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Retirerment Age and the Tattoo Adventure

is often assumed that it is the young who get tattooed. That is an assumption that may not necessarily be true. At least it is not true in my case, for I am of retirement age and got my first tattoo only l4 months ago. It was not that I wanted it that way. Ever since I was a small boy I have wanted to be tattooed. I do not really know how this came to be. As I was growing up there were two men in my neighborhood who were tattooed, and I can remember being fascinated by their tattoos. I never talked to anyone about it. Somehow I had a sense that this is a subject that would not be warmly received in my family. My parents were somewhat straitlaced, and that it would be better to leave well enough alone. No one in my family, indeed no one in our world, was tattooed. I grew up believing that this experience would not be mine.

As the years passed, however, the longing to be tattooed did not diminish. In fact it grew stronger and stronger. I was very envious of all the tattooed men whom I saw. As a young man I often visited tattoo shops. I looked at designs and observed the people who were getting inked or waiting for their turn. If I had had more confidence, I would have chatted with the artists about my preoccupation with tattoos, but in my shyness I remained silent. Over the years the longing continued, but I never did anything about it. I suppose I thought that if I got a tattoo I would be cast out of my family and my world.

Then just a few years ago I bought a computer and discovered the internet. What a wonderful well of inspiration. Along the way I discovered the web page of a man who had a number of tattoos. He wrote that each tattoo is about some aspect of his personality. For me it was a great moment when I read that. I realized that for me my persistent desire for tattooing was a deeper need within me seeking to be outwardly expressed. It made a lot of sense. My inner values, beliefs, and spiritual orientations were sending me a message which I decided I needed to heed. It was then that I realized that there was no earthly reason why I should not act now.

This was a very liberating moment for me. All my life I had been a great conformist and accommodator. Suddenly I was filled with a new sense of power and freedom to do what I knew I had to do. For me it was like a rite of passage at an older age moving into a world of new freedom and energy. Also with the help of aother man of my own age group whom I met on the internet, I received magnificent support and a place to share my ideas. At last I was going to get tattooed.

But there were many stages to move through before I had my first inking. I had to tell my family. That was not easy. They were not thrilled with the idea, bu;t gave me loving support in telling me to do what I had to do. The next steps were to find a design and an artist. Finding the design seemed easier than discovering the right artist. Since I live in a medium sized city 275 miles from a large metropolitan area, I assumed it would be necessary for me to travel many miles. Fortunately that did not turn out to be true. The artist that was just right for me turned out to be right in my own town. He and I hit it off well from the start. That is very important. Also I liked his work and immediately had confidence in him. He is first of all an artist, secondly a tattooist. I liked that. We worked on designs and many ideas. Then came the time to make an appointment.

When the big day came, I was in a state of euphoria. My design was a Celtic armband with some pretty intricate work. The inking lasted five and a half hours. During that time I experienced no pain whatsoever. I had a magnificent sense of fulfillment. It was as if something essential to my being had been missing and had now been added. Surely it was one of the great days of my life.

Since then there have been several additions. On my right arm I have a second armband which represents the flow and movement of life to which I am called. Back to the other arm now. Just below the armband I had what we call a teaser. It is a small tribal design which begins just above my elbow and when I wear a short sleeved shirt is visible below the hemline. It is to let people know that indeed I am tattooed and there is more to see if they ask. My large work is above the armband and is a tribal design which incororates a logo of a professional organization to which I belong and stands for the fact that life is pulsating energy. Also there are two killer whales which remind me of an amazing experience I had on a whale watching expedition several years ago at which time I became amazingly aware of our connection to the animal kingdom.

Oddly enough, I have received wonderful acceptance of and even much enthusiasm regarding my tattoos. I have heard words like wonderful, cool, real cool, and awesome. I know now that I did not have to be so apprehensive. In fact, in many people I perceive a sense of envy, perhaps for the tattoos, but certainly for my freedom to do what I really wanted to do. I am a changed man and I like it.

Also my tattoos have introduced me to a number of people whom I would have not known otherwise. Many of them are young men who see my tattoos and come up to me to tell me that they like them. I thank them and then ask them if they are tattooed. All of them are and with pride push up their sleeves to reveal the tats of they are mighty proud. I enjoy those moments because it gives me a chance to give the young people encouragement and congratulations which they need in a world where there is still prejudice against tattoos.

Where do I go from here? At this point I do not know. All I know is that we are working on a design for my upper right arm which will become a part of me soon.

Tattooing is very personal and what is right for one may not be right for another. All I ask that people of every age may read my story and see if there is in it a message for you. Just remember always that it is never too late for begin the tattoo adventure.

Inkhead fredburg@mind.net

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 Dec. 1998
in Tattoos

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