Diary of A Mid-Life Crisis
Lots of people get tattoos when they’re in their twenties. I waited until I was thirty-seven. I’d narrowly dodged a tattoo in my late-teens. In fact, I’d stood in line with my best friend and chickened out when it was my turn. Just listening to the whirring noise and seeing the stricken expression on her face was enough. She was understandably peeved and to this day has a strange frog/man creature sitting on her shoulder.
In the nineties there was the trend for armband tattoos. Then the bottom of your back became popular. My Dad and I went to LA for a week on holiday and EVERYONE had tattoos. I couldn’t stop staring at people and thinking how great they looked. But I was scared of the pain and could I ever be happy with something permanently drawn on my body?
In my late thirties, I was going through what I can only label as ‘a tough phase’. I was trying to get pregnant. I was starting to feel very old. It felt like overnight I’d become an attractive proposition for men in their seventies. I felt like I was becoming an Alan Bennett character. One morning I walked into a tattoo shop in East London. Women ran it and these women were covered in tattoos. I asked if there were any appointments. Ordinarily you needed to book months in advance but there had been a cancellation. I rang my most creative (and daring friend) and she came to meet me. Before I knew it I was sitting in the chair.
I cobbled together a concept from an old postcard and a drawing of a rabbit. It wasn’t particularly well thought out. I felt like crying. It was much bigger than I’d anticipated. The artist made me feel like a stupid jerk for being scared. I tried to ‘man up’ and go as big as possible.
For a few weeks afterwards I got mild to extreme waves of panic whenever I looked at my arm. It was red and itchy. It was swollen. What had I done? I work in a fairly corporate environment and it was summer and I had to wear long sleeves. Tattoos are ubiquitous but they’re still frowned upon in certain circles.
When I had my daughter I felt like people judged me. They thought I was some kind of space cadet. Some seemed to think that I sat with a bottle of vodka most evenings listening to loud music and smoking roll ups (there is nothing wrong with this but it’s possibly not healthy when you are breastfeeding). But part of that rebel was still there and I couldn’t help myself. I went back to the tattoo shop and got another one. Just as big. But on the other arm.
People tell me they’ll look horrible when I’m old (but who actually cares when you’re sitting in the retirement home listening to old dance CD’s and smiling to yourself?) The funniest thing is how people tell you exactly what they think (you wouldn’t say ‘Well your eyebrows are really ugly aren’t they?’ but people will readily say they don’t like the design or the idea of a tattoo).
My latest tattoo is a tribute to motherhood. It took me a long time to become a Mum. My daughter’s second name is ‘Lemon’ and there it sits on my arm for all eternity. I look at it and I think of her. I think of LA. I think of tattooed ladies everywhere. I think of my mid-life crisis and old men winking at me on the tube. I think about the retirement home. I think about how it’s good to do something now and then that really scares the bejesus out of you.
I think about getting more. I decide it’s probably enough.