My 20-something-year-old kids have ink. Chefs have lots of ink. There are entire television shows dedicated to tattoos now. Somehow, getting a tattoo missed my generation, but it seems that everyone else around the boomers have them. I admire them on shoulders, arms, chests, backs and even fingers. They come in all kinds of colors and seem to shout "sexy and cool" at me every time my eyes catches a glimpse. I had tattoo lust.
I love the idea that tattoos tell a story of some kind; a form of journaling on the skin. I always want to know the story ... after all, I'm a writer. And I wanted a tattoo so bad I could taste it. After all, I have stories to tell and events to mark in my own life. I loved the idea of wearing ritual art.
But does a woman over 50 get a tattoo? Is it seemly? And what is seemly anymore, anyway? There are no rules ... right? But what about hanging flesh? Arms tend to wiggle and skin seems to thin and change over time after 50 or 60, or beyond. And it seemed important to know where to put the tattoo; like some place on my body that had a strong foundation and wouldn't shift too much with weight changes and age shifts. I didn't want whatever I got to eventually -- well, drop. There wouldn't be much grace in a hanging lotus or shriveled flower.
I finally decided on what is known as a "tramp stamp". Well, I am a sex educator after all, and that might qualify me. My sacrum seemed like a sturdy place to place art. You know, that nice hard firm place right above your butt. And I could know it was there and not have to look at it everyday, which seemed like a good idea at the time. There is a big difference between wanting ink, and knowing what story you wanted to tell forever on your body. I didn't want to be reckless.
Getting a tattoo was a big commitment, and so I looked for inspiration online and checked out places like Instagram. After months of planning, it turned into a completely spontaneous decision. Of course it did. My inner 15-year-old just went for it.
I found myself in Oakland, California after teaching two women's retreats on sexuality. I was staying with a friend while I was in town and she recommended that I go to "Old Crow Tattoo". Well, that kinda seemed fitting. I poured my heart out to this kid who could have been my son. I asked him his name (Bryan Proteau) but not his age. I kinda didn't want to know. He was somewhere between 18 and 25 with long hair and a gentle smile.
"Look" I told him. "I'm not your mother. I don't want an old lady tattoo. I am a sex educator who works with women. I do sexy photo shoots sometimes to help with their self-image. When you ink me, don't think middle-aged woman ... Ok?" He nodded solemnly. I told him about "The Goddess" and "The Divine Feminine" and talked transformation and moth's wings. I didn't want an ordinary tattoo. I wanted to tell the story of my work with women -- and I was handing the job over to this very young man. Please Lord help me.
I paid my deposit and geared up. I was gonna have a ritual. After all, if you are going to put ink on your body, there should be candles, and sacred objects -- right? So off we went to collect them and return the following afternoon at 3 p.m. I took an Ativan. I was more than a little anxious.
But this young man created art work that was simply amazing. He totally heard my story and told it in the drawing. How could this kid come up with all of this? But before we go there, you should know what three hours of tattooing can look like on my face.
That's an octopus gummy candy that was put into my mouth as a distraction or a
noise muffler. Not sure.
But it was worth it. After almost three hours, I had my first ink after 50.
And it was perfect. I love my tattoo.
The tattoo tells a story of my devotion to the healing of the Goddess and the Divine Feminine on this planet. Her constant willingness to not only stay with us but evolve and transform. The thistle flowers remind us of the beauty and pain of transformation. The moth wings are yet another image of constant evolution (and they were also done in the memory of my sister, Tracey). They are decorated with images of the triple goddess as well as other images of the female portal. The crown of flowers -- her birthright -- are just above her. Her body is a vessel for creativity, the erotic, healing and pleasure and power. All of this rooted forever on the most sag-and-age-proof part of my body: the base of my spine.
I really felt kind of romantic about it all. As a sex educator who specializes in the needs of women, it felt like these images would always remind myself of why I'm here. I wanted to show it to everybody.
So, of course I proudly texted the image to my 23-year-old son. Mommy was so cool. I got a tattoo!
That conversation looked like this:
Mom (me): I got a tattoo.
I send image.
Son: What part of your body did you just send me?
Mom: My lower back. Um, sacrum.
Son: That's your butt. Call it anything you want. That's your butt. And the detail is amazing.
Mom: Sorry about my butt.
Son: That's life. Just another day with the Mom!
So ... do you want a tattoo after 50? I say go for it. Just don't put it on your butt if you want to show it to your son!