Farewell, Hair Color -- Hello, Tattoo!

I'd gone shopping for a vacuum cleaner and other necessities for my new home in northern California.

I found myself instead studying a postcard of a vulture and the words, "I've been admiring your body" while having a black star -- in honor of my hero David Bowie and his final album release, Blackstar -- tattooed on my inner wrist.


I explained to a tattoo artist named Damien that I was, via divorce and midlife crisis, an East-Coaster recently transplanted to the area. I instantly loved Damien's tattoo studio, which might seem odd given that I tend to favor decor with a clean, modern vibe, while Ancient Arts Tattoo was more a mix of medieval dungeon and steampunk mad scientist's lab.

Damien himself looked something like the love child of the early punk rock movement and the Jim Rose Circus, while I am easily approachable as someone you might ask for directions to the local library. And then there was the charm. Damien is one of those guys women either love or hate, given his instinctive tendency toward flirtation.


I'm on the wrong side of forty and recently stopped coloring my hair -- a move my own mother termed "brave" in her best effort at being generous -- so I'll take flirtation over being "ma'am-ed" any day of the week. My conversation with Damien meandered among topics from polyamory to German automobiles. It was a truly amusing way to have my attention diverted from the insistent bee sting at my wrist.

And that bee sting? I should explain that I'm as much a newcomer to this tattoo business as I am to the West Coast. Last year, at age 41, I got ink for the very first time. (And yes, as one with that librarian vibe and lamentably approachable face, I love saying stuff like, "I got ink.") It's one of the better things that's come of my midlife crisis.

I've always loved tattoo art, and admired those who were either bold or foolish enough to cover their bodies in the stuff, but fear of choosing the wrong thing to embed in my skin forever kept me from taking the plunge. One look at my high school prom pictures and you'll know I haven't always made the wisest aesthetic choices. Hello, teal eyeliner and AquaNet.

But one of the benefits of aging is realizing how useless things like fear and vanity are. In the past, I'd worried about whether a tattoo I selected at 20 would look good on me at 80. Then the lightbulb went on: nothing is going to look good on me at 80 -- at least not in the eyes of my 20 year-old self.

Which is fine.

That's the same girl who'd be horrified by the sassy silver haircut I'm happily sporting these days, and while her Doc Martens were a good fashion call, there aren't many other decisions I'd entrust to her.

That vulture postcard tucked amidst the clutter at the tattoo studio says it all, I think. These bodies of ours are temporary, and we'd do well to take them less seriously. Take care of them, for sure (all joking aside, Damien's work space was meticulous, and his sterile technique warmed my germ-phobic little heart), but have fun with them, too. These are just our vehicles for a brief ride.

We've got better things to do with them than vacuuming.