Sixty-one is a good age to get a tattoo, right?
Please say yes, because I really want to indulge my daughter and get coordinating mother-daughter tats, and I’ll need at least another year, year-and-a-half before I can decide what to get and where on my body to get it.
I figure if I wait long enough my tattoo will still be crisp and bright when I’m on display in my coffin. And who doesn’t yearn for that every darn day of the week?
My husband is not in favor of me getting a tattoo. My daughter, on the other hand, has convinced me that it would be the greatest parental score since I drove her around Lexington, Kentucky, stalking Johnny Depp. I’m no closer to a decision on a tattoo what and where than I was when she first suggested it and I choked on my cocktail.
“Oh no. No, no, no,” I said. I had just finished a round robin of doctor visits for a skin rash that refused to go away and had me overreacting to the preliminary diagnoses of allergies to everything save air and water. During the you-might-be-allergic-to-all-metals phase, I was this close to giving away all of my jewelry. When it was suggested that makeup might be the culprit, I got fitted for a burka. And when the possible food allergies were narrowed down to caffeine and alcohol, I submitted my online application to a nunnery in rural Italy. It turns out my rash was just another dermatitis that required extensive use of a prescription cream that cost more than my wedding gown.
The whole experience had me skittish about having anything done to my skin. One of my doctors told me to avoid using the soap in public restrooms; what would she have to say about getting a raccoon paw needled into my arm?
Let me explain about the raccoon paw. When my daughter and I were talking about what we should get in the way of a tattoo, she wanted to conjure up a favorite childhood memory and it involved a book about a mother raccoon and a preschooler raccoon. The preschooler raccoon was going to school for the first time and she was scared shitless. The mother raccoon kissed her little claw and said that she shouldn’t be afraid because that kiss would be with her all day. When her name was mispronounced in front of the whole school, that kiss would be there. When she was sent to Guidance to start an IEP because she brought the wrong color folder with pockets and sprockets banned by the school board, that kiss would be there. And yes, even at lunch, when walking into a cafeteria without knowing a soul can cause even the healthiest little raccoon to get explosive diarrhea on the spot, that kiss would be there.
“Aw, that was so sweet,” I said. “I kissed your hand at the bus stop every day before you went to kindergarten,” I said, sipping my Lemon Drop. “But I really don’t want a raccoon paw on my thigh. I mean, I love you and everything, but that just doesn’t seem right.”
“You’re getting it on your thigh?” my daughter said, lighting up.
“I don’t know! I don’t know anything!” I said. “WAITER! Six more of these!”
At this rate, my ink will still be wet as they lower me into my grave.
I don’t want the location to be predictable or cliché. Or too visible or not visible enough. The whole point is for people to catch a glimpse of it and go, “Wow, I didn’t know Diane was the tattoo type. I guess she’s far more badass and less nerdy and awkward than we ever imagined. What else is up with this mystery woman?” and not go “I had no idea she even liked raccoons. What a weirdo.” I don’t trust tattoo artists to steer a woman old enough to be their grandmother to do what’s right for her.
So a couple months ago I did some tests. I gathered up some temporary tattoos I had acquired and I tried out a couple spots. I started with some feminist sayings I picked up after the Women’s March on Washington last year. NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED on my foot went unnoticed by everyone. Even with sandals. People definitely aren’t looking at my feet enough.
Then I found a temporary tattoo of my husband’s college mascot in the bathroom trash. “You were going to throw this away?” I yelled. “I thought I made it clear that I need these!”
“You didn’t go to Youngstown State,” he said sternly. “You haven’t earned the right to wear The Angry Penguin.” He’s probably right. You have to have a certain level of confidence to wear a grumpy bird wearing knit winter accessories and holding a pompon. Even temporarily.
So I moved to some Jane Eyre tattoos my friend Barbara gave me. It’s written in what I assume is Charlotte Bronte’s handwriting after a long day of rewrites on deadline and a leaky fountain pen, so it was barely legible. Something about conventionality. I applied it to the inside of my forearm, where it went largely unnoticed until I got a manicure.
“What’s this?” my manicurist, Swan, asked. She was making a face and stopped touching my arm.
“Oh, it’s just a temporary tattoo. I’m trying out some things.”
“Well don’t do this one,” she said. “It’s not attractive.”
She wouldn’t be so bold with a chick with a raccoon paw on her thigh.