I wrote my first column about the popularity of tattoos more than a decade ago after I found myself touring the Airborne and Special Operations Museum downtown with a woman of my vintage who sported a bright yellow Tweety Bird tattoo on the outside of her calf. 

Flabbergasted as I was, I noticed that Tweety — he of “I taught I saw a puddy tat” fame — looked a bit startled to find himself permanently perched on someone’s leg. Since then, of course, I have observed thousands of other tattoos, mostly on younger people, including a recently spotted one splayed across the collar bones of young mother doing her grocery shopping. In very curly script the word “Beloved” I am still trying to figure out whether she is beloved of someone else or whether she is especially fond of herself.

In the years since I first realized the United States is in the grip of tattoo mania, I have visited two tattoo parlors where a “self-medicating” soldier was having a $1,000-plus multi colored Asian dragon inked around his left calf and where the proprietors of another establishment actually asked for more regulation from the state since they were sticking needles into folks. A country musician who asked what my “problem” is with tattoos has called me out from the stage. Two of the Precious Jewels got tattoos reading “Mom.” Blessedly, they were henna and are now long gone. I have also written about tattoo removal, a bit of a growth industry, which can be both expensive and painful and which does not always work.

After my visit to the first tattoo parlor, I asked Up & Coming Weekly readers whether you have tattoos and, if so, where and why. You responded in spades, starting with a good friend. She confided that she has three tattoos, each associated with a man, none of whom play
any role in her life today. She is also sorry she tattoos and tries to
cover them in certain circumstances, sometimes using strategically placed bandages.

On reader described all four of her tattoos, each of which has enduring meaning to her, even though she says she will not be tattooed again after experiencing a religious revelation.

“1) My name and a star on each side…(not the brightest idea I’ve ever had…but at least it’s not someone else’s name!)

2) Since I wasn’t satisfied with the way it looked I had some clouds and a hummingbird added around it.

3) On my ankle I have an emblem of wings, designed by myself and the tattoo artist, in honor of my brother-in-law (now deceased), because he was paralyzed after being hit head on by a drunk driver….

4) The one closest to my heart is a purple, filled in, tear drop under my eye. I lost a child years ago, no children since. It expresses my continual sorrow over that loss, which I am still here in the flesh, til I am with my precious child again.

Personally, I like certain tattoos (obviously) as a form of self-expression. But God’s word plainly speaks against it so no more for me.”

A 46-year-old librarian shared that she has two Mandarin tattoos and is at peace with them. She is also thoughtful about her decision. “…the reasons why people get tattoos are as varied and personal as the type of toothpaste they select ... I thought about what it would mean to me and what it would signify to those who had their own opiniona ... I think with anything considered permanent and outside the norm of society, one must think long and hard and know that just as you can’t change any part of painting by one of the master painters, you can’t frivolously decide to have your body tattooed, it’s a life altering act and should be viewed
as such.”

The tattoo rationale that makes the most sense to me came from a diabetic woman who was badly injured and unconscious. Hospital personnel treated her with glucose that nearly killed her. She has since had “I am a diabetic” tattooed on her forearm, although she does note that it does not look great “with dress up clothes.” It occurred to me that “If found, please return to…” might be helpful for wandering
senior citizens.

I have long since sworn off writing about tattoos at the behests of a friend and the Precious Jewels, but another friend tipped me back over the edge by his observation after he saw a photograph of me wearing an ornate and detailed Venetian mask.

Said friend wondered whether I had submitted to an extensive
facial tattoo.

That’ll be the day!

Ten years after those first tattoo columns and millions of tatts later, I would love to know what you are thinking now. Do you have any tattoos? Do you still love them? Have you had any removed? Why? Why? And why?

My inbox is open.

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