Think… Before You Ink

Photo Tattoo Henna                                                             My Henna Tattoo

I was the first on line to receive my henna tattoo at the Sri Lankan wedding I was attending. As intricate patterns were drawn on my arm and hand, the artist explained that the leaves of the North African henna plant are mixed with water and oils into a paste that stains the skin. The paste starts out dark in color when applied and dries to a reddish orange. The ancient Indian art of mehindi, is practiced at ceremonial events such as weddings and births to celebrate luck and happiness. 

In that two weeks before it faded, I took on a new persona- Lola. She was edgy. She was cool. A woman in the grocery store asked if I’d mind staying put while she called her friend in another aisle to view my tattoo. During the closing of our home, the title company representative actually stopped halfway through the pages and pages of signatures to inquire about it. People commented, gave a thumbs up and shared a knowing “you’re one of us” smile. Little did they know that, inside, I was still the conservative me.  

Photo Tattoo Lisa                                      A tiny, but powerful tribute to her grandparents

According to Smithsonian Magazine, humans have been marking their bodies with permanent ink designs for over 5200 years. Decorating all parts of the body (even head and face), tattoos were regarded as a mark of nobility, a form of identification conveying ancestry or warrior status and were thought to make you more attractive to the opposite sex. 

Fast forward to 1846 in New York City, where Martin Hildebrand opened the first tattoo shop, which caught the eye of Civil War sailors and military service men. During World War II, Norman Collins opened his shop in Hawaii and pioneered tattoo styles for American soldiers. Today, over 36% of the population have tattoos and the industry is steadily growing. Permanent makeup is an offshoot that resembles makeup, adding permanent color as eyeliner and eyebrows. 

Photo Tattoo Vickie

       Inspired by the poppy fields along the Camino de Santiago and its shell symbol

Depending on your threshold, this form of self-expression may involve some pain. Ink is applied just under the skin’s surface with a tattoo gun, which pricks the skin hundreds of times. The application of a design can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several sessions. 

A reputable Tattoo parlor should display an American Red Cross certificate and should comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and CDC (Center for Disease Control) standards. As well, every shop should be utilizing an autoclave, a container which sterilizes tools properly, preventing bacteria and infections. Be sure to discuss aftercare with your tattoo artist. 

According to, there are actually health benefits to getting a tattoo. When the tattoo ink enters the body, the immune system attacks it, thus improving the immune system. The tattoo process itself is also known to reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in the body.

Photo Tatto Dad

                                A post it note becomes a father/daughter keepsake

Ironically, tattoo removal services have seen steady growth as well. Remember to think before you ink! I met a lovely young server in a fashionable Austin restaurant who told me that for one week she covered up her leg tattoos and arm sleeves (tattoos in a wrap-around design) and started meeting men that were an entirely different type. This gave her cause for thought. 

Just like Cinderella, I savored every minute of adopting a different identity, knowing full well it wouldn’t last forever. Following in her footsteps, if I try on different versions of myself, I just might find the right fit between the predictable Linda and the avant-garde Lola. 

Author’s Note:
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4 thoughts on “Think… Before You Ink

  1. Truly a free spirit. Toam on young lady!

    Such an adventurous spirit too!

    Peace and Love to you and your family!

    John Bridges



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