When all else fails, get a tattoo

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

You're a 33-year-old man, your youth misspent on college and full-time jobs, your shot at being a professional athlete/actor/musician pretty much over.

All too soon, you will be FORTY.

Obviously, there's only one thing to do: Get a second tattoo, specifically, a 25-square-inch tribal sun between your shoulder blades.

At least, that was The Other Half's approach.

I think he picked the sun because the Florida outdoors agrees with him so, and a tattoo of the Starbucks logo would have been weird.

This is our second tour of duty in the Sunshine State, and Mr. Half's skin is again tan and his hair highlighted. His 36-inch-waist pants literally are falling off of him.

I am a woman who looks her age. Nobody would guess me younger, they very well might guess me older. Also, I am on a perpetual diet, which makes me crabby.

(I came unglued during a recent lunch when Mr. Half asked the waiter to withhold the tablespoon of parmesan cheese that was going to come on his Caesar salad and put the dressing on the side. "Do you know how irritating it is for a fat person to hear a thin person ask for dressing on the side?" I screeched.)

In short, when we walked into the tattoo shop last week, I am certain the artists lounging about the place thought, "Cool. A mom taking her son to get ink done."

The artist was Piper -- almost certainly not the name she was born with -- and she was a walking advertisement for body art. She had spiked black hair and red eye shadow. She quickly was running out of room for additional tattoos, but I think there was an open spot on her left forearm.

I was just along for moral support. About a half-hour into the process, with Mr. Half grimacing and trying not to pass out, I attempted to strike up a conversation with Piper that would show I was hip to the groove. Or whatever.

"So, what do you think about couples getting their names tattooed on each other? I think it's like asking for a divorce," I asked.

"Bad luck."

"Yeah, I thought so. I mean, look at Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton's tattoos! How many of those do you do in a week?"

"Three or four."

Maybe it's best not to talk to the tattoo artist while she's working. Or meet one in a dark alley.

A few hours later, and my man-child was in the shower, trying to wash away the blood and excess ink.

"I think I'm going to vomit," he said.

The tattoo was the center of our lives for a couple of days. He couldn't lie on his back. He needed Tylenol for the pain. He needed bottles of Lubriderm extra sensitive lotion for home, car and office. He bought tagless undershirts to minimize skin irritation.

Somehow, I don't think the process would have been the same for a 20-year-old. A 20-year-old would have said, "Cool," put on his vintage T-shirt and had another beer. A month later, he'd be at the doctor with a raging infection.

Maybe youth is overrated.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor of the Southeast Missourian who now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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