I was watching Lea Michele on David Letterman the other night, and her interview about her tattoos got me thinking.
Ever since I was about 17 I thought about getting a tattoo, a real one. My idea of the perfect tattoo back then was a tiny rose on the outside of my right ankle. Why my right ankle? I don’t know. Maybe I like it better than my left one. It was just the one I picked.
I always thought carefully placed tattoos could be attractive. I was never someone to favor the look of head-to-toe tattoos where a person had more color than skin, but that’s just me. I also admired those who put thought into the location of their tattoos as well as the design. I like the idea of being able to conceal a tattoo if you wanted to with a shirt or sock, entirely, for example. Facial tattoos are not something I feel enhance someone’s appearance, and I always wondered if it was a mistake if someone had a tattoo placed on their arm or chest that would chronically be only half exposed. It just looks odd to me. I would look at a few friends I have and think, “Was that your goal? Did you only want part of your design to peek out?” acknowledging if the tattoo were about an inch lower or higher, it would either be totally hidden, or completely visible. I’m fussy like that. I realize not everyone is, or cares.
However, at 17 I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I wanted to make a permanent inking commitment at that point in my life. Plus, there was no way that my parents were going to give me permission to get inked at that age. I see their point–many of the choices we make as kids are not the same ones we would make as adults. Hair dye and clothing styles can come and go, but if you make holes in your body, or get a tattoo, that’s a lifetime of living with it. (I know you can get tattoos removed, but it can leave a scar; and yes, you can have them redesigned–but what if you just think your ink stinks!)
I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t go through with some of my decisions of my earlier days, and that when I did make changes to my appearance, they were not the permanent kind for the most part, or at the very least were easy to conceal. I think about when I was 14 and all of my friends were dyeing their hair shades of fluorescent pink. I did it too. I’m so glad it wasn’t an everlasting choice because I think I would look pretty silly walking around town with a glow-in-the-dark coif in my 30s right now. I’d be the talk of the town for sure–but not in the way I want.
And in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t get that rose tattoo. It turns out that I’ve learned a few things along the way about my skin tone and what colors show up on it best. How do I know this? Well, I decided before taking the leap and getting a real tattoo, I better go for a test drive first. I’m not talking about using those press on or place on with water tattoos. There was a better way to do this that I discovered.
A few summers ago I was on the Point Pleasant boardwalk and there were places that offered airbrushed tattoos. To me, the idea seemed perfect! I could try on different designs, on different parts of my body, in all kinds of colors and do a sort of try-before-you-buy. The very authentic looking airbrushed designs last up to a week. I was so glad I experimented.
One of the first airbrushed tattoos I tried was a blue and green intricate pattern on my lower back. I liked the design, but the colors were not as vibrant as I had hoped they would be, and it had nothing to do with the pigment of the paints. My daughter had gotten a different design painted on her thigh using the same hues, and it just showed up brighter on her skin–more vivid. Why? Because she is fairer than me. It’s just the contrast of the color. If I had walked into a tattoo parlor I would have regretted my initial color selection if I hadn’t learned that I’m better off with black on my back–which I confirmed a few weeks later.
I also had the artist paint a rose design on my right ankle. This was the design I sought after for years, thinking it would look fabulous. Again, I was wrong. The green stem of the rose didn’t show up well, and it didn’t look as good as I thought it would. It was hard enough for me to sport it for a week with a smile. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life that way.
Another advantage to trying temporary tattoos that look realistic is to see how others around you react to it, and you. I got to swim at the beach in the summer while exposing the newly decorated skin. I could definitely notice people’s eyes drifting towards the designs. I didn’t mind it, but if you are deciding about getting a tattoo or two, you might want to consider the additional attention that will be given to the artwork displayed on your very personal canvas.
Even after all of that, I still didn’t take the plunge and get inked. A few factors figure into that. Some family members have requested that I don’t get tattoos. I know, it’s my body; I should do what I want to it. But they fear if I get one or two I will then want more. Sure, some people do get more as time goes on, but I feel if after twenty-something years I’ve never wanted more than two, chances are that’s where my symbolic skin alteration will begin and end.
I’ve researched tattoo places and tracked down the best artists. I’ve weighed hygienic concerns and know exactly where and what I would have emblazoned on my body. I could conceal the skin alterations if I wanted to, or display them until I felt too silly to when I’m old and gray. I’ve heard stories about the pain endured, and am prepared for the scabbing, stinging and redness to follow.
My body is ready but my mind is still on the fence. Maybe I need to be more impulsive and less compulsive about the issues surrounding getting a tattoo and just take the plunge. Or maybe I’ll just continue to fake it, until one day I make it–to the tattoo parlor.