Its hilarious to hear the old folks (my husband) go on and on about "these kids today and their tattoos" and "they'll be sorry when they're old, fat, and saggy." True, they will. But what about carpediem? Haven't you ever been dying to get a tattoo?
If you haven't dropped down into the deep smelly well of websites dedicated to regrettable tattoos, you're missing an opportunity to feel grateful. I gleefully leer at the grotesque portrait tattoos and silly misspelled personal mantras and I think how lucky I am. When I was 15, my best friend Lisa and I heard about 'a guy' who was doing tattoos out of his bedroom. He was fresh out of prison where we assumed he had acquired some acquired talent so we ignored the common sense that most human beings are blessed with, got stoned, and went to his house located in a neighborhood known for its gang crime.
Richmond was land of lowrider gangs in the '70s. It was popular, if not predictable, for a girl to have a rose on their ankle. So I designed a long stem red rose with "Touch of Class" in calligraphy scrolled beneath for placement on my skinny little white ankle. I handed my tattoo artist the sketch and sat down on his dirty mattress that sat on the floor and watched him flick his prison style tattoo gun on and off, on and off, and finally it whizzed off forever before he could scratch one dot on my virgin skin. Through celestial grace, I was spared a lifetime of regret and possibly Hepititus.
Back then I felt accomplished when it came to drawing heavily shaded roses. Many friends adored my roses and in fact, one guy asked me to memorialize one in a tattoo. Scott from up the street was a beautiful blonde bad boy. I was in heavy painful thick love with him and even travelled over two hours in the car with his silently disappointed parents to visit him in juvenile hall. We would write steamy love letters and on the envelope write SWAK (sealed with a kiss) or SWAML4E (Sealed with all my love forever) I would draw him pictures of roses with scrolls that would say "S + S 4 Ever" while I laid on my waterbed and stain my satin pillow cases with tears of teenage drama. We were doing "it" so ya, it was the real deal back then.
After a months of dutiful letter writing and silent stuffy drives with his parents to visit, Scott was finally released. We returned to our routine of hanging out at my house, drinking beer, smoking weed, and listening to records. He was a masterful air guitarist. I would do almost anything for Scott and his friends. I cooked food to satisfy their munchies, I cut there hair, feathered to be exact, and one day I gave Scott his first tattoo.
I had this Sharpie pen that was the exact color of a tattoo, so I drew all over myself and Scott. Utilizing my well honed skills, I created a fully bloomed rose on his upper arm, about 2" wide. When I was done, everyone marveled at its beauty and depth. "Let's make it permanent!" Said anyone. Now this is well before any internet provided tutorials so I based all of my expertise on watching TV and talking to fellow troublemakers. I told Scott to walk up the hill to 7-11 and steal some India Ink while I went next door to Denise's house. She was a diabetic who would gladly provide me wth a couple of hypodetermic needles to get the job done. When Scott returned, he provided the obvious discovery that 7-11 does not carry India Ink, so he stole some black shoe polish instead.
In order to withstand the pain, Scott and to get extra high. I got a little extra high too. I started in with great determination and focus that would not last long. I used the first hypodermic needle to scrape each petal and each shading line as deep as I could. It was hard to see the original Sharpee lines through the blood and the mental haze from being high. Much detail was lost. Then with the second needle, I drew up the black liquid shoe polish and injected black into my carvings. The blood was kicking out most of the ink, so I had to go deeper. This human craft project was one of those times when I thought it would be easier, quicker, and more gratifying than it was. It took a lot of wherewithal to finish and when I did, it was monstrous.
To no surprise, the tattoo became infected but it eventually scabbed over and then, because when you're 15 you're unkillable, it healed. All of the shoe polish had been rejected, leaving nothing but a 2" round scribble scar. A scar that will always remind him of me 4-ever. It was the last tattoo I ever gave.
I would like to catch up with Scott now, 40 years later, and ask him if he ever got a regrettable tattoo. Perhaps the scar has faded along with his memories of our young love. Maybe he regrets his days in juvie and the brain damage we inflicted on ourselves. Perhaps he would do things differently if he could do them again. But who knows, maybe he’s playing air guitar from a jail cell somewhere with a body full of authentic prison tats?