She couldn’t just get a T-shirt…

“Have you heard from your sister lately?” I asked James last week. He smiled sheepishly. “You’re not going to like it,” he said.

Jail, was my first thought. His Europe-jaunting sister Katie is in jail. Midnight Express, Turkish prison. Or even midnight prison, Turkish express. Or maybe she got married. To a Turkish prison guard. At midnight.

“What?” I asked.

“She got a tattoo,” said my son, whose track record for ratting out his sister remains unblemished.

It turns out a day or so prior, Katie had sent James a Snapchat of herself acquiring said tattoo. The accompanying caption read, “Sorry, Mom and Dad.”

Of course she got a tattoo. What 21-year-old North American white girl touring Europe isn’t going to get a tattoo? After all, when in Rome, tattoo as the Romans tattoo. Or maybe it was in Spain. I hope it was in Spain, because Spanish hepatitis is so much more chic than Italian hepatitis.

Sarcasm aside, I’m fine with this, though I have yet to see the tattoo. When I texted Katie to say we heard about the tattoo (her reply: “Aww crap”) and asked her to send a photo, she wrote back that it “doesn’t look good in pictures.” She would show us when she got home, she said.

Uh-oh. More mysteries. What could it be? I just hope it’s nothing too European, like a tattoo of unreliable plumbing.

I’m really not surprised. It seems more and more people sport a little ink these days, and for some time I’ve noticed more tattoos on women than men, possibly because I notice more women than men. (“Don’t worry, honey, I’m just looking at her tattoos.”)

This general impression bears out statistically. According to a New York Times article from a year ago, 47 percent of U.S. women under 35 have tattoos, compared with 25 percent of men in the same age group. I couldn’t find figures for Canadian men and women, but I expect Canadians have just as many tattoos, only they apologize for them more.

Why the difference by gender? Men, I suspect, tend to opt for tattoos that represent toughness and strength, and a lot of men simply can’t pull that off… What? What are you looking at?

Women, on the other hand, have more options. Their tattoos can be tough and life-affirming or they can be a kitten. Women are also more likely to get tattoos to mark milestones: births of children, turning 30, trips to Europe, keeping down that fifth daiquiri.

As tattoos go from being taboo to mainstream fashion accessory, we’ll be seeing more and more people in the 40-and-older age group getting them – in other words, successfully ruining tattoos for young people. Hey, it worked with Facebook.

With so many people getting tattoos, of course, the risk is that they become cliché, not just the notion of tattoos but the choices. For something that’s supposed to declare your individuality, they sure start to look the same after a while. I mean, you’ve seen 116 flaming skulls, you’ve seen them all.

As I think about marking my own milestone of 50 later this year, naturally I play the game “If I Were To Get A Tattoo…” And it’s not just where would I get a tattoo (answer: Fresno) but what would I get for a tattoo. Hypothetically, I think my tattoo would have to be something original, something that speaks of my personality, something that wouldn’t get me fired. I’ve thought long and hard about this for 20 seconds and have come up with the following ideas:

  • An owl representing the wisdom I have acquired over the years; it would be a tiny, tiny, tiny tattoo.
  • A mysterious Latin phrase, such as Ocularia mea , vidistis ?
  • A tattoo to celebrate my four children – a dollar bill with wings, perhaps.
  • The Chinese symbol for “Chinese symbol.”
  • I don’t think I could pull off the barbed wire around the bicep, so maybe chicken wire across the clavicle.
  • An inspirational quote, such as, “Pain Makes You Stronger, But I’d Rather Be A Happy Weakling, Thanks.”
  • A sandwich.
  • All the body parts from the board game Operation, which, like me, turns 50 this year and is annoying and stupid.

Of course, I won’t get a tattoo, unless I decide I need something to commemorate unfortunate life choices. Who knows? Maybe my daughter feels the same way. Maybe her tattoo reads, “I Regret This Tattoo.”

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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65 Responses to She couldn’t just get a T-shirt…

  1. Eli Pacheco says:

    Fresno would be an excellent place to get a tattoo. Or Moose Jaw.

    My choice is clear: Woody Woodpecker – the crazed madbird variety, not the cutesy one with the top knot – on my left biceps.

    Not that I’ve thought about it a ton.

  2. pinklightsabre says:

    Maybe a tattoo of your Avatar with the URL.

  3. I got a prominent tattoo a couple of years ago, because I’m a middle-aged broad who thrives on cliches. My 10 year old played an April fool’s joke on me – she left up a screen on her laptop with a Google search “How old do you have to be to get a tattoo?” When I bellowed for her, I could hear my husband and kid laughing their butts off in the other room. It was worse than the year they stuck a big plastic tarantula in my tea tin.

  4. I sat with my daughter last summer while she got a giant Haida raven tattooed on her back. And by “giant” I mean…really big. Oddly, I’ve actually become very fond of it, but not to the point of wanting one for myself. Yet.

  5. I laughed out loud three consecutive paragraphs in, so I skipped ahead to the “Like” button. Now I’m going to finish reading. . . .

    • The good news is you won’t necessarily have to choose. Tattoos are reportedly addictive — or the process of procuring one is — so your tiny, tiny, tiny owl will just be a gateway to the Latin phrase (too funny) and before you know it, you’re a walking Operation board.

      My son got a tattoo and started riding a motorcycle after dating a young tattoo’ed, motorcycling woman, while both were in the Navy. (It does not say “Mom,” nor have any of the succession of tattoos since. Not that I’m disappointed or anything.)

      Of all the things I worried about while they were growing up, it wasn’t that my son would be the one to take up with a tattoo’ed, motorcycling sailor. (She’s a delightful young woman, though, who may very well one day be the mother of my grandchildren, so there’s hope of a “Grandma” tattoo in my future.I’ll keep you updated.)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Oh no! You’ve broken the flow!
      (There is no flow. I take too many snack breaks for flow.)

  6. Paul says:

    Oh, Oh, a club sandwich tattoo , with fries – the perfect Canadian symbol for our social mosaic. or perhaps some Canadian bacon. The choices are boundless.

  7. I remember reading a book one time where the big evil dude – whom you never saw, only his handiwork – was revealed in the end to have his entire body tattooed in skeleton bones. ‘Twas creepy.

    I do have a tattoo – right bicep – of a Pegasus in flight. It’s the only one I have. I might have to alleviate that situation soon. Can I borrow your club sandwich?

  8. Fresno? The only thing Fresno has to offer the world is raisins and drive-by shootings. (Fresno is synonymous with everything wrong with the world. I grew up a few miles from that dried up flat place.)
    There has been some tattoo discussion in our family to commemorate the end of treatment. Dylan and mom are all for it, I’m not sure and my daughter thinks tattoos are too cliche for her body. I lean towards text/words for a tattoo so I might just need to put my arm in an old typewriter and plunk away.

  9. franhunne4u says:

    I love the idea of a Chinese symbol saying Chinese Symbol
    It is: 中国符号

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    I always figure so many parents have tattoos now that their kids won’t want to get them. No one wants to be like their ma or pa. 😉

  11. List of X says:

    As a writer, you have to first tattoo the copyright sign.

  12. What’s wrong with a moose’s jaw??? Better than the jaw bone of an ass. 😉

  13. Ned's Blog says:

    As small as our town is, it actually has three tattoo parlours. The fact that I call them “parlours” means, like you, I will be approaching 50 next year. Have I thought about getting a tattoo, especially with three parlours taunting me on my 6-minute walk to and from work every day? Of course! I’m thinking bird theme. An egret with a line through it.

    “No egrets”

    Some day it will give the mortician something to think about…

  14. Karen says:

    I knew that more women than men get tattooed now, but I’m surprised that so many more women than men have tattoos. I would have thought that the difference would be only a few percentage points.

    Now that I’m thinking about it, though, it seems about right. I got a tattoo when I was young and dumb and drunk (the trifecta on which so many of life’s regrets can be blamed), and I think just about all my girlfriends had them, but I don’t think I ever dated a guy with one. I may have, but I mostly recall the guys with tattoos were total jerks (I was going to use another word, but then I remembered this is a family blog) or they were fresh out of prison. 😉

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Cuss away.
      So now you gotta tell what and where. (I don’t know why, but I feel we’ve covered this territory before.)

      • Karen says:

        Lower back, tribal design. I think I would probably regret it more if I had to look at it every day, but I’m not double jointed, which has been both a blessing and a curse.
        Anyway, I like to think you read about my experience on my blog, way back in 2013. The Tattooed Lady

  15. javaj240 says:

    Oh, I’m just awaiting that phone call or text my own self from my own progeny. It’ll happen. In the meantime, I, too, have been thinking of getting a tattoo for my 50th. Like you, I was hoping if I beat her to it, the idea of a tattoo would lose it’s “coolness”. I mean, come on, who wants to be like her mother? I may just have to take one for the team. I like the idea of a dollar bill with wings. You may be on to something there. Who knows? It might become a “thing”. Like, right after you give birth, they roll in the tattoo artist who asks: “Where would you like your ‘parent symbol’?” LOL.

  16. My daughters (now grown – I, too, am newly 50) wanted tattoos when they were teens so I suggested we all get the same one. It is quite a few years later, and still no one is inked. Because (and this is why I’m an evil genius) I knew they would never be able to agree on one design.

    I so thoroughly enjoyed your post, I read it twice, something I never do. You had me at “nothing too European, like a tattoo of unreliable plumbing.” By the time I got to “a dollar bill with wings,” I had decided to follow you. I now fully expect you to make all my major decisions for me. Can we start with my next hair cut?

    By the way, I have known two Canadians who said “aboot,” but they were both from Neepawa, so they may just be extra Canadian.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Welcome aboard (or as we say, “abooooord”). The whole “aboot” business is actually an Ontario (maybe Manitoba) accent. Unfortunately, Ontarians outnumber the rest of us, broadcast our hockey, and are Rob Ford. The rest of us just cringe.
      As for your hair, a nice bob, or as we say, “boob.”

  17. A guy who works at a tattoo parlor was telling me about 2 twins who came in. The first wanted a tattoo that said “Follow Your Bliss.” Fine, ink, done. Then the sister says she wants one, same size, same font, that says, “Ignorance Is Bliss.” The artist tries and tries to explain what that phrase means, but the girls gets indignant that he’s trying to to talk her out of it and is insistent. So, he does it. On one hand, she may come to really regret that. On the other hand, ignorance is… you know…

  18. calahan says:

    I have tattoos on each shoulder, none of which are tough. Like, by no stretch of the imagination. Nowhere in the world are Al Hirschfeld caricatures of the Marx Brothers cause for alarm. “Don’t mess with that guy. He’s so tough he didn’t even get Zeppo!”

  19. If you do get a tattoo in Fresno, please be sure to stop by. We’re just up the road and folks say we’re generously hospitable.

  20. ksbeth says:

    each of my 3 daughters have gotten tattoos and felt that i should be classified under a ‘need to know’ status, so i only found out after the fact in each case. and each has a story. at this point, 2 out of 3 have a tiny bit of regret. )

  21. Totally true! I think I’m one of the only women I know under 35 without a tattoo (especially here in Portland). I’ve thought about it many times, but then I know I’ll get sick of it. Plus, if it turns out badly…super fail!

    For you…inspirational quote all the way. 😉

  22. It’s okay. As long as she doesn’t put one of those disc-thingys into her earlobe to try and stretch it out you’re fine. If, however, her earlobe is hanging down to her shoulder, you’ve got a real problem on your hand. I see kids with those and the first thing I think is, “There goes someone who doesn’t spend five seconds thinking about their future.”

  23. markbialczak says:

    My niece came came up from Arkansas to attend tatto artist academy in Albany one summer, Ross. She researched it online and discovered it was one of the best in the country. We went and visited her one weekend and took her to lunch and I wondered out loud if I’d finally get a Maryland Terrapin turtle tattoo on my bicep someday, and from a family member yet. She said, ‘No way, Uncle Mark. Not with your diabetes.’ I guess that’s that. I did enjoy hearing her explain the needle-prick-and-inking process, until I fainted. Kim has had a steady job since graduation, so I applaud her career choice.

    Here’s a suggestion for you, Ross. (St)inky. That could get ’em thinking.

  24. Haha! Love the sandwich tattoo. Complete with lettuce, tomato, and a little mayo oozing out…

  25. cat9984 says:

    I definitely think you should get an I heart Cats tattoo. Then your wife won’t think it’s a stupid idea. 🙂

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