Tattoos and the Older Woman

By Janey Womeldorf

“Aren’t you a bit old?” my husband gasped. “Where would you even put a tattoo?”

“On my face,” I wanted to reply sarcastically.

Deep down, I suspect he’s right but the idea of a tattoo is so deliciously wicked, I can’t get it out of my brain. It’s youthful and daring, and I’m not. You see, somewhere in my thirties, I became sensible. I buy cereal for fiber, shoes for comfort, and for the first time last year, I took my pillow on vacation with me. Sometimes, I wonder what happened to the gutsy, fun-loving part of me who dared take a risk. She exists, but in such rare glimpses, I’m afraid I’m losing her forever. My tattoo would be a permanent reminder that my youthful spark never died. I already know what it would be and where: A single, delicate rose on the back of my shoulder. It would peek out from under any strap – mischievous, suggestive, yet appropriately tasteful.

The problem is I’m wavering, and there are 10 things holding me back:

1. I can’t see the back of my shoulder. So, a tattoo there would be a total waste of money really.

2. What will my tattoo look like by the time I’m 70? At 40, my rose would appear fresh, alive and blossoming. In 30 years time, will it be dried up and shriveled? Will it have developed natural brown spots? I fear my loss in skin elasticity will kill my flower, and I’ll end up with an ugly twig. Of course, by the time I’m 70, the loose skin on the back of my arms will be hanging down like a turkey’s neck anyway, signaling the end of sleeveless tops, and the public retirement of my dried-up tattoo. Problem solved.

3. Will I regret it? I would ask a retiree how they felt, but 70-year old, twig-painted ladies are hard to find.

4. Visual Confusion: I fear it will elicit misguided “Dear Abby-esque” whispers of “Excuse me, you have something on your shoulder.” Nurturing women in grocery store lines everywhere will be itching to spit-dampen a tissue to wipe off the mark. I know. It’s that same anal quirk that makes you want to go up to total strangers and tuck in their sweater label. You try to resist, but it consumes you. Finally, unbearable frustration forces you to tell them their label is poking out. Of course, it’s more for our benefit than theirs.

5. Redundant Suggestiveness: I imagine my tattoo would inspire wicked intrigue and unbridled curiosity – that a glimpse of it will pepper people’s imagination with silent thoughts like, “Is it part of a bunch?” or, “Do you think she has more?” Of course the only person this really affects is my husband. So, not only is it a total waste of money but a redundant waste of suggestiveness also. One; he already knows the answers, and two; the only reaction it will inspire in him is relief that I didn’t get it on my face.

6. My parents will think I’m losing my mind. Maybe I should expand beyond the flower to a tree – a family tree. That way, I could put their names on it.

7. It might hurt. I could say that after the pain of childbirth, I can handle anything. The problem is my only experience with childbirth was that I was the one being pushed. I did once have dental shots without any of that child-friendly, pre-shot gel that numbs your gums. Never again! Now, I refrain from wearing any make-up to the dentist. That way they can smear that gel all over my face if they want to.

8. My bra straps get wider as I get older. The last time I wore a flimsy-strap top was in puberty. Delicate shoulder straps are a distant memory for me, and I am not one of those women who can go bra-less. I wish I was. When they were giving out the boob-shape gene, I was in the “melon-esque” line; the same one my Mom must have been in. My two sisters somehow got in the perky line. I always hated them growing up until we discovered the pencil test. Nobody could touch me on that game. Even the pencil case was a piece of cake for me.

9. Which flower? Maybe a traditional yet simple, brightly-colored flower would be better than a rose. That way, as I get older, they could tattoo in a cactus underneath and it would look like a flowering cactus. Combine my new tattoo with a golden tan, and my dried up, aging skin might even resemble the striking desert landscapes of Arizona.

10. It would never see daylight. When fleece bras get invented, I’ll be the first in line. I just hate to be cold. Summer represents to me arctic blasts of air conditioning that produce goose bumps the size of mole hills. Other women celebrate this season by showing off their skin in revealing sleeveless tanks and flimsy tops. I embrace it with a permanent cardigan.

So here I am – a tattoo-less, 44-year old with delusions of youth. The gutsy in me wants to sit in the chair and cry, “Paint me, Picasso.” The sensible in me, however, sees a total waste of money for something dead that would rarely see daylight, but still I want one. Maybe the back of my shoulder is the wrong spot – art should be appreciated not hidden. Maybe I should go all out, embrace my whim, and get it on my ankle bone or upper cleavage or something.

Hmmm. Of course, there is one place it would get noticed.

Maybe the face isn’t such a bad idea after all.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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