I am writing this in the waiting room for Thing 1 cardiology appointments at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. (Many of my life’s stories converge in Baltimore.)
Two weekends ago, Stephanie, my law school buddy, met me at Nordstrom for a makeover with Viking Queen. Over the years, as a form of stress relief, Stephanie and I have bought lipstick/gloss/mascara/blush together; in this manner, we survived finals, bar exams, long distance romances, and toddlers via communal trips to the makeup counter.
Although staunchly politically opposite (each of us), Stephanie and I can have a meeting of the minds over the newest Chanel eye liner. If only Congress could be so likeminded! This year I introduced Stephanie, not only to Viking Queen, but to Trish McEvoy.
When we’d plotted our “law school reunion for two” (I am missing the real deal), it was only fitting that Viking Queen be assigned the job of rehabbing our middle aged faces. A former journalist, Stephanie was eager for a good interview. Most of the interesting questions came from her, even if I was the person asking them.
Herewith, The Tattoo You Interview:
EPP: So, Viking Queen, you don’t mind me asking you about your tattoos, do you?
VQ: Go right ahead!
EPP: What was your first tattoo and where did you put it?
VQ: A triskele, on my upper back.
EPP: What the heck is a triskele?
VQ: It’s a Celtic symbol representing maiden, mother, and crone.
EPP: Why the upper back?
VQ: Why not?
EPP: How old were you?
VQ: Eighteen. You have to be eighteen in Washington, by law.
SL: Oregon has no law. The Oregonian just had an article discussing this. There was a photo of a kid getting ear gages. Do you think there should be a law?
SL: In your mind, is there a difference between tattoos and piercings?
VQ: YES! Piercings are too intense for me.
EPP: Yet your boyfriend has both and he is a tattoo artist.
VQ: Yes, but he is different.
EPP: We’ll get to that in just a bit. WHY, oh why, did you get a tattoo in the first place? You were living in Alaska at the time, right?
VQ: Yes, Alaska. I think it was a social thing. I was exposed to other people doing it from a young age.
[EPP: Is that because there’s nothing much else to do there?
VQ: Pretty much.]
EPP: But WHY? Do your tattoos have meanings?
VQ: Well, the first couple have meaning did but now they don’t. I recently got a matching tattoo with my niece. I let her choose it. [Shows wrist with small anchor on it].
EPP: How do you choose your designs?
VQ: Sometimes you don’t! At a low point in my life, I once drank a bottle of wine and went in for a tattoo. I came out with a prison b*tch tattoo. Ugly. Nick [the boyfriend] had to rework it. Generally, however, when you go into a tattoo parlor there is a wall with flash on it and you pick your design. You just don’t want them to sling something on you.
EPP: What is “flash”?
VQ: Just another name for the designs. They have them up on a wall or in books.. Piercing examples are also in books.
EPP: This is a whole new vocabulary for me. How do you feel about actually getting the tattoo?
VQ: I do not enjoy the experience. That is part of the reason my bird on my right arm is unfinished.
EPP: How do you feel about colors? I saw a girl with a cartoon of a mini robot in rainbow brite colors. It was serious arm candy, kind of like Skittles. [Here I must interject how ridiculous I thought this tattoo was].
VQ: I only like traditional colors. My Sailor Jerry tattoo is only done in traditional colors [pulls up her shirt to show us].
EPP: Who is Sailor Jerry?
VQ: Sailor Jerry was a famous tattoo artist.
EPP: Did he do that on you?
VQ: No! He’s dead.
Here we paused to count the number of tattoos, totaling ten, some of which had been reworked.
SL: which is the most recent tattoo?
VQ: the anchor. Although, I did get a matching tattoo of one of Nick’s [green roses on right wrist]. It looks stupid though when we hold hands!
EPP: Speaking of Nick, he is a tattoo artist, correct?
VQ: Yes but he is not like other tattoo artists.
EPP: How so?
VQ: He doesn’t wear flannel or have a big bushy beard. We also prefer to stay home and not party.
EPP: Very mature of you. I notice that you generally only wear black.
VQ: Well, when you are tattooed you don’t need any more accessories.
EPP: Are those Tiffany star earrings I see in your ears?
VQ: Yes, they are! Nick gave them to me! He also recently gave me a Prada bag.
EPP: Prada?! Holy Smokes! That’s a nice gift.
VQ: Why yes it is. I was laughing when they told me it was made of “city calf”. What’s that?
EPP: The opposite of country calf?
VQ: Who knows!
EPP: Are you going to get any more tattoos?
VQ: I don’t think so. I’m about done.
EPP: So, your adoption of your half sister was recently finalized.
VQ: Yes, just last month! She’s mine! She’s super smart, that girl.
EPP: Are you being nice to Nick?
VQ: A lot nicer. He is so good to me and my children.
EPP: Do you think you are ready to get married?
VQ: You know, I think I am.
EPP: I’ll be sure to pass that along. Finally, any advice on getting a tattoo?
VQ: Remember, it’s forever. You do not want to look like a “hot topic” so be classy. And, don’t do it on the face and hands if you want a normal job. People will judge you based on your tattoos.
And that concluded our interview. Well, not really. I asked her a lot of questions about piercings, the answers of which I am too embarrassed to share with my readers, especially for the grandmothers in the audience. Most questions were targeted towards the nether regions, the piercings of which I cannot wrap my mind around. My questions and VQ’s answers would make you seriously blush. If you have a prurient interest, go do the Googling yourself. I couldn’t make myself even do that! Better to ask the VQ.
After my interview, Stephanie and I came to the conclusion that a) today’s generations don’t need a reason to get a tattoo (but many people feel the need to make up a story in order to get one) b) Viking Queen was a mature woman who had her act together and c) tattoo and piercing parlors are, in fact, skanky places. Before this, I had thought the world was just memorializing their grief or happiness, unable to articulate their stories verbally. I was wrong.
Did the soccer mom not think before she went for the ink? How about that grandma with the absurd initials running across her toes? What about the Chicago World’s Fair hot hair balloon or the angels’ wings sprawling across the backs of thirtysomethings? Probably, they were not thinking . Or if they did, they did it just because they thought it was cool (why this is a revelation to me, I am not sure). There is, most times, no deeper meaning. The phrase “it’s only skin deep” resonates. I just think it’s too bad, sometimes, that it’s hanging on flesh, not on a wall of a museum. Other times, I am just plain relieved.
In any case, my profound gratitude to Viking Queen for demystifying the tattoo industry for me, for sharing her stories, and for lifting up her shirt against company policy to show me the her kids’ names in spelled out in Celtic runes.
Questions of the day: if you got a tattoo, what would it be and where would you put it? If you already have one, what is it, where did you put it, and why did you get it?
For more information on Sailor Jerry go to www.sailorjerry.com.