When Susan Mulder started to feel her age catching up with her, she realized that there was no better time to complete her bucket list – starting with getting a tattoo. Read more from Susan on her blog.
I have been threatening for years to get a tattoo. I have wheedled my husband with the idea on multiple occasions, mostly to gauge his reaction. Which was negative. Every time. Emphatically. This didn’t stop me. As I inch closer to the big five-oh mark, I keep thinking of the items on my secret list of things I want to accomplish in my lifetime, which range from visiting Idaho (weird, I know but I’ve always wanted to go there) to toasting my 50th wedding anniversary and dancing at my grandchildren’s weddings.
Ironically, it is about a 50/50 split on the list of what I actually have control over. I can plan a trip to Idaho but there is no guarantee that I will be around for that 50th wedding anniversary. In fact, there is no guarantee that I will be around next week, but that’s a rabbit hole I’d prefer not to go down. On the side of the list with things I can control was a tattoo.
There is something so decisive – some would say brave – about not backing down when that last minute hesitation taps you on the shoulder or overhearing the odd conversation that the person behind the counter was having with a client on the phone (which I am pretty sure involved piercing said client’s scrotum.)
I did it. With no fanfare, no one there to hold my hand or talk me out of it – I knew what I wanted and just did it. Scary? Uh, yeah. And do I like it? Yes. Do I regret it? Possibly. What I discovered is that this wasn’t about being brave, living life to the fullest or even the desire to get a tattoo.
As the tattoo artist was finishing up, to lighten the mood, he said, “There’s nothing to worry about, it’s only permanent.” To which I fired back, without missing a step, “I have scars and stretch marks that are permanent but this was something I could choose.” Boom. In that instant it made sense. This was no coming of middle-age, no proving to myself that I too can be brave or that I am just that cool. This was about control.
When I look in the mirror, I see all sorts of things happening to me that I can’t control. The southernly migration of my breasts, chin and rear end are just the beginning of that list. I did choose to let my hair go gray-which I will defend and celebrate as a very good choice. Alas, it is a choice that screams moth balls, warm socks and insignificance better than using a megaphone. Menopause is another thing on this wrinkling list that I cannot control. The hormonal fluctuations alone can leave me breathless-but that could be early onset arterial sclerosis too. But I am pretty sure that the post, post, post adolescent angst that has taken hold is the fault in my genes and gender and just one more thing I can’t control.
One more thing that I can’t control? The reactions I am going to get. To my husband’s credit, he recognized my fragile state, put his arms around me and let me know it was OK, and that it is part of who I am. He could have stopped there but added that seeing I was upset, he was afraid I had wrecked the car. Not sure what to do with that yet. As for my kids, I am slowly building the courage to tell them all. And the in-laws, friends and others that will think I have gone off the deep end. You know that thing we warned our kids about? Consequences? Funny that it doesn’t feel much different at nearly fifty than it did when I was nearly twenty.
As for the tat, I thought that if I ever had the cojones to get one it would either be a dash (-) or an ampersand (&). I like the idea of the dash because of what it represents. It’s the little mark in between the year you were born and the year you die and all of your experiences, loves, losses, highs, lows and everything in between are held in that little mark. There are two problems with it-it’s a little line, pretty boring for a tattoo and could look like a mistake. Plus, it is finite. There is a beginning and an end. The ampersand, on the other hand, apart from being more visually interesting than a dash-is a whole lot more. It implies that there is more, it’s the “and then what happened?” It’s the and then what happened because, something always comes after an ampersand. I went with the ampersand.
P.S: Here’s the conversation I had with my son when I told him what I’d done: