Can we take a moment to talk about tattoos? I’ll admit that in general, the idea of tattoos seldom enter my mind until I see a particularly tacky one peeking out from above a rotund buttcrack, shouting “Hello World! I’m bustin’ outta here!” But recent trips to our neighborhood pool have brought the topic to the forefront of my mind as I ponder the horrors of irresponsible body art. Now before you jump to the conclusion that I am some type of conservative or worse, a prude with no understanding of, or respect for, semi-permanent bodily adornment, let me stop you. I went to art school. I spent most of my twenties and a hunk of my thirties in plaid miniskirts, motorcycle boots and a shining nose ring. I still wear 6 earrings in each ear, have a fondness for skulls and even with 2 kids in tow, I’m still occasionally mistaken for a roller derby queen. So I know a few things about stylistic choices and permanent adornment. But through all those years of alternative fashion choices, I was always sensible enough to keep one thing in mind – someday I will be old and saggy and my tattoos will also become old and saggy as well. What I’ve learned from this summer spent at the neighborhood pool is that I was probably alone in that thought process.
As the temps began to soar and my child’s time away from preschool made him even more spastic, I sought refuge in the two-foot section of our local pool along with hundreds of others parents and grandparents of short people just learning to swim. One gaze around the vast pool provided a sea of body art ranging from those that evoke a subtle, “hmmmm,” to those that cause one to proclaim “Lord, I hope he was drunk.”
The pool’s inhabitants ran a wide gamut. Beginning with those very, very few, taut young bodies with perky boobs showing off fresh tattoos as they splashed along with children they were being paid to tend , to those grandmothers whose tattooed boobs sagged to the water 3 feet beneath. There were those in the late 20’s to mid 30’s range with tattoos on calves or backs, still fresh enough to flaunt yet losing ground every day. And then there was my own group, the forty-something moms- with tattoos faded and sagging but thankfully, save for a few tramp-stamps on those brave enough to still rock a two-piece; ours are small and conservatively placed on our shoulders or ankles where they remain hidden during the rest of our grown up life. But the crowd that really caught my eye were those in the over 60 crowd- those I like to call the Shock and Awe crew.
As my son flailed about like a carp heading upstream, I was distracted by a true Shock and Awer in the form of a bikini-clad grandmother a mere foot away from me. Bikini Granny was covered in poorly placed and ill-chosen tattoos in addition to her leather-like glow. In the brief minutes I spent staring, I saw a desperate Yogi Bear sliding down a sagging breast towards her knee, a mermaid who had her own sagging breasts taking a one way trip down her left butt-cheek towards her ankle and what once must have been a wreath of flowers around her upper arm slowly becoming a bracelet and these were the only ones that were semi-identifiable. Bikini Granny was a poster child for bad choices in one’s youth but in her defense, she clearly had no regrets as she was a geriatric in a string bikini.
Yes, I understand many of us get tattoos when we are young and later grow to regret something that was clearly sage-like in its symbolism 20 years prior. But before getting a photorealistic engraving of your favorite stripper Sapphire and her pole down your spinal column, it should occur to you that one day you might have some explaining to do in the baby pool. Before allowing the artist to tattoo a flaming skull across the expanse of your thigh, you might think, “Hmmm, how will this look when I’ve 40 and my thighs have doubled in size and are dotted with cellulite?” Or most importantly, before getting that tattoo of Jesus on the cross tattooed mere inches from your crotch, you really should ask– “What would Jesus say about this?” I’m not a religious gal, but I think that one might have bordered on blasphemy. And these above mentioned moments of artistic expression are just a slight sampling of what I witnessed the summer amid the Little Mermaid swimmees and Light McQueen wetsuits.
Humanity, I implore you to think. Before you choose to let that individual with the giant ear gauges and neck tattoos change your life for the long term, think about what you will look like when you’re a retiree. Will you really be a bad ass in the nursing home if your skull and crossbones is sliding down into your granny panties? Is that flag that shows your national pride going to remain prideful when it’s flapping on its own as you wave to your grandchildren? Is that full tattoo sleeve still going to be edgy when you’ve got it tucked under an off white cardigan as you head off to prayer group with Bertha and Mildred? My guess is no.
So while you make look fan-freaking-tastic in the pool when you are 20 and perky, you will not be 20 for very long but that tattoo will stay with you forever. Do you want Yogi Bear hanging onto you nipple for dear life as menopause takes over? I didn’t think so. But you know, I'm just a cranky old gal and you damn young whippersnappers will do what you please.