Everyone Needs A Tattoo

A friend is currently designing a new tattoo for herself. I like what she’s come up with. What I like best is that it’s something that has meaning to her. It also really pisses me off. I’ve been ready for another tattoo for a while now. Something bigger. Art. Maybe something that can’t be done in one sitting. But here’s the rub – I have no idea what I want. It really bothers me that I can’t come up with something that is important enough. Something that has a personal meaning significant enough to commit to ink. Am I really that shallow that I can’t come up with an idea?

My first one was a spur of the moment sort of thing. A right of passage. Something to get out of my system. Poked around on the web for some flash, picked something I liked and went and found a shop. I still like it, but has no meaning whatsoever. I guess the significance was just to say I have one. When asked I just tell people I’m an expert in ancient, tribal, gekkota studies.

First One

Let’s get the tattoo rules out-of-the-way. Wait until you’re at least late twenties, if not thirty. Period. Any younger than that and you’re still trying to figure out how to tie your shoes, how to make a living in the world, and if you really like red wine or just trying to impress your friends. Neck, face, hand/finger ink, just say no. Sleeve or similar visible tattoos are cool, but just accept that you will immediately exclude yourself from certain jobs. Don’t even consider something highly visible it until you have an established career, and then it still better be a career that’s tolerant. Deal with it. It’s just the way of the world.

I’ve spent hours looking at various tattoo styles. Significant research. Ok, I watched a bunch of Miami and LA Ink episodes. There’s a new show now called Ink Masters that’s helping. I will now ask all potential tattoo artists to demonstrate their skilled shading technique. But what to get?

From an artistic standpoint I really like the Japanese styles. Koi fish and fu dogs. That really doesn’t fit my personality though. Besides, I hate sushi.


As far as more traditional tattoos I’m fascinated with skulls. I find the Day of the Dead sugar skulls pretty neat, but anyone who knows me would probably laugh if I had a skull tatoo. Besides I’m not catholic, so there’s no religious significance.

Sugar Skull

I do like the new-school bio-mech art. The problem I see there is that I think there’s only a few artists in the country who are doing it really well. I don’t have the attention span to do any actual research.


Another option would be to just let an artist have free reign to design something. Errr, no that’s too scary. God knows what I’d end up with.

New School

Which brings me back to disappointment in myself. The logical thing to do would be create something that had real meaning for me. A favorite artist’s work. A quote or saying that helped me through a hard time. My all time favorite superhero. A stylized piece of cheese symbolizing my ancestors migration west from Wisconsin. I’ve got nothing. Zero. I can’t come up with anything. I feel so… so… superficial. My personal lack of anything meaningful has turned this into a quest.

If anyone has any ideas, please share them! If you have a deeply moving story about a personal loss I might consider adopting it as my own at this point. Nobody needs to know that the portrait on my shoulder of grandpa Joe, who we lost in WW II, isn’t actually my grandfather. People will appreciate the story. And secretly they’ll be jealous because everyone needs a tattoo. When you exit this world you’re not going to get extra credit for having kept your skin blemish-free. Scars and tattoos show that you lived life. You experienced the world. You weren’t afraid of what other people might think. Enjoy life. Go get that small, hidden tattoo that nobody would expect you to have. And no, it doesn’t have to have deep meaning.

At least not the first one.