My parents

Whitney recently showed off her new tattoo and wrote about how it was inadvertently her dad’s idea, even though he hates tattoos. Of course, as I was reading this very entertaining tale (seriously, check it out), I couldn’t help but think of my own parents and their relationship with my tattoos …

You can see the pics of the tattoos here and read about how I got them/why I got them. Here’s how my parents fit into that story:

I got my first tattoo at age 20, the summer after sophomore year, the first summer I didn’t return home from college. It was a turtle on my lower back (of course – that’s where everyone’s first tattoo was then!), and I went to great lengths to avoid showing Mom and Dad. Clothes can easily cover up any of my tattoos, so this wasn’t too difficult, but as Whitney pointed out, low-cut jeans can be tricky when trying to hide a tattoo in this area.

In fact, my first accidental reveal was to my brother and sister, at my grandmother’s house, when I knocked a plant over and bent down to pick it up. I straightened up, looked back at them, and their wide-eyed stares told me I’d just been busted. “You have a tattoo?” they whispered to me.

“No,” I said. “It’s fake. Shh.”

I had no idea if they believed me but I knew they would keep my secret, and they did. My brother would go on to get a tattoo on his arm, also hiding it from Mom and Dad.

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My parents come from both the “Your body is a temple” mindset and the “Ew, yuck” opinion when it comes to tattoos.

When I got my ears pierced at age 10, Dad made me promise not to ever get anything else pierced. At age 15 when I wanted second holes in my ears, I asked Mom, not Dad. I returned home from the beach weekend with Amy’s family, sporting brand new CZ studs in my red ears, and I cautiously showed him, expecting a lecture. “Oh, that’s nice,” he said, almost bored. Really? For the record, that was the last time I asked permission for anything like that, and while I’m sure they don’t love my nose ring or my belly ring, they tolerate it.

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I’m getting ahead of myself though. At 20, I did not yet have the nose ring or the belly ring. Just the tattoo. So the tattoo became Top Secret: Mission Coverup in front of Mom and Dad. Couldn’t afford another incident like a spilled plant.

I bought one-piece, high-backed bathing suits just for trips with them. I made sure to not sit with my back to them if possible. I knelt at the knees instead of bending from the waist. And it worked! For 5 whole years.

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And then I got engaged. Yay! The whole family was in town for my grandmother’s birthday, and there happened to be a bridal show two days after the proposal. Eager to begin planning, I invited my mom and sister to come with me to check it out. We were waiting outside the convention center for the show to start, and a girl was standing near us with a beautiful (and quite large!) tattoo on the back of her neck.

“Ew, yuck,” Mom said under her breath (I told you).

“What?” I asked, feigning ignorance although I knew exactly what she was looking at.

She pointed at the tattoo, and somewhere in that moment, I decided I didn’t want to hide mine anymore. Maybe I was feeling very adult about the whole getting-married thing. Maybe I was tired of not wearing bikinis at the beach, like Whitney mentioned. Maybe I was just ready to confide in her. Whatever the reason, I decided now was as good a time as any to spill the beans – in fact, it was my engagement weekend. She couldn’t be mad at me now.

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So after 5 years of hiding, I took a deep breath, looked her right in the eyes, and said, “You know I have a tattoo, right?”

Her mouth dropped, but not in the angry way I was expecting. More in a surprised, gossipy, almost impressed?, way. “No!” she said. “Where? What?”

“On my back. A turtle.” Of course, I played all this off with the whole, “I’ve told you guys about this before …” attitude. “You’ve seen this before, right?” knowing good and well they had not seen it yet. “Oh, but I’ve had it for years,” I continued, thinking the status of limitations for judgment had to be up if she thought she should have known about it.

I need not worry, though.

“Well, you know you have to show me!” she said. Still, not one drop of anger in her voice. Not one. So, I showed her. “Awe, it’s cute,” she answered.

All those years of hiding, and Mom turns out to be so much cooler than I thought.

So I decided to go ahead and mention my brother’s tattoo – not to throw him under the bus, as I have been accused of doing – but to save him from having to hide anymore either. If she was in a good mood about my tattoo, she had to be about Kevin’s, too! And she was – handled it in stride.

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A few days later I take Mom, Dad, and Mia (my grandmother) to a model home of the house Jeff and I would later purchase, and there was an ab machine in a workout room in the house. No one understood it but me, so I sat on it to demonstrate. As I sat there with legs hooked around the machine and arms occupied holding myself up, Mom took the opportunity to lift up the back of my shirt. “Look, Dale,” she said. “There it is.”

Both Dad and Mia respond favorably. “Well, as far as tattoos go, that’s not bad,” was their basic response.

And that was that!

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So when I got my second tattoo, I decided not to tell them about it but not to hide it either. It was the asterisk on my foot, so when we went to the beach that summer, they all (Mom, Dad, Mia) saw it separately – and all had the same reactions. “Is that a tattoo? Well, it’s cute!”

Later I decided to show Mom and Dad a poem I wrote in college, back when I was still in hiding. Check it out here. Dad responded back with “If tattoos are your vice, I think we can handle that.”

Dad is so cool.

P.S. They haven’t seen my next two tattoos, which are the largest of them all, as we skipped the beach trip this summer due to my brand-new nephew being born right in the middle of summer. Their coolness factor will really be tested during our next beach trip, or after they read this blog, whichever comes first. To be continued.