Soon after her 18th birthday Jena called me announcing she wanted to get a tattoo. “Oh,” I responded, wondering where I had gone wrong, “Really?”
“Yeah” she said, “and I want you to get one with me.”
To understand the absurdity of this request you must understand just how much I HATE NEEDLES! I delivered both of my kids naturally, not as a political statement or as an “all natural earth mother,” but because the idea of a needle in my spine was worse to me than any labor pain I might endure.
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“Mom, are you still there?”
“I’m here.” I eked out.
Jena went on to describe the tattoos she wanted branded into our flesh. When she was young I would tell her, “I love you to the moon and back.” A sweet nothing for just us. We continue to write, text and say it to each other still.
So what does this have to do with our tattoos? Everything.
Jena endearingly presented her idea, “Mom, I want us to get I love you to the moon and back. I will write it on you and you can write it on me. Then we have it forever in each others handwriting.”
She had me by the heart strings. How could I say no? What a very sweet request. So sweet it melted my fear. I agreed.
After we hung up I began my research on safe tattooing practices and the most painless part of the body to get inked. I discovered meaty body parts hurt the least. Inside of arms, ankles, tops of feet, or anywhere directly on bone is agony. So I asked myself, “Where am I the meatiest?” (Since beginning menopause I have many more meaty areas to choose from. This was the only time I have been thankful for that.) I also needed to combine meaty with private-this tattoo was not to be for others enjoyment or amusement. After much research and consideration I decided on my upper butt/hip. Right side.
The day of the appointment we arrived at the carefully chosen parlor. I was so obviously out of place in my summer skirt and top, panic in my eyes. I felt like Pollyanna in a biker bar. As we waited, sitting with heavily tatted repeat customers, the advise began, “Don’t get it too small, it will look shriveled in a few years. Don’t put it where you might stretch because it will distort. Don’t get red or pink ink because it fades (sounds good to me) and it can cause allergic reactions.”
I am headed for the door. “Really? Are they serious? How big is not too small- cuz I was thinking tiny. Where on my body might I not spread or sag in the next 10 years? And, okay, I won’t get red ink-as if that was on my color palette.” Jena calls me back and I sit down.
Our names are finally called. We head down a spiral staircase into what looks, feels and smells like someones damp basement. We are introduced to our artist, an early 20 something year old man/child. He shows us to his part of the basement. I go first.
He “invites” me to the “tattoo chair.” Because of where I want my “art” he directs me to get into the chair face first, resting my torso on the back of the chair, that he lowers, allowing my ass to rise into the air for easy access. Seriously. You get the picture. I threw Jena one of those you are in big trouble mom looks.
There I was, for what felt like forever, my ass in the air with a cute young man’s face dangerously close to my butt. What does one talk about in moments like these? I know how to make small talk with my manicurist, my hair stylist, even my gynecologist, but I was out of my comfort zone. Literally and figuratively. It hurt…a lot. I kept asking him what letter was he on.
So, in the end (no pun intended) Jena and I have our mother-daughter hand written body art axiom. It will be with us forever and ever. When I catch sight of mine in the bathroom mirror I always smile, feeling warm and loved. Unless I notice the O in love is a little wide. Then I skip breakfast.
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