Just right

The Tattooed Lady

There’s an interesting post over on the New Yorker‘s photography department blog, Photo Booth, about the history of tattoos on American women.  The blog post notes that more women than men got tattooed in 2012, for the first time ever, and relates how the earliest tattoos on Caucasian women in the United States resulted from the women being raised among native people, who tattooed themselves to indicate status.

Too tame

Tattoo Status: I also like puppy dogs and unicorns.

The story of how I became a tattooed lady is much less dramatic and begins, as most modern day tattoo stories do, with alcohol.  With the help of two three four mudslides (they taste like ice cream!) and urged on by two drunks friends, I got a tattoo on my lower back to commemorate my 21st birthday.  It’s a small tribal design (one friend got a palm tree, colored green and yellow, on her ankle, which she immediately regretted, the other a rose on her hip, which she did not) that you might be able to see today if you are standing directly behind me when I am wearing low rise jeans and performing a particularly vigorous round of calisthenics.

Too edgy

Tattoo Status: Bullets fly out of my vagina

I thought the tattoo would make me seem hip and a bit edgy, maybe even dangerous.  Plus, I was drunk (did I mention that I was drunk?) and I did not fully comprehend the status a lower back tattoo would confer upon me, which would so eloquently be expressed a few years later by Vince Vaughn’s character, Jeremy Grey, in the movie Wedding Crashers.

Tattoo on the lower back?  Might as well be a bullseye.

While I can’t say my tramp stamp is the great regret in life, I kinda do wish I could go back in time and meet my 21-year-old self outside The Tetanus & Hepatitis C Emporium Pinky’s Ink on South Street.

Just right

Tattoo Status: Bullseye.

2013 Me: Hey, maybe you should think a little bit more about this before you go in there.

21 Year Old Me: Woohoo!  I turned 21 today!  Buy me a drink!

2013 Me: Maybe decisions like this shouldn’t be made unless you are, oh, I don’t know, sober?

21 Year Old Me: This is the best decision I ever made in my life, along with majoring in English lit!

2013 Me: I’m just saying, you’re going to have this tattoo for the rest of your life, and a couple of years from now, you’re going to bend over and one of the junior partners is going to see that tattoo, and you’re not going to get that job offer!

21 Year Old Me:  Who do you think you are, my mother?  What’s with all the doom and gloom?  You look like you could use a drink.  What do you say,  after I get this tattoo, we’ll go have a drink!

2013 Me: (growing desperate) Listen to me, you’re going to get married and get older, and live in the suburbs, and suddenly that tattoo isn’t going to be hip or cool, it’s just going to remind you of this stupid night.

21 Year Old Me: (to my two drunk friends) Wouldn’t it be great if they served booze at tattoo parlors?  That’s what we should do after college, open a tattoo place that serves liquor!

My Two Drunk Friends: Yes!  That idea is slammin’!

Here’s a recipe for a slammin’ mudslide.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.


19 thoughts on “The Tattooed Lady

  1. The Green Study says:

    Very funny post about tattoos. Got my first (and last) one last year and am glad I did. I’m 45 – the skin’s not going to get prettier from this point on, so might as well make it artistic!


  2. Dave says:

    Yeah, popular culture just sort of took that whole tramp stamp thing and ran with it…well, sort of like tattoos in general. I don’t know, I got my first lower back tat back in ’93 and to this day I’ve only met one other guy who had one. I think it’s hilarious, I mean nowadays it confers sort of hipsterish irony since the “ornamental doylie/beer coaster/bullseye” thing is sort of played out, but I’ve never felt any kind of way about it-like regret or anything. In fact I doubled down and got a second one above it. I’ve got other tats, but my lower back ones are my showoff trump card. It’s just like, yeah you know people can try and cop hardcore cred by getting their epiglottis tattoed or whatever the kids are doing these days…but how many het, or otherwise even, dudes is anybody ever going to see who have the sac to rock a lower back tattoo? I’m sure they might become as trendy as full beards and Pabst or whatever somewhere down the line but I hope not.
    I’ll always sport my tramp stamp with pride, even if my wife teases me about it every time she gets a few beers in her.


    • Karen says:

      Ah, good for you 🙂 I don’t really regret getting the tattoo, at least, not to the point where I’m thinking about getting it removed (mostly ’cause I heard that’s even more painful).

      Not sure how I found your blog, but you have a very distinctive writing voice. I was impressed. Glad to have you comment here 🙂


      • Dave says:

        Hey, thanks.
        You know, I was reading over some of your other posts and I’m like…”uhm, wait, ‘dis ‘ere blog is made in Pa.-how fuggin rad is that?.” For serious, I’m all realizing you’re apparently down there near Philly and I’m thinking fuggyah, the writing and sense of humor has that certain regional flair. Which is awesome not only on your own merit (cause you do have a sharp blogging style and sense of wit for sure), but because there’s a certain state of mind that goes along with living in The Keystone that’s kept me dug in out here far more than my swearing year after year that I’m not going to put up with another “Goddam Pennsyltucky winter.” Well, before the past couple of years at least, since the immanent climate apocalypse or whatnot has sort of eased up the colder season in this part of the country.
        I’m up in NEPa., but you know, now and then me and the missus have made it down that way for cheese steaks and water ice in the summer. Actually, we used to go to Philly quite often back in the day and I even lived in West Chester for a bit in the later 90’s.
        At any rate, dig your blog and do keep at it.


  3. Brianna's Happy Life says:

    haha Another hilarious post, Karen! I love the conversation between young, drunk you and older, wiser you. I, myself, don’t have any tattoos, but I mentioned getting one to my mother when I was about 20. She half had a heart attack half tried to kill me. I decided to wait for fear of one of us dying.


    • Karen says:

      Your mother is very wise. And I hope to have the same reaction, and I hope my daughters respond the same way, if they ever think about getting a tattoo . . . 😉


  4. SoJejune says:

    Awesome and exactly! I got one when I was 18 and is most definitely a tramp stamp. It’s fun to hear those descriptive terms after it’s already on your body…


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