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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Do you have a tattoo?

Do you have a tattoo?

If you do, what is it and where on your body is it (to whatever degree you feel comfortable revealing this)? How old were you when you got it, and why did you get it? Do you ever regret it?

If you don’t, would you consider getting one, and if so, for what reason? What would it depict, and where on your body would you get it?

I don’t have any tattoos. Getting my ears pierced was mutilation enough for me.

(This weekend’s question comes from the conversation-starting game Table Topics: Not Your Mom’s Dinner Party Edition [Amazon U.S.].)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Craig


    I have that on my right shoulder blade. It’s pretty big. I got it done 10, 11 months ago, at age 18.

    I have yet to regret it. Also, once you work out what it says, do a head stand and check it out upside down.

  • Yes. In front, south of the equator. It includes an elvish letter.

  • Chloe

    Yeah, the initials RL on my ankle. Some friends and I all did it at 16 in memory of a friend who had recently died.

  • e

    Got mine 3 years ago at 23, it’s a burning wooden torch on the underside of my left forearm. My sister does tattoos and so part of it’s significance is letting her do it. It took me about 2.5 years to decide I could handle getting a tattoo.

  • Isobel

    I used to really want one, of a cave painting type horse (I’ve had horses all my life) but I could never decide where and at the grand old age of 32 I think I’ve gone past the desire for that sort of thing!

  • KarenP

    I do. It’s a fairly large tattoo of a Darlingtonia plant on my left shoulder. Got it last year at age 55.

  • allochthon

    Yup, a ‘tribal’ around my left ankle made from Tengwar and various SF symbols.

    I got it around 30, to celebrate finishing my Master’s Thesis, and nearly 10 years later, I still love it.

    I’ve been thinking about getting an ammonite on my left shoulder blade.

  • doa766

    no, mainly because they look bad after a while

    my girlfriend a small, bright blue dolphin tatoo on her neck, and it looks very nice but she has to go to get it repaint ever few months to reapply all the blue so it would stay like that, otherwise it would turn to mosh after a couple of years

    if I could get one that would stay colorful and nice I would totally get one

  • JoshDM

    I had artwork of my body tattooed across my entire body.


  • Bill

    i have a bowline knot on the inside of my left forearm and a skeletal, alien, spinal, creature sort of thing on the back of my left leg just above the heel.

    i got the bowline when i was 19, the other when i was 21. i chose the bowline for a number of reasons, personal and aesthetic. no regrets. i shudder at the thought of not having it.

    i drew the other one during a slow day at a training camp in virginia. i was just drawing to be drawing at the time, but i saw what i had done and thought it would look cool on the back of my leg forever, so there it is. no regrets.

  • Drew

    I have Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle on the inside of my right forearm, and the 2nd Law of Thermodyamics on the inside of my left. Got them a few months back, and I plan on getting a lot more. No regrets so far, but I know it’s a bit soon to report on that one.

  • No, I don’t. However, I’ve dated women with tattoos and I can’t help but find it funny how often such women are more critical about other women who also have tattoos but in a different style than people who have no tattoos are. Which doesn’t exactly answer your question but still…

  • Boingo

    No cut on cultural or popular practices.
    It’s just a very personal decision not to have any
    now or in the future, unless it’s to cover a mean
    scar (maybe a tri-figure centipede tatoo would do).
    I’m an artist,who’s worked obsessively with designing
    images, working over ’em in my head, looking at ’em
    in the mirror, deconstructing, re-designing, etc.
    Even after falling in love with a finished product,
    I can’t bear to see the image anymore. I envision
    looking at the same tatoo image would drive me nuts.

    There are handy purposes for the tatoos on occasion,
    i.e.,identifying body parts in plane crashes
    (jus’ being a morbid wise az this morning-dele post ok).

  • Bill

    Drew – that’s fantastic. solid choices. can’t go wrong with entropy and uncertainty. i have plans for getting a tattoo of the definitions of both ladder operators, J+ and J-, as a half-band. i want to replace the J’s with a symbol of my own design. just have to work it out.

  • CoriAnn

    Ooh, boy, let’s see…I have six. The first one is the Dragon Whelp (yes, from Magic The Gathering) on my lower right back. I never played the game but many of my friends in HS did and that image always stuck with me. I love dragons and love the concept of looking at the world through the eyes of a hatchling. I carried the card around in my wallet for about 3 years before I committed to get the tattoo (at age 19). My second is a pair of entwined dragons on my left shoulder blade (my guardians). That is the only tatoo I ever got on a whim, got it when I was 21. The third I got (also at 21) to celebrate graduating from college. It is an ankh on my left wrist with a curly-cue embellishment on the left half of the crossbar–it is a send up to Death from the Sandman series–a reminder that we each only get a lifetime and to live it to the fullest. My fourth is a dragon on my right ankle. Got it when I was 22, it’s a graphic of Smaug. The fifth is the glyph for Earth from Stargate on my left wrist under the ankh. Got it when I was 26. It is my nerd badge of honor. The final one is robot Gir (from Invader Zim) on my right shoulder. Got that one when I was 27 after a personal tragedy as a reminder that there is always some happy somewhere to be found if I just look for it.

    Not a regret on one of them. For me each tattoo is a visual marker of a specific point in my life–a way to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve been through to help me keep on getting wherever I am going.

    The seventh one is in the planning stages. Gonna get “Don’t Panic” on my right wrist. Just trying to find the right sort of large and friendly lettering…

  • Dre in Spain

    I don’t have any tattoos, but at one point I had 27 piercings, as well as blue and purple hair. I’ve been toying with the idea of a tattoo for many years, I want a Caduceus on my left ankle,(it’s the symbol* often referenced in medicine of a staff, entwined by 2 snakes). Nothing too big, but big enough for me to know it’s there. I got piercings instead of a tattoo because I could remove them if needs be. Plus my grandfather had a tattoo from his WW2 army days, and always regretted it and told me never to have one. He thought my piercings were hilarious, almost as funny as my hair colour.

    * technically, the symbol for medicine is the rod of Asclepius, however a caduceus is also used. I’m a world class bore.

  • Orangutan

    I have one right now, with several more planned, but I can’t afford them yet. Especially the Celtic cross I want, all the detail is driving the price upwards of $800. :(

    The one I do have is on my left collarbone, and I use it as a kind of geek-barometer. If you recognize it on me, then you know what it is. If you don’t, then I tell you it’s a tribal glyph that marks a rite of passage. Which is entirely true. ;)

    See the glyph here: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v392/TheBigGunns/Predators/scar2.jpg

    Funny story with it. When I was getting the ink done, the girl knew what it was and said, “You know, technically you’re supposed to brand this. If you want, we could do that.”

    I declined. :)

    @doa766 – It sounds to me like the tattoo artist was using cheap inks or something. I have friends who have very colorful tats, done years ago, and none of them have had to have them redone or even touched up. Mine is black ink and has faded very very slightly, but I got it over 5 years ago. It just looks well-worn. :/

  • Andrea

    Yes, two!

    I have a black gear with one of the Gallifreyan numbers from Doctor Who as the inside just below my collarbone on the left side, and I have Alphonse Mucha’s Reverie on my upper right arm.

    I love them both!

  • I don’t have any, because I’ve always been afraid that my attitudes will change, saddling me with someone’s tatoo, namely, that of the person I used to be. Given that everything I’ve considered getting tatooed on myself I’ve eventually abandoned (e.g., Christian and later Daoist religious symbols), it seems my instincts are on here.

    Though CoriAnn’s notion of getting the words ‘Don’t Panic’ in large, friendly letters is very tempting…

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Nope. No piercings, no tats. Nothing really against them, but I’ve never been the sort to intentionally draw attention to my appearance. I’ve considered a tattoo though, but if I ever do, it’ll probably be something of my own design.

  • Jester

    None, and no strong emotions about them either way.

  • Ide Cyan

    No tattoos. I wouldn’t mind getting one, and I’ve thought about it, but the problem’s figuring out what sort of design I would actually not mind wearing for the rest of my life.

  • Chuck

    None. I happen to find the unadorned human form to be one of the most beautiful thing in the world. I hate to see it marred.

  • Althea

    I don’t have any now, unless you count the dot on my index finger where I stabbed myself putting the cap on a ball-point pen. (The dot where Davey Estrada stuck me with a pencil in 7th grade finally faded after about 30 years.)

    However, I have some surgical scars that one day I hope to ornament, after yet another operation. It’ll probably be a vine or ladylike scrollwork or something.

    Other than that I really want to have henna done on my hands, when I can afford it.

  • Mo


    I’ve wanted to get a stylized compass star for more than a decade now. It has a lot of personal meaning about finding your place in the universe. But I don’t have a clue where to put it that won’t bug me. I have this weird thing about symmetry (mainly based around what Chuck said), so that leaves out a lot of places. Fear of sagging skin as I age leaves out many more. I’d love to get it between my shoulder blades, but then I wouldn’t be able to see it, which would defeat the purpose. The inside of my forearm would be perfect- I write notes there all the time anyway, except that when I really want to dress up it would be too visible and makeup would rub off too easily.

    So I’m content to be unadorned, remembering how quickly I get bored of things anyway.

  • JoshDM
  • allochthon

    Ah, a couple of Doctor Who tattoos. Excellent.

    Mine (tengwar tribal around my left ankle) also has the Borg claw, the seal of Rassilon, the Stargate home symbol, the caduceus from Babylon 5, and the chop Michael Whelan uses to sign his art.

    I tried to choose fairly obscure symbols from my favorite SFF at the time.
    4 images, start here:

  • I have the Chinese hanzi for love, ‘ai,’ (http://goodcharacters.com/chinese.symbol.for.love.html) tattooed on my chest. I got it in college and don’t regret it (although I would like to have it touched up and expanded by a better tattoo artist).

    Eventually I want to get one of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I bought a high-quality scan of one of John Tenniel’s original prints from 1866 that I plan to use as the basis.

  • I have no tattoos and, as of this moment, there is no symbol or picture I want to have permanently etched into my skin. It is highly unlikely this will change.

  • JoshDM

    You should get a tattoo of that mantra. In sanskrit.

  • When I see a person with a tattoo, I think: “There goes yet another person who thinks s/he’s never going to get old.”
    I couldn’t even bring myself to pierce my ears. Any idea how hard it is to find nice clip-ons now?

  • Althea

    Persephone, I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was nearly 40. I said to people, “I’ll be sticking with little things, just something light and ladylike.” Hah. That lasted a couple years until I discovered Art. Now I’m known for the offbeat and colorful. Whee! Dump those clip-ons that pinch your earlobes. Have a fling!

  • Lisa

    I’d quite like to get a Jennifer Tilly Bound one but

    a) I hate pain – while I can’t wear flats, I refuse to wear high heels because they hurt – I don’t suffer to look good is my meaning.

    b) Like somebody said, after a while, they look like mosh and you have to get them re – coloured.

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