A Walk On The Wild Side: Reflections On Getting A Tattoo

I must admit that I have a fascination with tattoos. I wonder why people get them. I wonder why they choose the particular image they do. I wonder what it says about them. Is it a statement? If so, what does it say? Certainly it does catch the attention.

This past weekend I attended a “Renaissance Fair” with a good friend. She is rather a free spirit. So when she suggested that we get a henna tattoo, I was all for it. This could partly reflect that I am losing my mind. Or this could partly reflect that I never sowed any wild oats in my youth. Or this could partly reflect a mid-life crisis. You choose. Whatever the case, we went for it. I once read that if you are thinking about getting a real tattoo, you should try getting a henna tattoo first. So I found myself going through the simulated experience of what it would be like to get a real tattoo. My free spirited friend was not the least bit worried. She had them free-hand a vine-flower bracelet around her wrist. Me on the other hand was scouring the books of designs trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to brand myself with. When it came down to it, what symbol really defines me? I looked at flowers, hearts, butterflies, initials, geometric shapes, animals, birds, sayings. I looked at every book. I couldn’t make up my mind. I am a person who can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. How can I decide on something that is going to remain on my body for the next six weeks? Not only do you have to decide on an image you have to decide where to place it. That’s a whole other dilemma. Do you want it to show? Do you not? If it doesn’t show what is the point? What if you place a tiger face on your belly and then you gain weight making it look less like a tiger face and more like Jabba the Hut? These things have to be carefully thought through.

Finally it was my turn and I was sweating bullets. Though I really wanted to engage my wild side, when it got down to it I was a big fraidy cat. The young girl in front of me was getting a huge flower design which covered half of the side of her abdomen. She was squealing delightedly. Then comes me. With sober face I sit in the chair and immediately ask, “How small can you make it?” My thoughts are if this thing goes south and I am stuck with it forever, I don’t want to have to explain a large scorpion for the rest of my life. The tattoo artist smiled at me amusingly. She explained assuredly that a henna tattoo meant good luck. I wanted to explain to her that my experience with good luck was very limited. Just recently a grandfatherly figure at my kids school came up to me and gave me a picture he took of a four leaf clover. “Here you take this for good luck.” he said. “Use it as a bookmark.” I took it home. Promptly my dog got a hold of the photo and chewed it. It is now wrinkled with teeth marks. This is somehow a metaphor of my life and my experience with luck. But how do I explain all this to a woman dressed in Renaissance garb holding some sort of medieval instrument who is about to give me my first tattoo? (Other than the adhesive one I put on my hand of Yoda). Instead I sat there and prayed for it to look decent.

henna butterfly tattoo

Fast forward to the evening. Now I am sitting at a Jazz Bistro with my same friend, celebrating her birthday. She has her henna bracelet and I have my minute butterfly on my right hand. They are now invisible because the henna flakes off and then your skin absorbs it. My friend is delightedly telling our other friend how her and I got henna tattoos at the festival today. Our other friend immediately frowns her disapproval. After all GOOD Christian women do NOT get TATTOOS. Then she tells us of a show she saw recently where this person got a henna tattoo and it would not wear off. My heart fell to my stomach. I wanted to run to the bathroom and immediately start scrubbing. My cohort in crime looked at me withering in my chair and said with a smile “Don’t you dare wash that off!”

I must say the whole experience has given me a real appreciation of people who do get tattoos. I admire that they have the guts to do it and the ability to make decisions. Now obviously many people do get tattoos impetuously and without thought. But I think some people do put thought into it. I don’t think I could get a tattoo unless I thought about it for a long time very carefully, but that’s just me. I don’t judge people by externals, though I know many people do. What God cares about is the inner condition of our heart. I know many people who look squeaky clean on the outside, but inside their heart is so black it is rotting. For now I think I am just going to admire other people’s tattoos. Next up for me? Belly dancing.