Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Youthful rebellion and comical cheap ink

“Is that a tattoo?” she asked, holding back a laugh.

“Yes,” I grumbled, forgetting it was there.

At one time you only associated tattoos with members of the military, getting their ink at some exotic foreign port. Nowadays it is common to find a tattoo parlor on any suburban corner, and the attitude toward them has turned from unattractive to artistic. I wouldn’t say that’s the case with my tattoo, since most women who come across it tend to find it ridiculously funny.

Do you remember the ’90s trend of getting your ears pierced at the top or sides rather than just the lobes? When I was in college no one in Knoxville would pierce that cartilage except tattoo parlors, since department stores distanced themselves from the risk of infection. A buddy of mine at the time wanted her ears pierced but was afraid to go into a tattoo parlor. I did not hold that fear and being the good, selfless friend I was, I volunteered to join her on her errand so she could get what she wanted. Needless to say, it was a trip that I should have put more thought into.

We were greeted by the only artist available in the small tattoo establishment and learned his name was Preacher. Apparently he was a former Southern Baptist minister and was happy to help us both with our requests. Of course I had no request since I was only there for moral support, but the good Preacher let me know that he had time for a quick tattoo if I was interested. The power of suggestion is very strong, and as my friend went to get her long-awaited piercings my casual perusal of the tattoo art on the wall turned into a desire for rebellion. I would get a tattoo, why not? I’m an adult now. Let’s do this!

Then Preacher asked me how much money I had, and I quickly learned the $20 in my pocket would not afford me the brilliant pieces on the wall, yet I was already fired up to chart a new course in my life – a woman with a tattoo! We came up with a simple solution, a women’s symbol around my naval. Preacher even used a quarter to make sure his circle was accurate, and my friend waited as I suffered through what felt like bee stings until his work was complete. How did it turn out? Let’s just say it looked as if I had done it with my own pen, in prison. No worries, I thought, once I graduate college I’ll make money and will be able to get a more artistic tattoo to cover it and make it beautiful.

Unfortunately, I went into kidney failure in my 20s before said fortune was made, and due to my transplant I am no longer allowed to get a tattoo due to risk of infection. Oh, life, you really do have a sense of humor, since a risk of infection for my friend is what got me into that parlor in the first place.

I really do forget it’s there until a moment not meant for laughter, when a woman is so caught off guard she has to say something about it. It makes me wonder where that college friend is now. Likely living happily with ear holes that have grown over, while I am stuck with my comical cheap ink.