Already Prettypoll: When to Ink

I know you’ve seen this photo before, but hey. I like it! The badger looks superb, and the photo reminds me that I once had more hair than five wooly mammoths. Seriously. That was the insane mane at its most insane.

Anyhoodle, I got a new tattoo last week and am preparing to get another in early April. Each of the three that I already had was acquired at a turning point in my life. But this time around, I’m not commemorating achievements or marking changes. I’m inviting change into my life. I think of the two symbols I’m about to etch into my skin as portals, doors into which the universe can pour good fortune, challenge, and opportunity. And that is as exciting to me as the prospect of soaking up some new ink.

Do you have tattoos? How do you know when you’re ready for a new one?

If you don’t have any tattoos but want one, how will you know when the time is right?

  • kittyscreations

    I don’t have any tattoos yet, though I have considered it. I’ve never really figured out how to tell when it’s the right time, nor exactly what I would like and where I would like it. With something that permanent, I want to be absolutely sure, thus I don’t have one yet.

  • Sarah R

    I have two. One of them I hate, as I did it on a dare. The other one I love. I intend to expand the one I love. It is located on my right ankle, and I want to extend it onto the top of my foot. That one is a dove with a rose (which is my middle name.) I want to take the rose concept and snake it down my foot, and have the leaves and vines spell out my kids names.

  • Cal

    I was going to get one at a time in my life when I needed to have a fresh start. I even drew/designed one and then I made this deal with myself: if in 8 months (seems subjective but there was a reason) I still wanted that tattoo, I could get it. If not, I could never get any tattoo ever in my life.
    8 months later I realized I didn’t still want it and that something so permanent on my body probably wasn’t right for me. I think they can be beautiful, but I am just too fickle to do it myself!

  • Samantha

    I have two tattoos. Similarly to other folks here, I love one and merely like the other. The one I love, I think, was one that I was absolutely ready for, needed to get, knew what I wanted, and went for. It was (like yours) at a turning point in life, and I viewed it as a “commitment to myself”. The other was something I went and did with a friend. I do want more, but I haven’t decided what they’re going to be yet. I like Angelina Jolie’s practice of commemorating her children with tattoos, and I think I’m going to emulate it, although not with co-ordinates. :)

  • Alison

    I have two, Love them both. For me, I’m ready for a new one when I can sit down draw it out, make it perfect and live with the drawing for a while. Meanwhile, saving the money. I have plans for a small one, but I can’t figure where to place it and how elaborate it should be. Once I have that figured out and have the money saved, I’ll do it.

  • miss cavendish

    That *is* great hair!

    No tattoos for me, though. I’d love to get some henna one day, but I prefer temporary markings pour moi!

  • Sheila

    Wow, that’s you! You look amazing. I love the badger.

    I have been wanting a tattoo for about 20 years, but have never gotten around to it. I know exactly what I want (I want 2) and where and why…but I haven’t done it.

  • Kate Coveny Hood

    No tatoos for me. I just imagine what it will look like when I’m a grandma…

  • Sal

    Kate: I think about that too, believe it or else. I choose my designs very carefully so that once I’ve officially entered Old Bat-dom, I won’t feel ridiculous. Or, anyways, won’t feel TOO ridiculous. I figure so many members of my generation are sporting ink I’ll just look normal anyway.

  • futurelint

    I got my first one as a whoo-hoo present to myself when I got my first promotion at my first job out of college. I had made myself want it for TWO YEARS before I got it. It’s a line of five ants on the top of my right foot. The other one I had wanted for a while. It is three different bells that I drew myself and they go down my left side. It’s a Kurt Vonnegut thing. I’d been waiting to get it. Then my friend who was going to do it (he’s licensed, don’t you worry) was going overseas with the marines again and then Vonnegut died. I got it the next day. I LOOOOVE it!

  • Christina Lee

    sexy photo- you go girl!!!
    I think I am too chicken to get one-but sometimes admire them on others (like yours)

  • jen larsen

    That is a spectacularly beautiful photo, ms Sal.

    I have five tattoos, and I love all of them. My first, a pirate flag on the back of my neck, was for my 30th birthday, and it was all about freedom and adventure and being tough and taking chances (and booty).

    The next three were also turning-point tattoos, but the last, a sparrow on the top of my foot (HOLY HELL OW) I got for very much the same reason you’re getting yours–change, a celebration of new things and new adventures that were on their way, a welcoming of opportunity.

    My next one, I want to get here in my new home state–a cowgirl pinup on my right calf. The mascot of my little town, in fact. I am excited to do it, and looking for an artist now (and also money).

    And eventually, when I make peace with my body, I will get a phoenix on my back.

    I hope you will post pictures of your new tattoos, please!

  • Jama

    I only have one, and I love it. It’s an image of She Who Watches ( I grew up near there and my mother and I spent many a summer driving around and looking at Petroglyphs. Between the legend, and the connection with my Mom, for me it marked the beginning of my understanding of myself as a feminist. My mom and I went and got matching ones on my 21st birthday!

  • Little Audrey.

    Love the mane. I love tattoos, always have. However, I’m 19, and I don’t think I’m ready to get mine yet. The only design I’ve liked for any long period of time (2 years and counting), is a steel magnolia. My father is from the South, and as morbid as this sounds, I won’t be able to get it until he dies. He abhors tattoos, and qualifies them under the self-mutilation category.It’s ironic that he is the one who inspired it in the first place. My family and friends are mostly conservative, if you hadn’t figured that out yet. :)

  • Courtney

    Love the badger and the hair! I have wanted a tattoo for years, but I’m still working myself up to get one. For a long time I didn’t know what, but I’ve been enamored for a year now with the idea of having a small, discreet Tree of Life, maybe on the inside of my wrist (serious religious and personal significance). Now I’m just deciding how much I really want it … I don’t do pain well!

  • Shrinky Inky

    I got my first tattoo in 1980, at age 20. I got my most recent ink about 9 months ago, just after turning 48. I have plans to do a bit more work on my right sleeve for my 49th birthday this May.

    I usually get a itch for some work about once a year or so. I have a lot of ink, so now all the spots that are left hurt and I don’t go in as often as i used to. I think my pain tolerance is lower too :)

  • Nadine

    I don’t have any tattoos but I think about getting one – but I just don’t know where.

  • Michelle

    Sal, you’re making me jealous!! I want to get started on my back piece but don’t have the cash right now. Siiigh.

    I have three tattoos (which, as far as my family is concerned, is a lot! ha) – one on my hip of Isis, and one on the back of each calf that’s sewing/crafty themed. The Isis one I got when I turned 18 and the other two were both within the last year; I still love them all. I’m not sure how to explain when I know that a tattoo design is complete in my head, but I can just tell – I’ll have most of the elements ready and just kind of hovering in my mind; when something else comes along and it all just clicks. I know what I want for sure on the back piece, at least to some extent, I might add to it later. I have ideas for my sleeves that I might or might not get, still, I’ve only been pondering that for the last two weeks.

    Oh, btw, you might find this book I read a while ago really interesting – it’s called Bodies of Subversion. It chronicles the history of women and tattoos and how there’s usually a resurgence of tattooing at the same time as women’s lib (1920s, 1970s) and how women in the past have used it as a way to kind of claim their body as THEIR property and not society’s. It was really interesting and had several cool photos :) Although I’m still trying to find one print in my tattoo artist’s parlor that’s of a flapper getting tattooed…

    Anyways! Good luck getting your tatt done, I wish you the least amount of pain possible 😉

  • rb

    I am seriously anti-tattoo. I thoguht you’d want to hear all perspectives in your comments. I think unadorned skin is really beautiful and can’t imagine permanently altering it with ink. I also can’t imagine how terrible heavily tattoed people are going to look as they age. Well, yes, actually I can imagine. My uncle has lots of arm tattoos from being in the military in the 1950s, and they just look kind of saggily pathetic now on his elderly wobbly arms.

    My niece is 17 and asked me just this weekend at a family gathering what kind of tattoo she should get. I said, “just don’t get a tramp stamp.” It turns out my cousin’s wife overheard us and was mightily offended because she has a tramp stamp. (I didn’t know.) And she called it a tramp stamp. Why would you get offended if you put something on your body that you refer to in your own words as a tramp stamp?

  • Kelly

    That picture is so beautiful. If I had a picture like that of me, I’d be putting it EVERYWHERE.

    I don’t have a tattoo, and I have no plans for one in the near future, but I wouldn’t totally knock it. The only tattoo I’ve had a lasting interest in getting is my last name. Because even if I get married, and change my name, I love my family and my family will never change. But my dad hates tattoos, so it would be kind of silly to commemorate someone in a way that he would totally hate, so….no plans to get it for at least a long while.

    P.S. your word moderation thing has just presented me with the first real word I think I’ve ever gotten – “cooks”

  • K.Line

    Could you be more gorgeous? The lines in that photo are truly awesome.

    I have no tattoos. (I actually wrote a post on this in the summer, but the link is eluding me.) I don’t think they’re for me, though I enjoy a beautiful tatoo – especially when well-placed.

  • gathering dust

    i have three tattoos so far – all of them designed by me, all of them with some specific meaning.
    i have plans to get a new one in may.

    as far as when i get them….usually once i finish my design, sit on it for a couple weeks, make sure i still love it, and then make an appointment.

    my most recent, and my next one, have familial significance. my first two were personal things. the one i will start touching up my design on next will be personal again.

    i will probably get that one after i graduate college, as my reward and as a reminder of my own personal motto.
    after that, who knows if i will get anymore….i wouldn’t doubt that once i have kids, i will do some sort of representation of them on me. i love tattoos :-) i’d have a hundred if it was more viable as a professional!

  • pretty face

    Aaah Sal you can’t do that!! Tell us what you got, pleeeease!

    I know what I want: a guardian angel on my shoulder, and I’ll get it when I find the right one. But you know, symbols for each of your children or whatever… you sort of have to wait to get those don’t you? x

  • Sal

    rb: Totally appreciate you sharing your perspective. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, many folks make choices that they regret, and there are many arguments against getting inked that make a lot of sense. It’s a very personal choice, and I definitely respect the opinion that unadorned skin is completely lovely as-is.

    Sorry to hear about the “tramp stamp” incident. Could be that the wife has no problems referring to her OWN tattoo as a “tramp stamp” in jest, but is hurt when she hears other use the term. Personally, I avoid that term at all costs. I agree that there’s a stigma attached to certain designs and placements, but “tramp stamp” is such a loaded term …

  • enc

    You could post that picture every day for six years and I would still love it.

    Congratulations on your new ink! I’m happy for you!

    That said, I regret mine. It turns out that I’m a commitmentphobe, and I wish I could turn back the clock and undo the deed.

    Luckily I had the presence of mind to place them both where they can be covered up, and one is in a place where I can’t see it, so I can just pretend it’s not there! 😉

  • fashion herald

    what a gorgeous picture!

  • poodletail

    The photo is so clearly taken by someone who loves you. It’s magnificent.
    I have 2 tattoos. One covers my upper thigh and hip (think “drumstick”) and I love them both. Your thoughts about tattoo as portal is an elegant, simple way of putting my feelings about my own ink into words.
    Tattoos are definitely not for everyone and I think the best results come from working with a carefully chosen artist allowing for the artist’s input.

  • Sal

    poodletail: So true! I brought a design I’d drawn to an apprentice artist for the green guy on my ankle and it turned out wretched. When I went to the Ink Lab years later to get it “fixed” the artist literally drew on me with a magic marker and said, “How’s this?” It was perfect. I learned the hard way to make sure tattoos are a collaboration with the artist. A great lesson in letting go!

  • Sal

    pretty face: Hahaha. I will. It’s in the crusty, grotty, itchy phase right now. Once it’s all healed, I’ll show it off!

  • Michael McGraw Photography

    I prefer tattoos of words. I have gratitude on my forearm and love it. If I ever get too cynical or bitter, can put a big “X” through it and it is still good. It’s the only way this gemini could get a tattoo and deal with it as a permanent addition to my body.

  • LL

    I have 3 – love one, like one and hate one. My first tattoo was a butterfly on my ankle (gag) and I hate it because it looks like every other Spring Break Mistake out there. Which would be OK if I’d gotten it at Spring Break, but I didn’t. I did this on purpose. sigh.

    The second one is the Chinese character for “strength” and it’s on the back of my neck, on the right side. I got it when I was going through my divorce and things were getting kind of nasty. Even though it’s a reminder of a bad time, I LOVE this tattoo. (And yes, I did all kinds of research on the character – I don’t have “eggroll” on my neck.)

    The last one is a bull and it’s on my shoulder. I’d like to get it touched up, but I like the tattoo. I’m a Taurus, so..bull. Tada.

  • Jess

    Ohmyheavens Sal! You’re hair is freaking awesome in that picture!

    No tatoo’s here. I’ve never been able to pick something to permanently mark my body with. I did flip through an artist’s book one time and saw what appeared at first glance to be just a jumbling of barbed wire. If one looked closely, however, the face of Jesus with the crown of thorns upons his head appeared. If I ever did get a tatoo, that would be it. But then there’s the question of where…

  • burntphotograph

    i got mine on impulse, actually. i read a letter ryan adams (the musician) wrote to himself on his birthday in 2006, love it so much i decided to get a symbol he used for his band on my left wrist. so i did! the artist did a fantastic job but sometimes i see it and just shake my head wondering what i was thinking (and believe should cost more to deter someone like me). other times i really like it and see it as a symbol of being young and impulsive.

    the symbol is of a rose blooming, which, as cliche as it seems is what i was actually doing at the time of the tattoo. :) that’s just coincidence, though.

  • Lady Melbourne

    Wow, your hair is amazing!!! I’m not even looking at the tattoo!!!
    No tattoos for me, I’m too indecisive!

  • we wear things

    i love it! i’ve admittedly always wanted a tattoo… but always been way too scared to get one!

  • Sharon Rose

    Hi there-I do like seeing them on other people, but not sure if I want one myself!!

  • becca

    I’ll be honest and admit to a “tramp stamp”. I have a fairly generic tattoo on my lower back. I’m fine with the term, it’s funny! I was a little young and a little silly, and I like to be reminded of that time. I had no mortgage, no significant other, no real responsibility – just time spent figuring out who I was. Turns out that I wasn’t a tramp, just a silly 19 year old 😉

  • Cat

    I have known which tattoo I want for 8 years now. A few things have prevented me so far:

    1. I don’t know where to place it. I want it to be somewhere completely concealable. I’ve considered my stomach, which would only be shown if I wear a bikini.

    2. They don’t seem to age well. If I could get a tattoo for just 10 years, I would. Is there maintenance to keep them looking good as you age?

    3. I almost got one when I turned 25, but then I had a nightmare about it. I figure if anxiety over a tattoo is popping up in my dreams, I’m not ready.

    Thanks for linking your original post on tattoos. It gave me a good perspective on tattoos.

  • Michelle

    Cat: How you take care of a tattoo heavily influences how well it ages. Also, something to remember is that the tattoos you see on people now that are 20-30 years old were done with ink that was usually not as good as what is used now, and by looking at a tattoo on an older person you really have no idea how well they’ve treated it. Example: I have a friend who got a crappy tattoo at a not very reputable shop in January of last year, didn’t do aftercare totally correctly, and exposed it to sun w/out sunscreen every day for most of the summer. His tattoo now looks…well, like shit. It’s faded terribly and most of the colors are off. The tattoo that I got on my eighteenth (which was about 2 1/2 years ago) looks infinitely better than his – I followed proper aftercare and haven’t ever exposed it to sun without sunscreen. My tattoo artist has tattoos that are 20 years old and look better than my friend’s. Another thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that getting tattooed is not really a one-time thing – you WILL have to get it touched up and a lot of times, that’s what makes the difference between a well-aged tattoo and a bluish-gray blob (of course, it’s also VERY important to go to a reputable, clean shop). From what I know, sun exposure and touch-ups can make a world of difference.

    Sorry if that came off as preachy or know-it-all-y, tattoos fascinate me, so I love reading about them (and constantly barrage my artist with questions while getting them done, haha). I hope it helped at least a little!

  • WendyB

    I’m entranced by your hair.

  • Iheartfashion

    I used to have your hair!
    It’s a beautiful photo, Sal.
    I have one small tattoo that I drew when I was about 20 when it seemed edgy and cool, but I’ve never wanted another one. Mostly I forget I even have it unless someone else comments. I agree that you won’t be the only old lady with a lot of ink. It seems that 75% of the women I know, including my kids’ elementary school teachers and my aunts, has a tattoo.

  • Audi

    I think it’s ‘time’ when the idea or image really cements itself in your head. For about a year and a half I contemplated the tattoo that would become my Memento Mori design, and during that time I came up with a lot of different ideas that didn’t really stick, either because they weren’t interesting or complex enough, or because I didn’t think they would translate visually very well. Once the Memento Mori idea popped into my head, I knew I was onto something special. Each time I thought about it the idea solidified further; that’s when I knew it was the right design and the right time.

    A note to rb: Tattoo technology has improved dramatically in the last 50 years, so today’s tattoos should age a lot better than those from the 1950’s. Not to mention the fact that a lot of those old tattoos were the product of a dare during a drunken shore leave, and probably weren’t of very good quality to begin with. I appreciate your anti-tattoo perspective, but I’m just pointing out that relating today’s inked crowd with 50’s military men is really not the most accurate comparison.

  • Summer

    Nice tattoo..
    But i don’t have mine.coz i’m afraid it hurts..
    And i like your hair a lot..=)

  • CrankyOtter

    Can’t not comment. 2nd comment on your blog that I found last week and told everyone about…

    I have 1 tattoo. It’s a stylized sun between the girls. While it’s functional in that it covers a strawberry birthmark that never faded, allowing me to wear low cut shirts (the v-necks that cross at the bottom look great on me), I got it when I started thinking about a 2nd tattoo when I didn’t even have one yet. It’s original and quirky and I love it even if everyone asks me if it’s a flower. I’ve been lusting after more ink ever since which is, uh, carry the 1, about 15 years. Yep. Definitely time for new ink. Maybe I can work an otter into a totem.

    Ironically all the tattoo shows on TV have freaked me out because someone has some deep and compelling reason for getting even some generic, dumb tattoo. I just want a totemic image. Is that so wrong? I think I’ll grab your explanation and use that. Thanks!

    (“hot red” is my verify word. I think I need a hot red tattoo.)

  • Sal

    CrankyOtter: First, I’m thrilled and flattered to hear that you’re making all your friends check me out. Maybe you could be my agent.

    Second, sounds like you are on your way to an otter tattoo … my badger and I salute your choice!

  • dapper kid

    I’ve wanted a tattoo for quite a few years, but I thought it would be a tad too rash to get one without having a true meaning for it. However one idea I really want to carry out when I hopefully have children one day, is to get them to write their name over my heart when they are old enough to write, and tattoo on top of their writing.

  • Spandexpony

    Wow, Sal!!! Everything in this photo is absolutely beautiful!!

  • Katie

    I have three (four if you count each location separately – I have one on each wrist) and I love them. My first was back in college and I might not get it now but I don’t regret it at all. The others I love with a passion verging on complete obsession. I constantly long for more ink, but I generally wait until I have a design that resonates with me. I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that getting a tattoo should coincide with a meaningful event or life change (though I respect that stance). I think it’s more a way for us more conservative types to justify it to our own community. Ink is worth having as an adornment and need not be for any other reason, in my mind at least! Be proud of your expression!

  • Woonie

    I have a million, zillion ideas for tattoos. I think they’re absolutely gorgeous when they’re well-executed. But for all of the reasons that I have to get one, I haven’t yet. Like you’ve said, I’ll know when it’s right. That could be never!

    Some of the reasons for not having a tattoo include the fear of regret 20 years down the track (I’m only 19, so I hardly have a good concept of ‘permanent’ and ‘lifetime’ yet); not wanting to be like everyone else with a tattoo; wanting to keep myself pure and unblemished- I’m blessed with lovely, smooth, soft skin and I’m afraid that sometimes I might just want to be ‘clean’ again; I change my mind far too often for something that’s going to be on me forever, just right now; and appearing really fucking stupid to some people. But I know that if I found just the right piece and just the right spot, no amount of disapproval would be able to turn me away from getting it. Price and pain are no object for me.

  • Carrie Wehmeyer

    What a gorgeous portrait! Love, love, love the hair. I have two tats and I love them both. The oldest one is Elroy Jetson, gotten when I graduated from art school. It still looks great down there on my ankle. The other is a “henna painting” on my wrist. It could use freshening, brown ink isn’t the strongest. I love it, though. It’s feminine and pretty. I have had it about ten years and it was a gift to myself at the first autism conference I attended. With two autistic children, I don’t always have time to care for myself. The little bracelet reminds me to try.

  • Anonymous

    I have no tattoos, I always think about getting one- but I'm too chicken. I'd be afraid I'd regret it later in life, plus I'm not a fan of pain 😉 . If I did get one, it would be very small so I could easliy cover it up. My family is also against tattoos, so I can't see myself ever really getting one. Fun to think about, though, but I'll stick to temporary and henna tatts. 😉