Opinion

Friday 24 January 2020

Think before you ink - that's my advice to older tattoo first-timers

If there's one thing we millennials know about, it's the dos and don'ts of having a tattoo done, writes Sophie Donaldson

REGRETS? Whether it be spelling mistakes or pictures of Donald Trump... just say no!
REGRETS? Whether it be spelling mistakes or pictures of Donald Trump... just say no!
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

At 57, Judy Murray has just had her first tattoo done. The mother of tennis champs Andy and Jamie, and Strictly Come Dancing alumni, has recently published her autobiography - and was inked to mark the occasion.

The trim blonde, often seen in athleisure wear with a racket in hand, had a spider tattooed at the back of her neck. And that's not even the best part - she also told The Telegraph that she purposely chose a place she wouldn't be able to see it. Who knows, maybe she has arachnophobia.

But I am not here to Judge Judy (sorry, couldn't help myself) and neither should you. As a young person - a millennial, if you will - the subject of tattooing is one of the rare instances in which I am wiser than somebody much beyond my years.

Tattoos are one of the few subjects that 'the youth' are well qualified on which to lecture their superiors - simply because almost every person under 30 has one, or two, or maybe more. Isn't it time our elders had the luxury of being able to learn from our mistakes?

My friendship circle alone could serve as the Aesop's Fables of tattooing - cautionary tales that should be heard by any 50-something thinking of getting one.

There was the fateful day my friend and I got matching 'diamonds' which ended up looking like drunken squares. Mine is on the fleshy part of my ankle and changes shape any time I move my foot. Hers, for some inexplicable reason, is stamped on her ribcage. And I remember that in the same inking session, a third friend had a tiny penguin - a replica of the logo from the hallowed publishing house - done on his knicker line because he... um, enjoys reading.

They cost us $40 each and we certainly got what we paid for. The ink on mine has started to fade and blur, while the penguin now resembles a large skin lesion.

There's the friend who's a vegan who had broccoli on her leg and another friend with a Liverpool FC emblem on her ankle - thankfully, she's still a fan. But the top prize has to go to my friend Ana, who at one stage was tattooed three times in one day in three separate parlours - and a few years later had several of those tattoos lasered off. Then last year she only went and had her entire arm tattooed again - this time in pure black ink.

Clearly, we are not in a position to pass comment on an itsy-bitsy spider.

People have tattoos for all sorts of reasons - to mark a milestone; to declare their love; to heal a grieving heart; or simply because they've had far too much to drink. Judy says her Gothic arachnid is in homage to the ancient Scottish King Robert the Bruce and the spider that inspired him to 'try, try and try again'. That, I suppose, would be a reference to the same fierce determination that saw her mould her two boys into global sporting stars.

So spiders equal fierce determination. Which proves that tattoos, no matter how silly or badly done, will always mean something to the owner - even if they don't really mean anything at all.

My four wonky lines are symbolic of nothing but I clearly remember the day we spent together stalking the streets of Melbourne looking for a suitably cheap (read: dodgy) parlour in which we offered our unblemished skin to the tattoo gods.

I'll never forget the sense of fearless glee at what we were about to do. I remember the husky-voiced artist Rose who made us feel safe as we squirmed with fear at the looming needle, and the fierce grip of my hand in my best friend's as the session began. I'd never remove it because lasering it off would be like zapping away a part of our friendship.

There's hardly a place on the body suitable for a tattoo that won't be ravaged by the effects of ageing. The sole of the foot would be a likely spot, but the constant friction from walking means the tattoo would fade far sooner than your foot would age. The key is to choose a place where your skin isn't exposed to the elements (ruling out arms, legs, shoulders, face and chest) and with very little fat or muscle tissue. Which really only leaves the skull or… the back of the neck.

Oh dear. Perhaps us young ones don't know much after all.

Sunday Independent

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