Wearing my heart on my sleeve (or my turtle on my back.)

I recently landed on a post by BusyDad about his tattoos and the story behind them. Inspired me to want to tell you about my own tattoos and their stories. I have 3 of them (or 4 or 5, depending on how you look at it), and like BusyDad, I like that I can easily keep them covered. Many people who have known me for years are shocked when they find out I have them!

Ok, so the tattoos and their stories:

Tattoo #1.

I was 18 and went to the tattoo parlor with a boyfriend and another friend. All 3 of us wanted to get tattoos. I looked at the photos on the wall and picked out a turtle. They separated us into 3 rooms (!!!) and I was alone with the tattoo artist. He did not have good bedside manner. He put the outline on my center lower back, and he flipped on the gun. “Um,” I said. “Should I tell you if I feel like I’m going to be sick?”


“I feel like I’m going to be sick, then.” 

Tattoo gun off, I chicken out and go home.

A year later, I’m living in the sorority house and Ginny and I start talking about tattoos. She wanted some music notes on her back, and I wanted the turtle still. It has become more significant than “I like turtles” at this point because the sorority mascot is turtles. We made plans to go with Erin and Corinne, and we headed up to a different place (hole in the wall in Gastonia.)

I find the same turtle on the wall in this parlor. This makes me not want it. Suddenly it hits me that lots of people could have this turtle tattoo. I am bummed, but I am determined to get a tattoo. Erin, with a freshly pierced belly button and nerves of steele, grabs a pen and paper and draws, right there in the waiting room. Exactly what I wanted! I get it on my lower back on the right. The tattoo artist adds flowers, and I told him to make them “as small as possible.” Because I wanted it to hurt less. I almost fainted like a zillion times.

Tattoo #2.

Fast Forward to last summer. It’s been 8 or 9 years since I’ve gotten a tattoo, and I’ve had a vision in my head for about a year of another tattoo I want: an asterisk on my foot (footnote, get it?). I’m a writer, and I’m clever (at least, I like to think so.) This time, I really think about it. What font do I want to use? How big do I want it? Where on my foot should it go? I print out asterisks and tape them to my foot and walk around. I think about it and think about it and think about it.

Then Brian and I are drinking Long Island Iced Teas on a Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. Conversation turns to tattoos, and he says, “I bet I could get us free tattoos!” Ooh, tattoos …

A few more hours of drinking ensue, and at 4 p.m. we’re at the tattoo parlor drunk as skunks. The tattoo artist doesn’t have time to help us then. “Come back in a couple of hours,” he said. “Go have a few drinks while you wait.” Woo hoo! More drinks.

All my research, out the window. “Just make it pretty,” I told him. Woke up the next day, had an OMG feeling, looked at my foot and – phew. I like it.


Tattoo #1. (again)

I decided the turtle flowers had to go. My own fault for being such a wuss the first time around. This story isn’t terribly exciting, but Matt from Fus Tattoos hooked me up. Turned the flowers into the center of the new flowers, and added more shading and depth to the turtle too. Ronnie and Jeff are there to hold my hand. This is the beginning of my beautiful relationship with Matt.


Tattoo #3.

Time to do something real. I love the turtle – but I want something more defining. Something that actually makes a statement, instead of just a little tiny image in the corner of my back. I select a jasmine flower, which means, among other things, happiness. I have Matt create a beautiful piece of art I will be glad to wear forever. Chris, Ronnie, Jeff, Carissa and I make it an afternoon at the tattoo parlor. I almost passed out when Matt drew on my back with an ink pen (no, I’m not kidding.)

Flower tattoo

Tattoo #4 and #5 or Tattoo #3 expanded.

Laughing at me yet? This one will help to balance out the turtle. I went to see Matt yesterday, after two consultations and many emails and lots of indecisiveness (did I mention he’s very patient?) Eventually the piece will wrap around to my back, but after 2.5 hours of pain, it was enough for one day. Chris and Jeff went with me. Jeff held my legs down and Chris let me attempt to break his fingers for the entire time … Did Chris tell me I bit his hand at one point? I’m not sure. At any rate, about halfway through the piece my body gave in and I started crying. And once I started I couldn’t stop. But crying is better than fainting, right? For the record, I was still laughing inside every time the boys made a funny joke to distract me. I just couldn’t show it on the outside …


So there you have it! After I get over the pain of this one, I’ll get it finished and show you the completed piece. And when I cover up to go to a business meeting, like BusyDad, you’ll never know the difference … (although the nose ring might give you a small clue …)



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18 responses to “Wearing my heart on my sleeve (or my turtle on my back.)”

  1. Chris Avatar

    Love ’em all, especially the *

    Last blog post from Chris – Paranoia

  2. Jeffrey Avatar

    What can I say besides, “I love them!”

  3. Whitney Avatar

    Wow! Those are some serious tattoos! I feel like more of a wuss than you now with just my little one on my back (the origins of which spawn from Native American tribal rock art — imagine my dismay when years later someone called it a “tramp stamp.”)


    Last blog post from Whitney – One final article…

  4. muttmutt Avatar

    I applaud your courage while I ponder your decision to make these permanent alterations to your body… I try not to be judgmental about things like this, but I have to admit, I don’t get the attraction of tattoos. Some time you’ll have to explain the reason why getting tattooed is a good thing. I’ve had others try to explain it in terms of “personal expression,” but I guess I don’t see it that way. I must be too old… Tattoos to me mean sailors and hard-core convicts. But to each her own. I’m glad YOU like them. 🙂

    Last blog post from muttmutt – Stars

  5. Chris Avatar

    Makes me want to blog about mine…

    Last blog post from Chris – Paranoia

  6. BashfulMuse Avatar

    Your tattoos are awesome! I love the asterisk.

  7. BusyDad Avatar

    That was a great progression!! Honestly, after I saw the first one, I had NO idea what scrolling down would lead to. I thought maybe more small cartoony ones – certainly not a bad ass wraparound job!! LOVE it. Man, now you have me wanting more.

    Last blog post from BusyDad – Anatomy of a Lurker: A Guest Post

  8. Elwood Avatar

    I only have 2, and they’re rather boring. Yours are much better.

    Last blog post from Elwood – Come Again?

  9. Jeffrey Avatar

    I have to comment on the ads on this post – mostly tatto t-shirts. Nice art, but busy.
    Thing is, we were having this discussion in a tattoo studio a couple of months ago about clothing and tattoos. The verdict? When you have tattoos showing, you have to keep your clothing simple. A busy graphic t-shirt and tattoos can clash. Really, would you wear vertical stripped pants with a horizontal stripped shirt? Plaid and polka-dots? Paisley?
    (If the answer is yes, please send pictures)

  10. Whitney Avatar


    I might be tempted to wear plaid and polka dots together, though I have no pictures of such a risky apparel undertaking. If I ever do, you’ll be the first one to know!

    Last blog post from Whitney – One final article…

  11. Lee Avatar

    Nice & Classy. Dig it! I’ve been wanting to get another one, but just haven’t decided what I want to get and where to put it.

  12. Colleen Avatar

    Love them all! You are so brave! When are you getting a sleeve?

  13. […] This weekend I was in Charlotte seeing some good friends, dancing for hours at the Breakfast Club, eating authentic Mexican cuisine at Cantina 1511, and holding the hand of my friend Melissa who was getting one hell of a tattoo. […]

  14. Lindsey Avatar

    &*( ?T^&*IG*(OTYOIHJ*)&(T^IUGBK?I:P*YO((Y
    Sorry, I just fainted on my keyboard LOOKING at your new tattoo!!! OH MY GOD I know that hurt like HELL!!!! I only have one and it’s small and I about died!!! Any of you tattoed people that play billy bad ass and say “oh it didn’t hurt”…you’re a damn liar cause it soooo does!!!! Congrats Melissa!

    Last blog post from Lindsey – It’s Chrimmus!!!!

  15. Chris Avatar

    Nah, mine didn’t hurt. Honest. However, the touchup was a little sore.

    Last blog post from Chris – Git on that bangwagin’

  16. […] buddies who have inspired me to really start thinking about my next tattoo.  Thanks @jonsinger and Melissa!  You both are my inspiration.  (Eek, now why are you both too far away to hold my hand when I […]

  17. […] can see the pics of the tattoos here and read about how I got them/why I got them. Here’s how my parents fit into that […]

  18. […] make – bigger than any other tattoo decision I’ve made thus far (see my other tattoos here). And every time I see a girl with a sleeve tattoo I am so jealous. “I wish I could have one […]