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What’s with the Tattoos?

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Though tattoos are now ubiquitous, many people still look askance at them. My boyfriend BG is a long-time tattoo afficianado, and over the years has acquired many of them on his arms – a few of which I’m posting here. Mind you, he doesn’t strut down the street in a muscle top flashing them to the general public, but when he wears a short-sleeve shirt, some of them are visible. And based on this — especially combined with his triple hooped earrings in both ears — some assume that he is a certain “caliber” of guy, certainly not a bourgie kind of fellow, at any rate–and perhaps a sinister, dangerous sort to boot.

When I met BG, he did have some tattoos, but they were not of the highest caliber. Being a Halloween Scorpio, most of his tattoos celebrate this in some way – pumpkins, witches stirring steaming cauldrons, skulls, black cats, and so on. That fateful Halloween night when he walked into my regular bar and swept me off my feet, he was able to prove to me that it was indeed his special day by displaying a skull tattoo inscribed with his birthday, 10/31/50. But since the lame tattoo artist didn’t know how to do clear numerals, the 5 looked like a 3, so I coyly asked him if he was born in 1950 or 1930. Very cute, I know.

Over the seven years I’ve known him, I’ve treated BG to many new tattoos. Since I knew of one cool tattoo parlor in my neck of the woods on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I insisted he go there and get his work done by the young “kids” — 20-and 30-somethings — who knew how to do it up right, and were up on the latest technologies.

BG doesn’t get the tattoos to intimidate others – he just loves them. And when you’re into them, it’s kind of an addiction. As soon as you get out of the chair, you forget the pain you went through and want more.

But once in awhile they do come in handy to deliver a “message.” For instance, one time he was at a check-cashing center in the Bronx, paying his cable and phone bills. There was a long line, and he’d been waiting there for about 20 minutes, when some guy came out of nowhere and gave him a cock and bull story about how he’d been on line in front of him, but had gone to put money in the parking meter. BG rolled up his sleeves for emphasis, revealing an assortment of skulls and other horrific images, and informed the interloper that he wasn’t about to let him get ahead of him. The guy instantly turned around and left, his check uncashed.

Anyway, shortly after I met BG, my friend (let’s call her Babs) from work was anxious to meet this sweet guy who kept giving me flowers and presents all the time. Babs was a ditzy broad – likeable enough, but her supervisor couldn’t stand her because she was so scatterbrained. She also was kind of a slut — and I say this with affection — because she told me about instance after instance where she chased after guys she had just met and wouldn’t rest until she’d slept with them. That’s not so unique, I suppose, but the thing is that she was not interested in a one-night stand, but rather became instantly infaturated with each guy and dove in head first, so to speak.

At the time I met BG, Babs and I were both on the prowl – though I remained chaste in my pursuits for Mr. Right (of course). I’d even met a nice Scorpio online shortly before meeting BG, and kind of pawned him off on Babs, who immediately fell head over heels. Unfortunately, the guy turned out to be a soon-to-be-divorced, stone cold alkie, broke and sleeping in a church, and impotent to boot.

Another prior Babs escapade involved the night she went to a bar, started chatting with the bartender, hung around all night until closing and then just wouldn’t give up until he took her home – though he was far from hard up and it wasn’t really his idea. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t wear a condom and she neglected to tell him she had genital warts (ugh) until much later, so he was not a happy camper, to say the least.

So anyway, Babs was hell-bent on meeting BG. He picked us up at work, and we headed to a local bar. I told Babs it was our treat, since she was also the carefree, live-for-the-moment sort who sometimes had to borrow money from me to prevent the electric company from cutting her off or the landlord from throwing her out.

So we met up, went to the bar, and settled in at a booth in the back. Things were strained from the start – the vibes were all wrong. But the moment that really sticks in my mind was when she abruptly turned to BG and demanded: “What’s with the tattoos?”

There was an awkward pause. Babs was a Manhattan-born babe, who thought of herself as sophisticated and liberated, but like me, she was also a nice sheltered Jewish girl who hung with guys who were generally piercing-free and tattooless. BG was certainly a wee bit different from the sort of guy I was used to, but I liked it. Needless to say, I was shocked at the way she blatantly judged and sterotyped my beloved BG.

I told BG to lift up his sleeve and show her the yellow rose emblazoned with my name. She said, “Oh, THAT one’s good.” (What she would have given to have a guy put “BABS” on his bicep for her….I’m sure!)

Anyway, she wound up drinking plenty of Stolis on us. She wanted us to wait and have her condom-free boyfriend meet up with us, and doubtless do a double glom of free rounds – but we demurred though she begged us to stick around. That was the last time BG and I got together with Babs.

How could someone who worked in Greenwich Village and lived in the East 20s not have noticed that all the kids in New York City were getting full-sleeve, or even full-body tattoos? Sheesh.

In any case, I love to humor and pamper BG, though I would never get a tattoo myself. One of the guys in the cool tatooo place I took him to was a 20-something sort who was the spitting image of Brad Pitt. Of course, girls would come in and moon around him, but he was a young, free spirit. So one day after a tattooed girl had stopped by and invited him up to her parent’s country house for the weekend, BG said to him, “Wow, that’s cool – you must meet a lot of women in this line of work.”

Tattoo guy and his colleage both laughed and said, “We don’t trust women who get tattoos. They’re all crazy.”

Well, I’m a crazy bitch, but at least I’m not a crazy tattooed bitch. I’ll leave the excitement to BG, thank you very much.

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About Elvira Black

  • what a great story Elvira!

    I can remember when i was about 7 or 8, my niece’s father (she’s my age, her dad would be my uncle, but my family is weird….whatever), anyway, my niece and i would spend weekends in upstate NY with her dad, and he was a tattoo artist. what’s weird was that at such a young age, i already had a preconceived notion of what “tattoo people” were like….but my “uncle” and his friends—they were like this biker bunch—-were so incredibly nice and just a great group of people. i just remember feeling loved and safe among this unconventional group of virtual strangers.

    anyway, it’s just strange how as a young child, the stereotypical impression was already there, i have no idea where that came from.

  • Chantal:

    Thanks so much…that’s a pretty nice story you have there too! The irony is that BG is the epitome of a nice guy–and I don’t say that just because he’s my b/f or anything (lol)–very polite, courteous, the whole bit. That’s why I couldn’t understand my friend’s reaction. Even if she thought it, why say it? But that’s just the way some people are–kind of thoughtless. I mean, I didn’t inquire as to why she didn’t use a condom, just for starters, or why she was guzzling so many Stolis on our dime while insulting my b/f–lol. Oh well, people are strange, no?

  • -E

    There’s a show on called Inked about tattoo artists and some of the tattoos they do, who gets them, and all that. The other night one of them was talking about the stereotypes that follow tattoos and how he didn’t like that since now you had doctors and lawyers with tattoos. I have one that most people never see, so when someone does I get the reaction akin to “YOU have a tattoo?!?”

  • sr


    What a great blog and no your not a crazy B. Tattooes or not.

    My first tattoo was done outside of Ft Jackson SC. That was 1963. Was foolish enough to have her name tattooed on my left arm. Two weeks later I receive the usual dear john letter. Du. Saw that happen many times. After Nam I had the head of a large black panther tattooed over the old one. Never have regretted it. It’s beautiful and I thank the little honey sending me the dear john letter after all these years because my family loves it. That was so many years ago.

    Just for you women of song. Have a great NY minute. sr

  • -E:

    Indeed, some people are still in the “closet” about their tattoos and can hide them with impunity–especially if they’re done in a spot where the sun doesn’t shine (lol). BG told me some artists won’t do tattoos on the face or hands, because let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to get a job except in a funky record store if you do that. But yes, BG’s seen doctors wander in for appointments when he’s been in the chair, and it is a little bit of a “shock” in a way, though I guess it shoudn’t be.

    BG could always hide his tattoos completely with a long sleeve shirt, but recently he got Scorpions (for his sign, Scorpio, of course) on his arms and the tips of the tails show a bit below the wrist. I’ve been meaning to introduce him to one of my 80-something aunts, and though she’s fairly open minded, I know that she’ll wonder the same thing Babs did. The difference is that she’ll likely wonder to herself.

  • sr:

    Thanks, my friend. Getting a tattoo of a girlfriend is a big commitment–it can easily outlast several marriages (lol). I got BG the book 1000 tattoos and in it there were a few folks who just kept scratching out the old names and tattooing in the new, but your solution sounds much better.

    I’ve been after BG to get touch-ups on a few of his older tattoos, because I know the young artists could improve them. But he’s too busy getting brand new ones to do that, at least right now.

    I saw a show where a 30ish woman who was now in a very straight job was working on getting her tattoos removed with laser treatments. I hear it’s 10 times more painful than getting tattooed. That would give me pause, all right…

  • I loved this. I am crazy tattooed bitch, but it’s a little bitty one on my butt, so nobody knows about it unless I tell them. Or they read my blog.

    I love that you have Henk’s book there! I got my tattoo at his place in Amsterdam!

  • Brooke:

    Thanks–that book is awesome! It’s one of the first gifts I got for BG, and he loved it.

    Now that’s an idea–if we ever go to Amsterdam, I think BG may be in for a brand new tattoo!

  • I love my tattoos. They are just small and on my foot and ankle but I am planning bigger and better ones in the near future. For me my tattoos have nothing to do with fashion (as my husband keeps insisting) but rather it feels to me like an obvious and outward expression of my sexuality (of course of me almost everything is an expression of my sexuality). I don’t think that makes me a crazy bitch – just a horney freak.

  • A.L.

    If I were ever to get tattoos, my ankle is probably where I’d start too. Yeah, tattoos can be damn sexy–I’d never had a boyfriend with any, but BG’s are awesome. Horny freak? It’s all good!

  • Elvira –

    The first one I got was on my toe. Don’t start there it really F£*$£n hurt.

  • A.L.:

    Your toe? Ouch–I’m cringing just thinking about it!

  • The worst part was the sensitive skin between my toes. It hurt only slightly less than giving birth.

    The tattoo on my ankle hardly hurt at all. The buzzing needle actually numbs the area. It kind of tickles after the initial outline is done.

  • A.L.

    Did you say BETWEEN the toes? Oy vey.

    BG tells me that the most painful area he’s had done is his inner bicep, near the armpit area. The outer bicep was a piece of cake in comparison.

    I’ve seen pix of people who’ve had their–um–genetalia tattooed. That’s gotta smart some.

  • KYS

    Lovely piece! I have a tatoo, and I also got it on the lower east side. I wonder if we’ve run into eachother!!!

  • KYS:

    Thanks! Hey, you never know!

  • Scott Butki

    There’s a funny story in the NY Times today about people who had tattoos with what their thought were positive comments in Chinese or other Asian languages and… oops, they were done wrong.

    So a dad who thought he had “much love” tattood when he became a father instead had one put on that said “love hurts.”
    and now he is getting it removed. Which hurts.


  • Scott:

    Wow…I’ll have to check out that piece. Wonder if they were all honest mistakes or little practical jokes. Getting it removed hurts…OH yeah. That’s what I hear–many times worse than having it put on.

  • Scott Butki

    Honest mistakes,they said.

  • Scott Butki

    Here’s the story

  • Scott:

    Thanks–that was hilarious! All I can say is that I’d hate to be walking around Chinatown and have to explain why I have a tattoo that says “demon bird moth balls” on my arm.

  • Eric Olsen

    very nice Elvira! thank God you have remained an untattooed crazy bitch

  • Thanks Eric–crazy is enough all by itself!

  • Scott Butki

    Glad you liked it, Elvira.