To Tat or Not: It’s Personal (and It Should Be Professional)

Here’s a woman who isn’t worrying about how she’ll look as she ages–Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, Jesse James’s former ladyfriend. I want to see her when she’s 65 (But then again, maybe I don’t.)

Ah, c’mon, ya know you’ve thought of it at one time or another in your life, and some of you women have done it. Gotten some subtle little inked tattoo in an unobtrusive place on your body, maybe right below the panty line, so as not to draw too much attention.

You never went for those big, honking, in-your-face tattoos that truckers get or the ones military guys commission. They agreed to it one night in some foreign city, brandishing the bravado of too much beer. With their buddies in tow, they strolled into a tattoo shop and ordered something “savage.” As such, they sport blazing daggers, skulls and crossbones, the Grim Reaper… the bigger…the better, for they feel:. War isn’t pretty; the tattoo shouldn’t be either.

Or they got a heart with an arrow shot through it and the name of their sweetheart (they’ll learn to regret this.)

But today, it seems like everyone’s getting one or more (tattoos, that is). In fact, some are embellishing the daylights out of their bodies, seemingly oblivious to the realities that they’re going to age; wrinkles will come; flesh will sag and end up in places they never thought possible. A tattoo prominently affixed to such will only illuminate that situation, for nothing screams: “Look at me!” more than a huge colorful inking of a giant dagger.

Years ago my husband and I ambled along a white powdery beach in St. Petersburg, Florida, when we determined to stop for a drink at one of those outside, bamboo, hut-like bars. He sat down on a bar stool and ordered while I went off to the ladies’ room. When I returned, I noted a woman chatting him up, and as I approached, she said: “You must be Janice.”

For a moment, I was puzzled, until I noted my husband’s arm in her visual sphere. She’d deduced that I must be the woman whose name appears on his arm, a crazy thought really in that he‘d gotten that tattoo when he was 18.

I chuckled inwardly as I considered that “Janice” has been with us for these past 20 years. She’s the unofficial third member of us as couple. Why? She’s permanently affixed to his arm, the product of a night he was buzzed on beer, just one more serviceman out with his buddies, looking to signify his allegiance (of sorts) to the woman who was prominent in his life at the time.

And that’s the real problem ultimately. Whoever is “permanent” and “forever” at 18 is most assuredly not going to be that in actuality. But a tattoo is pretty much forever. Oh, yes, they’ve got processes today to remove them, but it’s not easy.

So, what is it about tattooing that has leapt to the forefront of body decoration in these times? Well, today, serious artists are in the business, the ones who know how to use myriad tools to create your desired effect. The professional (licensed) places offer an inventory of images and they’ll do personalized designs, too. The better ones will caution: You might want to stay away from tatting your face or your hands in that they’re too exposed to sunlight and too exposed… period (“Bombshell” didn’t get this info. in time.) They know those tattoos will deteriorate more readily over time.

Ironically, those might be the only physical locations they refrain from inking, a reality that shocked this writer when I asked “Is there any location off-limits?“ Initially, I thought they’d refuse to tattoo the genital region, but apparently that’s not the case for many studios.

The good places don’t want drunks coming in, either, looking for a one night stand with a tattoo artist (one they’ll regret in the morning.) Some even say that on their websites…in so many words.

A prospective customer must be a certain age to authorize the procedure; they must be in good physical health as well as mentally sound and the really professional places will determine all of that via face-to-face discussion ahead of time.

They caution about ink designs that may be inadvisable (names of people with whom you’re in a current relationship, political ideology that might change). And following the procedure, the newly-tattooed is advised to allow his embellishment to heal, meaning he must stay away from the beach and pools (soaking a young tat isn’t good).

If you’re seriously in the market for one (or more), shop around and find the tattoo shops that are Board of Health certified, the ones whose equipment is state-of-the-art, sterilized and checked regularly. If you don’t do that, you’ll go out of that tattoo studio with waaayyy more than an image (your health may be compromised forever). That’s just too hefty a price for any body decoration.

So, be a wise consumer and check out your preferred place. The following links are of businesses that state they’re Board of Health certified (on their websites). Man’s Ruin (what a name!) operates out of Asheville and is a studio run by women. The owner is a true artisan who embellishes glass in her spare time, and her work is absolutely gorgeous (Click onto “Tattoos” on the website and check out owner Heather Ruin’s art.)

The other is a Rhode Island based enterprise, Powerline Tattoo, whose website offers great information for any tattoo enthusiast. Check them out and tell us, too (via Comment section below): Are you a tattoo enthusiast? What’s your fave tattoo parlor for bodywork? Do you love/regret your tats?

And enter a world many of us don’t know.

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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