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the tattooed baby

When I was pregnant with Finn, the time would come at the end of my OB appointments where my doctor would ask if I had any questions about the pregnancy. I had lots of questions, but they were mostly about food. Not food for the baby. Food for me. Like, “The French drink wine while pregnant, so why can’t I,” “Can I eat oysters, and if so, how many;” and “What, exactly, is a ‘soft’ cheese?”

My OB is one of the more attractive older men I’ve met, and I’m already predisposed to developing crushes on men who are responsible for my physical well-being. This is why I developed a crush on the dentist who removed my wisdom teeth, and why I currently have a crush on my spinning instructor even though I hate his class. Anyway, with my OB, I developed a crush that was disturbing (to Tom) in its intensity. I liked my OB so much that I needed him to like me. This all seems irrelevant, but it’s not, so stay with me. This background explains why I couldn’t ask my OB the only question about my baby that I really wanted to ask, which was “Can you tell from an ultrasound whether the baby has a large birthmark on his face?”

Finn came out with no discernable birthmarks although he was so pale that he glowed. But Tate. I should have known from day 1 what I was getting into with Tate, because he came out with all sorts of marks. A lightning-bolt shaped mark on his forearm, a dark thumpbrint on his wrist, and best of all, huge Mongolian spots on his rear end that made his butt look blue. Most of the marks have since faded, but he must have been born with a taste for skin art. Because now he wants tats. And he wants ’em bad.


I am sympathetic. Every few weeks I see a cool tattoo on some nubile 20-something in my yoga class and I’ll ask Tom if I should get a tattoo, and he answers as he always does, by staring stonily out the car window in long-suffering silence. If he’s in a lighthearted mood he might say something fun, like “I will divorce you if you get a tattoo. I really will.” But mostly he just stares out his window.

The worst is when Tom plays along and asks what kind of tattoo I’d get. That always gives me pause. The only thing I’ve ever considered is a tattoo for my dad, who is gone. And then I take an even longer pause while I consider that while we never talked about tattoos, I’m pretty sure my dad hated them. And what kind of homage would that be? It would be as if my kids decided to honor me after I’m gone by engraving my name on a pair of man sandals and wearing the sandals everywhere with tube socks. That would be terrible. I can’t do that to my dad.

So maybe a tattoo is not in my future. But something tells me we will be visiting this issue again, when Tate is old enough to beg. Last week he padded up the stairs and stood next to my bed, in the dark. Tate’s voice is at approximately the same pitch/frequency as a dog whistle, and sounds particularly shrill at 5:45 AM. “Grandma says we can go to the tattoo store and get real tattoos.” I poked Tom, who played dead.

When I asked Grandma about the tattoo date, she said that she felt really bad for Tate when she caught him soaking stickers in a plastic bag full of water, trying to make them into tattoos. I tabled the discussion, and Grandma, in turn, brought home some fake tattoos to tide Tate over. He flipped through the tattoo book and landed on the one he wanted. I placed it square in the middle his chest, as directed.

In the mornings, Tate picks out v-neck shirts that will show his tattoo off best. In the evenings, when I try to wash it off, he pushes my hand away, or screams.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s 18.

Have a tattoo? Even better, have a kid who wants a tattoo and is coming of age? I’m all ears.

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. lindseykaydavis #

    When I got my first tattoo I was in love with it. Not because it was permanent ink on my skin, but what it represented in my life. Sine then I have gotten a few more. While my others were rash and not thought out I wouldn’t change getting them. They do represent a time in my life. I don’t recommend that however. If you are to get one, make sure it’s what you absolutely want. Don’t get something stupid and regret it later.

    Oh and thanks for the next topic for my blog! 😛

    February 3, 2014
  2. I’m a tattoo virgin, the nearest I ever got to one was a semi permanent one on holiday that was supposed to last a month and actually lasted about three days. The relief I felt when it disappeared down the shower plug hole answered my question about wether I should get a real one or not.

    My daughter loves tattoos but has pathological fear of needles. Again, with the sense of relief!
    The truth is out – I’m a tattoo-ophobe!

    Love your blog, my intention was to have a quick scoot round but I ended up stopping and really enjoying the read.

    January 12, 2014
  3. M #

    I have many tattoos. They’re a bit like a diary, I suppose. They’re great at charting the various stages of my adult life. My two step-children both talk about getting tattoos. The younger, who is 5, has grand plans for when he turns 18 and can get them legally. For now, he settles with decorating himself with the temporary kind.

    When I first met them, the younger was three. He called my tattoos stamps, which was adorable and all well and good until his preschool teacher bent over to tie a friend’s shoe and her lower back tattoo was exposed. Embarrassment for all when he asked her about her “stamp.”

    January 12, 2014
  4. Growing up, I always wanted a tattoo, and when I was 18 (and in college), I went to get one: 3 stars on my left shoulderblade. I thought it was really cool, and now I think it’s a bit cliche (at least I drew it myself), BUT, it’s also a great representation of who I was at 18. And for the most part, no one sees it.

    When I called my parents to tell them I had gone through with it, my mom’s exact response was:
    *Pause* *Big sigh* “Oh well…”

    I am not against tattoos. I have the one and my husband has two. I really want us to go together and each get another one (not matching, but at the same time).

    I don’t think tattoos are tasteless in and of themselves. But 18-year-olds can make terrible decisions. You gotta just raise these boys to be smarter than that, and then cross your fingers and hope for the best, I think.

    December 14, 2013
  5. Reblogged this on theblendlife.

    December 13, 2013
  6. Another note, I was always told that my body was a temple and to treat it as such. Well, I grew up Catholic. When they said temple I thought about mass and how elaborate the decor was in a church. Hello! That is the worst comparison!

    December 12, 2013
  7. I have been in love with tattoos since I can remember. When I turned 18, my dad took me to get a small heart on my wrist, and he cried. My mother showed up after it was done, she had tried to get there earlier to stop me. However, when I got a much larger tattoo on my upper arm my dad seemed to hate it and my mom seemed ok with it. Very confusing. I know have a whole half sleeve in progress. There are some I regret getting, but honestly, only because of quality. I’ve changed a lot since my first tattoo, but each one I’ve added is a part of my past, and ultimately a piece of me.

    December 12, 2013
  8. Kaitlin #

    Another terrific post Yoona. Laugh out loud funny, well-written and obviously thought-provoking based on all of the comments. My dad hates tats and would never even let me draw on my jeans (ink on the jeans is clearly a gateway to ink on the body!) or put stickers on my arms. I think about that every week at Gymboree when my kids eagerly lift up their shirts so they can get stamps on their bellies and hold out their hands for more Gymbo ink! On the other hand, a friend’s 90 year old grandmother plays Ms. Pac-Man every day to keep her mind sharp (in addition to crossword puzzles). She has an arcade sized Ms. Pac-Man at her house. She just took 5 of her grandkids to get discrete Ms. Pac-Man tatoos WITH HER. At 90. Priceless. I’m not a fan of tats generally, but as a bonding experience or for something deeply meaningful, seems hard to get offended.

    December 12, 2013
    • don’t tell me you don’t have a chicago bears tattoo. i love stories about octogenarians getting tattoos. i can appreciate that, because by then you know your skin and it’s not gonna change, and why the hell not? the pac-man, of course, makes it extra cool

      December 12, 2013
  9. Everyone is getting tatted these days. And, sure, those sleeve tattoos look pretty bad ass, but maybe in 15 years when people my age are old fleshy bags of ink and all the kids Tate’s age are at the peak of their desirability for advertisers, they will say “look at those losers who jumped on a trendy bandwagon and can’t get off. I can’t tell where the tattoos end and the liver spots begin.”

    For what its worth I still think smoking looks cooler. You should convince him to take up smoking instead.

    December 11, 2013
    • so funny. smoking vs. tats. these are our choices?

      December 12, 2013
  10. My first tattoo was bought for my bithday (38) by my daughter who was 17 @ the time…old enough to pay for it, but not old enough to get one. My second tattoo she bought again for my birthday (39) but she was old enough so we got matching tats. I told her that for my 40th she was going to have to splurge…I have no idea what I will get, better start looking I only have 2 months left.

    December 11, 2013
    • tattoo as bonding experience, love it. somehow I feel like this works better with daughters. my sons probably won’t want me to get matching tattoos

      December 11, 2013
      • Cheryl Oakley #

        Mine just turned 20. From the time he was a pre-teen he badly wanted a tattoo. He had a different tattoo in mind each week. I always told him that I didn’t like tattoos and would prefer he not get one, but when he turned 18 he could make that decision for himself. Sort of (because he was still living at home). So I made him a deal. I told him that he had to draw the tattoo he REALLY wanted and, if he still wanted that SAME tattoo a year later, I would not only give him my blessing but I would pay for the tattoo. (He already agreed that any tattoo he got would need to be placed such that he could suit up and it would be hidden, which I would have made another condition had I needed to.) So a year later, he got his first tattoo. My initials over his heart. He didn’t tell me first, he just came home with it, showed it to me, then told me I owed him a hundred bucks.

        December 11, 2013
  11. alena #

    And when we were kids parents were giving us fake cigarettes in our birthday gift bags….oh The Humanity!

    December 11, 2013
    • alena #

      This was supposed to be a reply to Yoona below about fake tatoos. Now it makes nno sense. Argh!

      December 11, 2013
  12. Emily #

    A young (25? year old) nurse I work with, who is covered with tattoos she now regrets, suggested that I let my girls get piercings if they want to decorate their bods. Then just hold on until the need to tattoo passes. She thinks it would have worked for her.

    December 11, 2013
    • You mean, dole out the body art. I like that. I like it a lot. This nurse sounds cool

      December 11, 2013
  13. Cloie #

    We gave my husband a gift certificate for a tattoo for his 40th. Grandmas, aunts, and parents chipped in so it’s more than acceptable in our extended family. Henry is afraid of pain, so he will likely remain ink free. Miriam on the other hand is a tough one (she didn’t even cry when she got her ears pierced) and is already planning for the tattoo she’ll get on her 18th birthday. We are obviously fine with that.

    I heard an interesting idea recently, where parents offered their kids $10,000 each if they didn’t smoke a cigarette before they turned 25. I think the idea was to get them to wait until they were older and smarter? I could see the same deal with tattoos if you have the resources and really don’t want them to get one. No tattoos before 25 and you get a car. Then you might at least avoid the random tattoos one might choose as an 18 year old.

    December 11, 2013
    • The idea of paying the kid to save him from his own bad judgment sits badly with me. Plus at what age can we be guaranteed that the kid won’t pick a cringe-inducing tattoo? Even 25 seems chancy. I really enjoy the image of the whole family contributing to dad’s tattoo–funny and heartwarming

      December 11, 2013
  14. didn’t realize
    parents are doing this
    to young children;
    perhaps there’s
    merit to it,
    or not 🙂

    December 11, 2013
    • Doing what? Putting fake tattoos on your kids? Yes parents are doing that

      December 11, 2013
      • so happy
        to hear
        they’re fake 🙂

        December 11, 2013
  15. sculpturesteph #

    I always wanted a tattoo. My parents, very conservative, were obviously not entertaining this idea. When I was 22 and lived away from home, I did it! I went and got a tattoo on top of my arm I wanted for years.
    Some friends (already tattooed from head to toe) warned me that once you get one, you want more… and I found out it’s true.
    Anyway, when my mum found out (2 years later) she just threw her hands up in the air started crying and ran off. She didn’t speak to me for three days, just looked at me with deep sorrow and disappointment. I found out later that while she wasn’t speaking to me she interviewed my brothers, if they knew if I was in any occult group, or mixed with the ‘wrong’ crowd…
    Now I’m 39 have two children of my own the tattoos are still taboo when the family get’s together. It makes me so conscious of my tattoos which otherwise have become a normal part of me and I think even my husband doesn’t notice them anymore. I still stand by them, but I also appreciate my parents generation’s feeling about tattoos and so I always have them covered when there (tricky in summer when all I want to do is wear a shirt with no arms!).

    I have been thinking how I would react when my children want to have a tattoo, and have come to the conclusion that it isn’t so much the permanent ink on the skin- that is of concern, but the image itself and the quality of the tattoo (I was fortunate and went to a fantastic tattoo artist).
    So if and when one of my children want to have a tattoo I guess I’ll try to give them the full story, tell them to at least think about a specific image for a year- and if it’s still the one- try to communicate that they should do some research into good tattoo parlors and tattoo artists. I might show them my tattoos which have gained in width (in correlation to weight gain!) and maybe that will give them some food for thought and put them off.
    It might of course be all very different, but just like with all the other ‘dangers’ in life I guess all you can do is keeping them informed and be the person who answers their questions (rather than strangers)…but what ever they do, do not run away crying!

    December 11, 2013
    • I love this comment because i’d never thought to worry that my kid’s tattoo might be of inferior quality

      December 11, 2013
  16. When I was 12 I wound up staying for a time with this family who had a 19-year-old male with whom I had to share a bedroom. He had several prison tats on him. One day I asked him about them and he explained how in prison they wrap a needle in white thread, stick it into India ink, and then begin to poke the skin.

    It sounded quite exotic to this 12-year-old. He eventually talked me into allowing him to put a tat on me. He first just stuck me a few times to create a small, barely noticeable circle on my arm. It was uncomfortable, but I found I could handle it.

    It was then that we moved into full convict prison mode and he tattooed my name on my arm: TED. I was so totally cool. Showed all my friends at school. But had to keep it from my mother and, especially, my grandmother, because I knew I would be disowned for such a thing. For years. Eventually, I think I was 16 or 17, they saw it when we were on vacation and I was swimming in a pool. I told them how it happened.

    Since then, I’ve hated that thing. TED. Awful. I’ve looked at some very artistic tats over the years, especially recently with the current tat fad happening, thinking about getting one to cover TED. But then I remember they are permanent and do I want something I may soon grow tired of on my skin until I am cremated? Perhaps something from the Dhamma. At this point, I think not, although I really would like to cover TED.

    I know, I know: go get it removed. Well, even though I totally hate it, it does make a great conversation piece: That? Oh, that’s just the prison tattoo I got when I was 12.

    I suggest you do what you can to downplay the tat thing, and when he gets to be about 16 or 17, start pointing to all the things he use to think were really cool, but doesn’t like now. Same with a tat. It probably won’t work.

    But it might.

    December 11, 2013
    • There is so much to ponder here. I am mostly relieved that the only thing you have to show for your stint with the 19-year old is your tattoo. And you’re lucky your name is Ted which has a certain recherché charm

      December 11, 2013
      • Ooooohhhhh, you used French, Morticia!!!!!

        December 11, 2013
  17. we’ve been through the tattoo phase and thankfully it’s faded some what although I no longer buy their favourite brand of yoghurt as it comes with tattoos

    December 11, 2013
    • Really, it’s a conspiracy. I mean what happened to stickers. Stickers aren’t so bad

      December 11, 2013
      • Stickers can beget sibling violence at times. Two toys the same is the only safe bet and even then it’s risky.

        December 11, 2013

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