I did it for the first time when I was 33. It was a Friday, and I was with a couple of girlfriends. And while it wasn’t exactly a spontaneous decision (I’d been thinking about it for a while), I hadn’t planned to do it that day. Armed with my design, I walked into X/S Tattoo in the West Island, by chance the artist I’d already consulted with was available, and just like that, I got my first tattoo – a stylized heart with three butterflies representing my kids – on my left hip.
I felt super conspicuous for a while and even though I was a grown woman with three kids, I was afraid to show my parents. They ended up seeing it one day, a short time later, when I was playing with my kids on the floor and my shirt lifted. My father asked me what the hell was on my back, and my mother pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery when I died (Getting a tattoo is considered a violation of Jewish law, but the burial issue is a myth). My husband was intrigued by my ink, found it a little big, and declared that while it was fine for me, he was never getting one. And also that I would never get another one.
And I wasn’t getting another one, until I started thinking about it obsessively.
It’s true what they say (I don’t know who they are but they say a lot of smart things)- tattoos are addictive. Since that fateful day 10 years ago, I’ve added six more to my ink collection. I have cherry blossoms on my right foot, my kids’ names on the back of my left shoulder, my father’s Hebrew name and a stethoscope on my right hip, the letter S and a heart on the inside of my right wrist. Most recently I added some gorgeous filigree to my very first tattoo because it didn’t seem substantial enough. I’ve clearly come a long way from that first day on the tattoo artist’s chair. My husband just rolls his eyes now when I come with some new ink and swear that it’s my last one.
I love every one of my tattoos, and I’ve never regretted getting them. Each one represents something special and meaningful in my life and I love having my body marked with those symbols. My tattoos are a form of self-expression which allow me to be unique – and there’s possibly a little rebellion thrown in for good measure. I might also think that tattoos are sexy. This has absolutely nothing to do with David Beckham or Adam Levine. Or maybe a little something to do with them.
I love that my tattoos are great conversation starters. I met one of my best friends on the deck of a cruise ship a few years ago when I climbed over his chair and he read my father’s Hebrew name on my side. To borrow from George Clooney’s Golden Globe speech (and I’ve seriously always wanted to use this word), the alchemy that brought Isaac and I together has a lot to do with the ink on my side – and maybe a little something to do with my dad.
What I don’t like are the negative comments.
I’m regularly amazed that random people feel the need to tell me that I’m going to regret my tattoos when I’m older.
First of all, I don’t really give a shit what you think about what I’ve chosen to do to my body. I’ve mentioned this before, and your mom probably told you this when you were little, but if you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t speak. Trust me when I say I’ll have things other than my tattoos to worry about when I’m 85. And I also kind of like that I’ll be one of the coolest grandmas in my retirement home.
If you decide to take the plunge, you probably should keep in mind that tattoos are, in fact, permanent. Laser removal is a thing now, but it doesn’t entirely get rid of the ink and I’ve seen some pretty bad burns as a result. Also, do your research. Ask friends for recommendations. Book a consult with an artist and ask to see his or her portfolio. The one time I impulsively got a tattoo, from Darren Brass at the famous Miami Ink in Florida, I ended up with an expensive mess and had to sheepishly crawl back to my tattoo artist here to fix it. Some artists are better at big pieces and others are better at lettering and small details. Darren is probably better at the big pieces. He seemed really good on tv.
There’s also the pain factor to consider. I’m pretty stoic, having had two c-sections and a high pain tolerance in general. I don’t mind the feeling of being tattooed and may have actually dozed off during a couple of them. As a general rule though, anytime you’re getting tattooed somewhere where there’s no fat to cushion the impact of the needles, it’ll hurt more. So maybe leave your foot and ribcage for your second or third tattoo.
Because the odds are pretty good that you’ll be going back for more.