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To Ink or Not To Ink: A Long Ponder on Finding A Tattoo Bearing Significance

She had a blue rose forever stained into the top swell of her right breast. I know because she wore tops to choir that just barely fit into the dress code. I thought the tattoo and the blatant display of it was rebellious, and badass, and the sort of free spirit action that I wished I had the feminine ballsyness to carry out.

Of course all these years later, I don’t have quite the same perspective about this passive, yet hardly subtle action or the other then-teenage girl whose name I have forgotten (hell, I stared at that tattoo and the beautiful mammary attached to it so often that that is probably why I can’t recall her face! As bad as a guy, I tell ya).

What did the blue rose mean to our nameless siren? Did it mean anything? Or did she just think it looked cool?

The first inquiry originally occurred to me back then in whichever grade that was, when the she in question walked in to the choral space, donning the floral mark on her chest, as the rest of us ran the scale or were already practicing a particular song for a school-wide performance or whatever we were doing.

Any time this female (again, whoever she was…Miss Whatsherface) and her blue tattoo cross my mind, I am still asking the same question. Now, it isn’t just curiosity. It’s the search for significance that comes with maturity. And with maturity followed the second and third questions.

Why has this nameless, faceless former fellow classmate and singing enthusiast stuck so rigidly and pointedly in the history of my thoughts? Well, aside from obviously being in some sort of awe of her when we were kids, she became the physical embodiment of what I’ve been trying to answer for myself all along, ever since then: should I get a tattoo or not?

I know I’d like to get a tattoo. My step-father was one of those Harley-Davidson biker types. So, he as well as all his friends had enough ink to form their own Hell’s Angels pack, if they wanted to. I’ve also had several friends that have gone through — and enjoyed — the experience. One that comes to mind is Steve, who though we were once close, we haven’t been in each others lives for a few years. In any case, Steve has a handful of ink. I can’t recall how many. But I know he loves getting them. During a conversation we once had, he said to me, “Once you get one, you want another one. They’re like Pringles (or something to that effect).”

What I don’t know is what significance each holds for him. Though, I am certain, that Steve put some thought into them; he was never one for getting ink for the hell of it.

Beyond meaning, here are the other things I’ve been mulling over for most of my existence: Is there an ideal age for first ink? (And as I get older, is there an age where if you haven’t yet, you may as well not? Afterall, I just turned 34 two days ago. Has this ship sailed while I’ve been repeatedly circling back to it?) And tending to be realistic, I know that not everything is for everybody. Just because I want to do it doesn’t mean that I should. Just like people who shouldn’t be parents, but bear children anyhow. Am I actually one of those people when it comes to ink? Am I only meant to admire tattoos (as I do; they are works of art on a smaller scale), but not necessarily fated to express myself in that way?

Then there’s the quality and skill of the tattoo artist. We’ve all heard horror stories of a botched ink. Of needles in need of sterilization. Of misspellings (which I can’t stand — a typo is bad enough; permanent etching in the epidermis is too serious already to have that result!).

I don’t know the first indicator of a terrific or terrible tattoo artist. I could ask around, but I’ve done that before, and it did not alleviate my trepidation.

Of course there is a final element, one that can not be controlled at all, even if you have the best ink artist in the world. The aging process, and the effects that skin in the progressed stages of life has on tattoos.

For all that I haven’t figured out, in spite of thinking about it for 20 years, I do know that I don’t want to do something so important and risky if it really isn’t going to end well, and I fear the onslaught of wrinkles as it is — why exacerbate that situation, if that is all I will succeed in accomplishing? But even more clear, and probably equally obvious to you: whatever the tattoo would be, it would have to have a deep meaning for me. It would have to tell at least a small part of my life story. It would have to be as integral as even one lotus flower in a string of hieroglyphics on an ancient Egyptian’s tomb wall.

And because ancient Egypt is one of many of my interests/hobbies (ever since LeVar Burton presented a book on mummies on Reading Rainbow), at one point, I even considered getting a lotus flower or a scarab, or both on one of my upper arms. But because we change over time, all I can see that saying about my life is: she loved the ancient Egyptians. One more word and we have the six-word story challenge that has been so popular on Twitter lately. But in that case, I may as well not because that tells you as much about my life as no tattoo at all.

Two decades of pondering. From that the conclusion reached is merely: I really want one, even though I’ve no clue what it should be, and it’s a more preferable kind of skin tag.

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