The Tattoo I Never Got

Most of the tattooed people I know are women. This seems weird to me (perhaps because of my age – 60). For the longest time, I associated tattoos with cigarette-smoking, motorcycle-driving, formerly beefy, now pot-bellied Marines. Admittedly, a narrow view.

These days everyone seems to have one. Tattoos are no longer barriers to employment. If anything, a tasteful tattoo can be a badge of creativity, of thinking outside the box. Granted, some tattoos are ugly, even scary at best, and offensive, even hideous, at worst, but there is also some exquisite artwork parading through the world on people’s bodies.

My sister Camelia has different species of camellias climbing up one leg. She also has a cornucopia of images symbolic of her artistic endeavors tumbling out onto her chest. Many lesbians I know have some version of a rainbow (a symbol of the LGBTQ community) tattooed on their bodies.


My first reaction in seeing someone’s tattoo is often, “Ouch. That had to hurt.” No one has yet to deny that the process is painful, but many will say things like, “You get used to it after a while,” or “you kind of go into a meditative trance,” or “well, it’s obviously not that bad.”

I’m skeptical.

I sat with a friend who was getting an old tattoo updated and refreshed with more vibrant color. She was clearly in pain, but was able to converse with me while the artist worked away on her arm. Still skeptical.

The only reason why I was even considering getting a tattoo was to commemorate my son’s life in some small, aesthetically pleasing, way on my body. Something that, no matter where I was, I would be able to glance at and be reminded of him. Not that I needed reminding, but I liked the idea of something external and public to honor his memory that would be with me at all times.

Then I lived through my cancer challenge and became jittery about having inks injected into my skin. Which is unfortunate, because I had such a great tattoo idea in mind: a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis with Julian’s name somehow incorporated into the image, in my favorite colors of purple and turquoise. Sounds gorgeous, right?

But still too painful, and now too risky for my taste.

julian ringI opted for a ring instead, with his name on it. I don’t wear it 24/7 (which was one of the pluses of a tattoo), and depending on my weight (which yo-yos) there’s a chance that it may slip off. But I love it. Just the six letters of his name. The font reminds me of old manual typewriters, which I have a nostalgic fondness for, and that seems fitting.

[I got my ring at: Lisa Leonard Designs. If you don’t know your ring size, stop by any local jeweler and get your finger sized properly before ordering. My ring is sterling silver, so it was relatively affordable and I won’t have a heart attack if I lose it. However, you can order yellow or white gold if that’s your preference.]

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