The Trouble With Tattoos


I guess you could say I’m “heavily tattooed”. I really don’t know what that term means nowadays, because tattoos seem to be the “norm”. Most of my left arm is inked, and I do have an unfortunate “tramp stamp” that is more stampie than trampy. I’ll leave you guessing on that one.

It’s been about 12 years since I got my first tattoo. The one in the photo was drawn by my partner in crime/life. He drew hearts on a menu that we shared on our first Valentine dinner, and I had it turned into a sleeve tattoo a few years later.

I love my tattoos. They are a road map of my life thus far, and each one is significant in the telling of my story. Maybe I won’t like them when I’m 80, and my skin is sagging. I’ll cross that wrinkled bridge when I come to it.

Here’s my trouble with tattoos: They’re a conversation piece.

If you turn your body into a walking gallery exhibit, you have to be prepared for strangers to comment.

I get this, but it doesn’t make awkward conversation with strangers any less awkward.

The typical awkward questions:

“Where’d you get your artwork done?”

“Did that hurt?”

“Is that henna?”

1). My boyfriend drew my tattoo, but my tattoo artist was deported back to Germany. Why? She cheated on her American husband, and he had her ass sent back home. Good for him/inconvenient for me. My sleeve is technically unfinished, but I kind of like it as is.

2). Having a needle poked into your skin is going to hurt. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, so I’d describe the process as your skin being pinched, over and over again. Sometimes it feels worse than that. Sometimes it feels like grinding. The work on my arm took place over two, 3 hour sessions.

3). I have a wrist tattoo that resembles Indian Henna (this one hurt the most). I had this piece done when I was planning to move to India. I was 23, and had lined up work in an orphanage. At the time, I believed India was my destiny. I needed funding for my move, and it came through, a little too late. Normal life took over, and India seems further away than ever. I still keep a candle burning for at least a visit, and my tattoo helps to keep the flame ignited.

My most cherished tattoo is technically my worst one. It’s a hibiscus flower that I (crudely) drew myself. The hibiscus was my mother’s favorite flower, and she and her green thumb grew some magnificent ones. She passed away when I was 19, and I don’t need ink or trinkets to remember her lovely spirit, but somehow, this tattoo makes me feel connected to her.

I wear a Texas shaped charm around my neck because it makes me feel connected to what I consider to be my true home. It’s a guaranteed conversation starter, but when I’m feeling introverted, I can just guide the charm up the necklace chain and anchor it between the back of my shoulder blades. Awkward conversations thwarted.

Obviously, I can’t turn my skin inside out, and unless I’m willing to commit to prairie wear, I’m going to have to entertain some questions about my tattoos.

I don’t always enjoy the small talk, but sometimes the small talk turns into real conversation, and I dig real conversation. It’s all too easy for me to retreat inside my Kim shaped shell, so I’m sometimes grateful for ice breakers in the form of ink. Sometimes.

What’s next? A tattoo of the Texas flag inside the shape of the state. It might sound counterintuitive after what I said about the necklace, but I’ve made up my mind. Bring on the next round of awkward q&a!

How about you? Thinking about getting one? If you have one/some; what do they say about you?

22 thoughts on “The Trouble With Tattoos

  1. I have a Latin phrase on my foot for my sister. The dumb tattoo artist scrunched the 3 words together so it looks like 1. Everyone asks me what it says, in a pitying way. I try to change the subject…

  2. Hmmm I have three, none really mean a whole lot to me anymore, it was such a long time ago, I kind of forget they are there half the time.
    Well one on my toe matches with my brother and sister and Dad, so that’s nice, even though it looks a bit dodgy.

  3. I don’t have any and the chances of me ever getting on is hovering just around the 0% mark. I’m scared to death of needles so having someone poke me repeatedly with them is a no go. I like seeing interesting ones on other people though.

  4. No tattoos Kim and I tell you why. I have this idea in my mind (for MANY years) that when I become grandma I’ll be making home made tagliatelle (kind of spaghetti but cut with a knife) for my grandkids… And the tattoos don’t match the picture…
    Anyway, that may never happen because currently I get spaghetti at the supermarket and I have no will to even prepare the sauce (so from a jar it is!)… All that plus, I can’t stand pain 😀

    • You forget I managed an Italian restaurant for years! I know tagliatelle, I know Gnocchi, and I know pasta Di Nero like it’s the back of my hand. If I ever have children/ grandchildren, they’re just gonna have to deal with my tattoos.

      • I didn’t know Kim!! That’s perfect!!
        I miss those dishes because my great grandmother, grandmother and great aunts used to prepare them for us almost every Sunday. 🙂
        I hate I’ve been broken and now I really don’t enjoy cooking as much as I did. I wonder if that will change some day…. Some scars never heal.

      • My comment might have been misleading. I know how to identify and eat pasta. I do NOT know how to prepare it! Making fresh pasta is such a labor of love, and those Italian Grandmas make it look so easy. I’m sure your love for cooking will come back. It sounds like it’s in your genes. 😊

      • Hahahahaha, you can always learn (if that’s what you wish :D).
        I really hope the love for cooking comes back. So far, the love for eating came back.
        It’s so sad when you start not caring about the things that used to make you so happy!

  5. I have never gotten a tattoo because I don’t think I could commit to one! I am not even a commitment phobe. I liked reading about yours though and what they mean to you. What is the tramp stamp of??
    I love that you drew the hibiscus yourself. That makes it so much more special.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love Hibiscus flowers! Sadly, I’ve been unsuccessful at keeping them. But I keep trying. No tattoos for me. I wanted some in college, but my mother threatened me with financial poverty if I got one while she was helping me pay for college. So I waited, and then lost interest. Plus, I don’t like pain in any form, so that’s a no go. Yours sound lovely.

  7. Loved this post Kim. Loved the part about the hibiscus and your connect with your mom. I don’t know if I want one. Sometimes I think maybe a small one, but still thinking…

    • Thanks, Nimi. I know henna tattoos don’t involve painful needles, but they still require a lot of patience. Sitting for such time-involved ,intricate work, is half the battle.

  8. I have no tattoos either. None, zero, zip. Firstly, I’m a furry bastard (except for my back – don’t worry about that ladies), and secondly, I can’t think of anything that I would want forever. Seriously, nothing! Not sure if that means I’m unimaginative or what. However, I have been thinking about getting a quote tattooed on my ribcage (fur free). Just need to lose my little belly first before I can show it off properly. lol

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