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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