I grew up in a relatively conservative household where my parents frowned upon tattoos. By frowned upon, I mean don’t do it or you’ll get the most I’m-disappointed-in-you-mom-look ever. Despite this potential judgment, I never hated the idea of getting a tattoo.
Marching Band was a big part of my life in college and I seriously considered getting the UW band logo tattooed somewhere. While it never happened, for the last game of my senior year, I got the logo shaved into the back of my head. Not a tattoo, but this still earned me a disapproving gaze.
Fast forward to now when everyone and their dogs have a tattoo. Friends would ask, “When are you getting one?” or “What tattoo would you get?” My sassy answer has always been, “I’m trying to be unique by not getting one.”
My best friend and forever muse, Cristi, is inked, and her tattoos are art. She has 12 and I love them all. Several years ago, she added a half sleeve that’s bold and impressive like her.
Cristi’s tattoos inspired my wife to get one. She started small with the Star Trek insignia on her wrist. So far, I’ve heard her say, “That’s the last one,” six times. I think they all look pretty cool and especially love the Wonder Woman and Vulcan calligraphy tattoos on her legs. More importantly, they mean something to her.
That’s the thing. I always told myself I’d only get a tattoo if it was relevant. It had to mean something to me. Last summer, I came up with one.
Cristi has been my best friend for over a decade. Tattoos are very important to her, so I showed her my idea and suggested we get a friend tattoo. She loved it, and within days, made our appointment.
The tattoo depicts a plant growing out of a broken light bulb. People describe similar tattoos as, “Kind of broken, kind of growing.” That works, but it has personal significance to us that made it relevant and perfect.
I was a little nervous about getting the tattoo. I’ve always had a high tolerance for pain, but Parkinson’s is neurological, so I didn’t know what to expect. For example, my brain disease has gifted me with thermodysregulation. In short - I used to love cold weather, and now extreme cold is painful.
Cristi went first and had the artist tattoo her forearm. I asked to have it over my heart. Cristi means that much to me, and that way I could hide it from my mom. (Yeah, I know, I’m 53 and worried about my mom seeing my tattoo. I didn't want the shock to kill her, and honestly, my mom is pretty awesome.)
Getting the tattoo really wasn’t that bad. I think my biggest challenge was trying not to make the tattoo artist laugh. If she had messed something up, it would have been my fault.
She didn’t mess anything up and I love how it turned out.
I was visiting with my parents several weeks later when I leaned over and my dad glimpsed it beneath my shirt. Damn those wide-collared t-shirts. Damn them to hell.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
He gave me that same look he did when I was a senior in high school. “I know why you got home at 3 a.m.”
Several months later, Mom, Dad and I were enjoying Thanksgiving dessert at the kitchen table. Everyone else was in the dining room and I was cornered.
“Are you embarrassed about your tattoo?” Dad asked.
No. I’m trying not to kill Mom. I took a deep breath, “Not at all, and this is why...”
Mom was disappointed, but it didn’t kill her. She has survived cancer over and over. This was only a close second.
A year later, I honestly have no regrets. I love the tattoo and what it means to me. I smile every time I get out of the shower and see it in the mirror. While I feel good about getting this one, it will definitely be my last tattoo, even though I’m the only one in my family without a Star Trek delta insignia tattoo. Hmmm...