My love for tattoos started as a slow burn. First, when I’d just turned 20, I wandered into a local tattoo parlor and requested two stars — one for each of my little brothers — right above my pubic bone. Kind of an unintentionally sexual body location for a family tribute, now that I look back on it, but at the time, coverage and secrecy was of the utmost importance. A couple of years later I got a wonderfully profound Latin phrase: Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum (‘While we have time, let us do good’) inked on the side of my ribs. That one hurt… and I don’t know any Latin. And then right before I got married, my maid of honor and I celebrated our two-year love affair with hot yoga by getting quarter-sized ‘om’ symbols on our feet. A lot of people tell me that it looks more like the number 30.
And that was it: three pretty basic tattoos by the time I was 28. All pre-kids, and all relatively hidden and fairly inconspicuous.
Well, 11 years later, at the ripe and spunky age of 39, I’ve decided to dive headfirst into my tattoo era. And I’m having a blast… and working through some stuff while doing it.
It started two months ago when I went in for a quick three; the trifecta, we’ll call it. I found a semi-local fine line tattoo artist I really liked (shout out @paulobozotattoo) on Instagram and dragged my kid’s 20-year-old babysitter into the city with me as a kind of reverse chaperone to get inked. She didn’t get inked, but she watched me and made me feel more cool and less old.
I got a quick 11:11 on my wrist. It’s my fourth kid’s birthday, something I’ve seen on the clock almost daily since she arrived. Like I’m saying almost every day I happen to look at my phone, the stove lock, or the car clock at that exact time. So naturally I have now convinced myself that it’s a message of the universe – one that I have decided to interpret as each of the four representing each one of my kids — a nod from above telling me that my family is complete, and perfect. So it felt very right to get it written in ink on my skin.
Next was a squiggly line on my forearm, a scaled-up replica of a wild vein in my daughter’s left eye. It was something I stared at often as she lay nursing on my lap as a baby, looking up at me wide-eyed – and still today as she sits straddled on my lap locking eyes with me as she chats away about all her favorite almost-three-year-old things. A tribute to my last and final baby.
And lastly, I got a small bouquet of baby’s breath flowers on the back of one arm. This one was done as an attempt to work through the ending of the newborn stage — something that has been excruciatingly hard for me — as a way to carry my baby’s breath around with me until the end of time. I mean, obviously there’s a theme here, and I’m well aware of that fact. I’m working though some emotional mom stuff. There’s a lot of life transitions wrapped up in the fact that I’m not having any more kids, and a lot of big feelings. And these little pieces of art littering my body are becoming my way of getting through.
And in this phase of life, I am giving myself permission to not overthink it. I used to be so worried about how a tattoo might be perceived by an older generation, or at a fancy gathering. I worried about how they might wear with age and what they might look like on old, wrinkly skin. But now, at almost 40, I’m kind of just over it. I’m over worrying about the opinions of others and overthinking these kinds of decisions. I just want to do what feels good in the moment, and know that it’s really not that deep. Because even if I regret a tattoo later in life, it still tells a story about a time of my life that is a part of me and my growth. So I’m okay with it.
And that is why I just made an appointment to get six more but I’m excited. And they’re going to be of the same genre — all little representations of this life phase I’m tackling and things that I think will look cool and make me happy when I see them. So to the person who sarcastically said to me recently, “I guess it’s cool to just start getting tattoos as a mom who is almost in her forties,” I say — yeah. It really f*cking is.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.