This, That and the Other04-11-12-margaret.jpg

It appears that the great tidal wave of tattooing that swept and colored our nation in recent years has crested and is flowing back into our vast cultural ocean. What scientific evidence do I have that such a sea change is underway? None, except my own gut instinct and what people are telling me, or more accurately, not telling me.

In 2005, I wrote a column about tattoos flowering on the bodies of Americans of all ages and walks of life and asked Up & Coming Weekly readers to tell me about their tattoos, why they got them, and whether they were happy with them.

My mailboxes, snail and electronic, overflowed.

I heard about tattoos commemorating romances, friendships, births, deaths, religious experiences and self-love. The one that made the most sense to me was a woman badly injured in a car accident and unconscious for several days. A medical bracelet identifying her as a diabetic was lost in the crash, and while she was out cold in the hospital she was given a glucose drip. She almost died not from her injuries but from the glucose. Once she recovered, she headed for a tattoo parlor and had “I am a diabetic” tattooed on her wrist, confident that it would not come off in any future accident.

All who responded were satisfi ed with their tattoos, although one young woman did confess to putting a bandage strip over her ankle butterfly when she went to church.

Fast forward to another column on tattoo removal, which was published last month, in which I asked readers to tell me why they got tattooed and whether they still liked it/them.

A lone response arrived by snail mail.

It came from a charming-sounding correspondent I will call “Marie,” a widow who gave her address as a local assistedliving facility. Here is her tattoo story.

“After my husband died in 2003. I found a rebellious independent streak. In 2006, I moved from California to Fayetteville to be near my daughter. Having never lived in South, I was amused by the culture. I noticed many smartlooking women with tattoos and was told ‘It’s a culture thing.’ My daughter sported a red Phoenix bird wrapped around her calf from her ankle to just below her knee. I thought her symbol of rising from the ashes was bold and exciting.

“My icon was the peacock, and I decided to have a peacock feather permanently etched into my thigh, customized with my grandchildren’s initials. I was stunned when the process was completed. I expected peacock colors of turquoise, emerald and mauve. Maybe something iridescent could be created. The artistic liberties taken left me with an eight inch splash of red, yellow, blue and black.

“Now in 2012 I’m thinking about removal creams. The thought of applying acid to my skin sounds painful. At 65, I have enough pain without intentionally adding more. Alas, I can’t afford laser (treatment).”

Fayetteville Plastic Surgeon Dr. Mark Miller, who once spent four hours in the ER sewing up a wounded Precious Jewel, is no stranger to “Marie’s” buyers’ remorse. He sees 20 or more patients a month seeking tattoo removal, many in response to Army regulations not loving visible tattoos. Says Dr. Miller, “Our tattoo laser gives very good results and in some cases, we perform surgical excision….”

All I can say is “Yikes!”

• • •

We Americans love our rankings of who is on top and who is rock bottom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on health issues, and it recently studied health disparities related to economics in North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Not surprisingly, our more affl uent urban areas — Wake, Orange, Mecklenburg, Durham, Guilford and New Hanover — ranked among the Top 10 healthiest counties to call home.

Cumberland County, also an urban county, came in at 63, behind our neighbors Moore (12), Harnett (44) and Hoke (48), but ahead of Sampson (74), Bladen (97) and Robeson (99).

Be thankful for all blessings.

• • •

Then there is the recent Mega Millions lottery, the biggest ever at $640,000,000, a sum which sent much of our nation into a dreamy ticket buying frenzy.

America is still waiting for the lucky winners to reveal themselves — if required by their state’s laws, but whoever they may be, they have got to be getting nervous

. A childhood friend of mine actually won $1,000,000 in the North Carolina Education Lottery, and she remains thrilled with her lump sum payment, less than half of the original $1,000,000. It is also true that every friend and relation with even the most tenuous connection to her surfaced so suddenly and urgently that my friend simply quit answering her telephone. Months later, friends who hope to talk to her must wait for her to return their call.

In the Mega Millions’ aftermath, I watched a television talking head giving free advice to lottery winners.

Do not announce yourself.

If you are young enough, take annual payments, not the lump sum.

Get smart and experienced attorneys and accountants and have your winnings legally squared away before anyone knows who you are.

Hear! Hear!

Photo: “Marie,” an Up & Coming Weekly reader, had hoped for a tattoo with bright colors like the one pictured above, what she got was something much different. 

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