Got ink? ETA Got Ink!

I'm on my way out to make an appointment for my first ever tattoo. I've been thinking about it for months, and I've decided to finally take the plunge. 

It's in memory of a dear friend who passed away six months ago. We'd known each other since age 11 at school, and we'd been friends all our lives. She'd been diagnosed with cancer five years before she died, and she made those last years count. Yesterday would have been her 46th birthday. I miss her terribly.

She left me a leaving gift, a snowflake charm in memory of a boozy, snowy weekend we spent together in Warsaw. It was the best. 

I want to put the snowflake somewhere I won't loose it. I'm going to get it inked on the inside of my right arm, just above the elbow, so I can show it off or conceal it as I want to. I'm putting it here so that there's something online to show the shop when I go to make the arrangements. And of course, to find out your experiences.

Do you have ink? Is there a story behind it? Do you love it or do you regret it? Any pictures?

ETA: I DID IT! I'm now a tattooed lady, but don't you dare call me Lydia!

Props are due to the lovely Joey De Boer, a gentleman who understands the significance of personal style and worked with me to get the design just how I wanted it. 

And for anyone who cares to read it, I wrote about it on my blog (with a few mildly NSFW images).


This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Olivegreen replied 6 years ago

    No ink, plenty of scars :-) but I see some elegant work in my hipster city. Occasionally look at images of the watercolor designs, very free form. Been tempted to get something simple. Please report on your experience, perhaps a trend for older women?
    I like that you will not worry about losing this small charm and remembrance.

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    So touched by this post. And I love how you've translated the snowflake for the tattoo. What a perfect tribute to a cherished friend.

    And yes, I have ink. I was living in LA about a half mile down the beach (Marina Del Rey) from Muscle Beach (Venice Boardwalk). I thought I would go for a walk and start to make some healthy changes -- starting with exercise. Half mile into my walk, I stepped into a tattoo shop and ordered up a tat that would have no meaning (because I thought if it didn't hold meaning from the start, I'd have no problem with it never holding meaning or having that meaning pass). It's actually quite large and it covers the lower (and I mean lower) stomach region. It is completely covered with a bikini bottom (those were the days) or panties. It is an abstract geometric patterned form -- and it does have a tribal feel to it. I really enjoy having it and it sometimes surprises me that I have one -- but the story isn't so surprising. I have a little wild in me. And it makes total sense that I started to exercise and then got derailed. Story of my life.

    Enjoy the day and the literal marking of love for a friend. I think it is the perfect expression of having someone forever in your heart. 

  • Astrid replied 6 years ago

    Good luck, approprio. I hope the result is just what you want.

    I don't have a tattoo, but I almost feel like the odd one out because of it. So many people my age have tattos, and they all make the decision as if they're shopping for a new pair of shoes. Kind of crazy... I don't think I'm ever going to get one. I don't feel I'm consistent enough in my tastes, I fear I would start to hate it in time.

  • TraceyLiz65 replied 6 years ago

    No tattoos here, but there are so many reasons people take this on and your story is a great reason to do so.  hoping it turns out fabulous!  

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    I don't have any tattoos, but I have a design planned out and one day soon I'll go for it. If I get up the nerves.

    My friends are all grownup punk types with mini-mohawks, bright dyed hair, strange piercings, lots of tattoos. Until I shaved the side of my head last year, I was so completely natural-looking compared to them. I'm ok with that, but sometimes I wish I were a little more brave.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Thanks ladies! I've just been around to the hipster barber shop and chatted with their tattooist. He's easily the nicest and least expensive of the artists I've spoken to so far, so I'm going back on Tuesday afternoon to get the job done. Wish me luck!

    Olivegreen, not sure about any trending tattooage for the mature woman, but I've read that older people are less likely to regret getting inked. And there's this magnificent lady. (NSFW)

    AM, nice story! I guess you're never going to post pictures of that. :P I really like a lot of the futuristic tribal artwork that's around at the moment. I was tempted to put a bigger design somewhere invisible, but it didn't feel quite right. I want this where I can see it and that means where others can see it too.

    Astrid, I see loads of body art on my students, from small designs to full sleeve tattoos, and I'm amazed at how mainstream it's become in the last few years. I've never done this before for similar reasons. I couldn't decide what I wanted and I didn't trust myself not to get bored of it. But I've been pondering this since the funeral and I think it's the right thing to do.

    Yay Greyscale! What's the design?

  • deb replied 6 years ago

    Yep, I got the first one when I was 30.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    What a touching story, approprio. My condolences. It's surreal loosing someone close to you, isn't it. You think they are still there, and they're not. 

    I love the snowflake charm, and the good memories it represents. How precious is that. The spot for your tattoo is a great one, and I can see the bit of body art working well for your style. A little exposure as you see fit.

    We live in absolute Tattoo Mecca, only to be rivaled by The Haight district in San Francisco. Most adults have a tattoo of some description here in Seattle. You are definitely different if you are sans tattoo in these parts. 

    I think body art can look very beautiful, although it has never appealed to me personally. The idea is too permanent - plus I'm too crisp to get a tattoo, if that makes sense. 

    Interestingly, it is very frowned upon to have a tattoo in Japan - both for men and women. Our Japanese friends have mentioned that a few times, and as fashion forward as the street style is, in this respect it is very conservative. In Japan, the association of tattoos with a very real Yakuza is too strong. I guess that makes sense when you are Japanese and live in Japan. 

    Good luck at the tattoo parlour and keep us posted. 

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Also, one of the first things that hits you when you walk around Seattle is how tattoo-rich the city is. Come in Summer when people are not covered up. You've probably never seen anything like it. One of the first things you notice about Japanese street style is the lack of tattoos. 

    In HK, tattoos are gaining popularity for sure. Saw quite a few people with them - and tattoo parlours were easy to spot too. 

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    I don't have tattoos. I think about it all the time tho, because how can you be a real artisan baker without tats? Sad but true. Lol. *I'm so alone.*

    I don't have one because I think as a Catholic and a diabetic, I'm really not supposed to get one.

    Also, I haven't any brilliant ideas on the matter. The snowflake is a good one, btw.

  • Sal replied 6 years ago

    A sad but lovely story and I feel sure you will cherish your tattoo.

    I don't have one but they are popular here, especially among the Polynesian community, which has a strong tradition of inking. Often bands on the arm or legs.

    Portland, Oregon, is the most inked city I have visited. I have been to Seattle but so briefly I can't really comment.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    What a sad story -- and what a lovely tribute to your friend. Wear it with pride. 

    I don't have a tattoo for the reasons Angie said; it just doesn't feel like me. But if I ever did have one, it would be in circumstances exactly like yours. That is pretty much the only way/ only reason I would do it. And I love the image you chose. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    I'm on the same page as Suz and agree that your connection to this symbol and the reason for the tattoo is authentic, and seems to suit your "look".  For whatever that means coming from someone who has only seen you in pictures.  My daughter (18) approached me the other day with this comment:  "there's a list of things I want to have done this summer".  And she didn't mean tasks accomplished  :) 

    I'm fascinated by them, and find them incredibly beautiful on certain women.  

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and the condolences. 

    Angie: ain't that the truth. Surreal is the word. It feels like an amputation. There isn't a day goes past that I don't think about her and I still can't believe she's not here anymore. 

    When the end came it was absolutely brutal. I visited her several times in the hospice and I was there very close to the end. It sent me into a tailspin of depression which I'm only now recovering from. Getting this done is not just in memoriam, it's about moving on.

    And I'm fascinated by the different and ever-changing cultural attitudes to body art around the world. When you mentioned the Asian taboos and associations with gangster culture, I recalled this column by the heavily tattooed Margaret Cho, about her reception by clients at a Korean spa.

    Kiwigal, I love the Polynesian/Maori traditions! Both Mr Edge and I are slightly regretful we didn't go for it when we were travelling in NZ/Pacific islands. Yes, its a touristy thing to do, but those tattoos are so beautiful!

    Angie, Suz: I hear you. Of course, I've never met you but I'm not sure I could imagine either of you with tattoos, except of the most discrete and tasteful nature.  

    lisap: oh my! isn't that scary for you as a mum? I wish you luck in guiding your daughter and hope she won't make a decision she'll regret later! 

    ETA a random thought: I'm definitely influenced by the changing attitudes and fashions in this area. I don't think I'd have considered such a visible tattoo ten years ago, and it's only relatively recently that I've begun to appreciate this style as something I'd adopt myself. How times change!

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Oh, approprio. I know what's it's like to see someone close to you suffer from Cancer. (My Mama died of liver cancer and was gone in 12 weeks). It is a very cruel disease. She came back home with a day and night nurse instead of hospice. It was emotionally torturous for the family and absolutely grueling for her. It takes at least a year to work through the stages of the grieving process, and I understand your depression after your friends passing. The tattoo is a means of much needed cathartic closure - bless your heart and body art.

    Great article on Margaret Cho. Perhaps send it to Inge for link love. 

    YES. I like the changing attitudes towards too. They are extremely "normal" in my neck of the woods. It's the disconnected 'do that is much more edgy these days. 


  • Caro in Oz replied 6 years ago

    I'm not a fan of tattoos myself but in the words of John Lennon - whatever gets you thru the night, is alright :) My BFF is currently being treated for breast cancer & it's awful.

  • biscuitsmom replied 6 years ago

    I'm so sorry for your loss, and think this is a beautiful way to express your love. I have only one, so far, it's in memory of my Biscuit boy

  • CocoLion replied 6 years ago

    I don't have one.  I almost got one on a trip to Thailand in the 90s with a friend, we were drunk but I think I passed out before I made it to the night market where they were being offered.  I'm glad I passed out because a drunken sailor type tattoo no longer appeals to me, I'm more into an original, well-thought out piece of art.  If I ever do get one.

    I do like the one you've planned, it is simple and abstract.  If beautifully executed and maintained tattoos become like wearable art or jewelry.

  • Janet replied 6 years ago

    I love the inspiration for your tattoo and I'm sending you virtual hugs for your loss.

    I would not be opposed to some ink for myself, but I've never thought of anything I wanted permanently on my body. I would want something based on original art, something that no one else would have.

    My husband has one, and my youngest stepson has one of his own design. My other stepson is not into the idea. Both of my nieces (32 and 24) have tats. One has an amazing piece covering a large part of her back -- it's a stack of books, really beautifully done.

    I've seen a couple of really gorgeous ones that I actually found inspiring, on women in my area -- one was a stunningly detailed rendering of the solar system, and one was a Japanese scene with cherry blossoms.
    I doubt I would ever do anything that involved (I'm a wuss about pain, for one thing), but I found both striking and went out of my way to compliment them.

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    I don't have any tattoos but I think your reason for getting one is beautiful in its sadness. It is a wonderful tribute both to your friend and your grief. 

  • Firecracker replied 6 years ago

    I'm really touched by your story, Approprio and sad for your loss. What a beautiful gift from your friend, and a beautiful tribute to her memory in return. Your design is just right. I don't have a tattoo. If I did get one, it would be something like what you're planning--a design with some personal significance.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Angie, shevia, caro, CocoLion, biscuitsmom, Janet, Firecracker...

    Thank you all so much for your sympathies. It means a lot to me and is very much appreciated! Sorry I'm a bit late getting back, but I've been working on a blog post about this all afternoon. It's therapeutic.

    Another thought about Asian attitudes. It looks to me as if the Japanese Irezumi tradition is along with the Polynesian tradition just about the most significant tattoo art in the world. It's really interesting to read that it's all but lost as an art form in Japan because of its associations with criminality, but its style marches on in the rest of the world.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    And I should add...

    Caro, I hope your friend makes a good recovery. It is a terrible disease, and so much worse when it metastasises.

    bisuitsmom, so sweet that you memorialised your pooch. They might not be people, but our pets definitely can definitely claim personhood. 

  • Rubygirl replied 6 years ago

    Nice tribute for your friend. I love the idea. I have a couple of tattoo's that are tasteful. They also hold special significance to me.
    The one thing I would caution is do not look at the price of what it costs for the tattoo. The design you have drawn up is mainly line work.
    You will want someone who is really good at line work. You do not want it to be jagged and that can happen.
    Have a look at your tattooer's portfolio.
    Looking forward to seeing your finished piece :)

  • cheryle (Dianthus) replied 6 years ago

    Your story is very touching Approprio and a beautiful way to remember a dear friend.  

    I don't have any body art.  When I was in my 20's, I didn't feel the pull to express my individuality to that extent and in my 40's I didn't feel the need to be mainstream.  Or so I thought.  Perhaps the reason I have never felt compelled to have one is that I have never felt emotionally draw to get one.  I like the simplicity of the design you have chosen and the choice for placement. 

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Well. I did it. And I'm a bit sore but super happy with the results!

    rubygirl: your advice was very timely. I was a bit concerned when you mentioned that, because I'd chosen this artist not really thinking about whether he was a linework specialist, but because I liked him, he was interested in translating my requirements and he answered my questions intelligently.

    As it happens, detailed graphics and calligraphy are very much his thing, so I needn't have worried. He was great to work with. 

  • Astrid replied 6 years ago

    Congratulations!!! It looks awesome. Did it hurt much?

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    Congratulations is right! That looks great. Great result! I felt high as a kite after I had mine done. Are you experiencing any endorphins?

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Astrid, no more than you would expect being repeatedly stabbed with tiny needles would hurt. Skin is feeling slightly grazed just now. 

    AM, funny you should say that. I'm definitely getting a bit of an endorphin high. 

  • Archer replied 6 years ago

    You have to live with it. Events change in significance over time. I still have the 4 tats from my own radiotherapy for BC. Thats enough. Not sure if I want or respect what anyone else would like to do to star in my life with me. 

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    approprio: Endorphins, man. Really wild. And I think you should edit the title of this post to include... "Did it!" or something so people know to check back in to see the snowflake in all its glory. It's so beautiful!

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    AM: heh yeah, the endorphins were kicking in and I was trying to get the blog post out. But I did it now, with an updated photo. Did I tell you how thrilled I am?

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    WOW. Sooo neat. Looks brilliant. You must be pleased.  I want details. Where exactly did you you get it done in Amsterdam? 

  • Sara L. replied 6 years ago

    Looks good!  Lovely story and I like the design you chose.

  • Astrid replied 6 years ago

    I just read your blog post which really touched me.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Angie: I got it done at the impossibly hip Haar Barbaar. Just look at these guys! The shop is on on Rosmarijnsteeg between Spuistraat and Niewezijds Voorburgwaal, a couple of blocks from Spui.  

    I'd been shopping around for ages, talked to loads of other tattooists, and nobody felt quite right. Then one day I passed the shop, saw all the old fashioned barber's chairs... I dropped in, chatted with Joey and it just clicked. 

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    That's sooo random and fortuitous, approprio. And I have a good idea where it is too. A BARBER shop of all things. 

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    I'm so thrilled, you're thrilled. Sorry to focus on the endorphin high -- but man, love the endorphins. Great backstory on finding Joey. He laid some dope ink on you! **Ya gotta talk like this when were talkin' ink**

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    And I just read the blog post. Nicely done, I can see the creative wizardry of the endorphins have taken effect. And a true artist you are. Wine glasses. Of course there would be layered meaning to your mark. A sign of excellence in the world of identities and marks. More impressed then ever. 

  • CocoLion replied 6 years ago

    It's stunning!

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    AM, you don't need to tell me! Endorphins are the best thing about sustained pain and vigorous exercise. And with the glasses it all fell into place. Champagne for "Celine", my real friend. Real pain from Joey, my sham friend.

  • AM replied 6 years ago

    Cheers to that!
    And if I have enough champagne while swimming endless laps -- I might pull out my iPhone and snap a picture of my ink. (No, not really).

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    It came out really well. I'm sorry about your loss and glad that you can immortalize your memories this way.

  • Transcona Shannon replied 6 years ago

    What a gorgeous tribute :)

  • Caro in Oz replied 6 years ago

    So glad it worked :) Great blog post & big hug to you..

  • Rubygirl replied 6 years ago

    Yeah! Very nice Appropio. He did a very good job. The sting will go away.
    Just remember to keep it moisturized. That is most important.

  • Sveta replied 6 years ago

    I am not big on the tattoo thing but yours is so meaningful and thoughtful that it makes a perfect sense - and it turned out beautifully. What a beautiful and touching post and a tribute to your departed friend. Thank you for sharing this story with us!

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    So today I'm rising to the challenge of styling my new perma-accessory. I do love it, it feels very authentically me, but the "wow" factor is definitely tempered with a slight feeling of "omg what have I done?!" I'm trying to work out how to break this to my mother. She will be horrified. 

    rubygirl: thanks for the reminder to moisturise! It's not sore at all, and seems to be heeling nicely. I think I'll be wearing short sleeves layered with blazers for a few days so as not to irritate it. I'm looking forward to seeing the colour settle down as the black looks rather harsh just now.

    I want  to thank you all once again for your support during a very cathartic process of acceptance and moving on. You really are amazing. :)

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    It really is quite spectacular. Thanks for the last photo with outfit. 

  • Astrid replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for posting the last picture, it's helpful to see it in relation to the rest of you. I think it's a good placement and size!

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    That's a fantastic design and I just love the sentiment behind it. Really enjoyed your blog post too.

  • Meredith replied 6 years ago

    I'm late to comment, but I wanted to say how moved I was by your story. The finished product is wonderful, and I know it will quickly feel like it has always been a part of you. I do not have a tattoo, but would consider one. At church of all places I have seen art compiled with photos of tattoos and it made me think a lot about how we are all marked by our stories whether we choose to show it outwardly or not. Hugs to you as you honor your friend and seek healing.

  • Rubygirl replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for posting the last picture appropio.. Looks very nice.. The black will settle down as it heals. It will peel but that is part of the normal healing process. Congrats again!

  • Hil replied 6 years ago

    Also late to comment but I love it. And I love that you did it in memory of a special friend.

    I do identify with that "wow" tempered with "omg" - I felt the same after I got mine. And a year later, I've still managed to not show my mom. I've also found myself being a lot more aware of other people with ink since getting mine.

    Ps My tattoo is a Celtic triskelion, a symbol of the cycle of a women's life, maiden, mother and crone. I found my passion in doula work a few years ago and this felt like a fitting symbol of my passion.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Thanks so much everyone for your thoughts and virtual hugs! I had no idea this thread would turn out like this, and I can't tell you how comforting it's been to be able to share this.

    , I love what you say about this coming to feel like part of me, it already feels very natural that I should have it. But I have to accept that this is now a necessary consideration in how I get dressed, and I should be conscious of when to show or hide it.

    Hil, that's a beautiful triskelion with a very poignant meaning behind it. And too funny about your mom! I think I'm going to have to tell my mother though, because I'd hate for her to find it smeared all over the Internet and discover she was last to know. That would be wrong.

    And I've been thinking about my girl a lot today. I'll be visiting her family when I'm in the UK next week. 

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Looks great and what you shared about your friend is so moving. I am sorry for your loss.  This is a lovely way to remember her.

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