.

  13. Pingback: Imagine… « Bre Writes

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