When I was in my early twenties, I started thinking about getting a tattoo. I had no idea what I wanted to commit to having on my body for the rest of my life, though, so I’m 41 and still don’t have any tattoos.

I thought that getting tattoos when I was in my 40s was maybe too late, so I asked a bunch of my friends who are heavily-tattooed if it was weird to start now, and they all told me that it was the perfect time to start, because I’d save myself the unfortunate experience of having that tattoo you get when you’re 20.

So I spend lots of time thinking about what I’m going to have inked on me (that’s what the kids call it, I heard from the TV box), where I’m going to have it done, and other related matters. This has given me a heightened sense of tattoo radar — tattoodar, if you will — so I’ve been noticing lots of tattoos on people that I probably never would have seen before.

Today, I walked past a guy who had a really cool Klingon Empire tattoo on his forearm. I thought to myself, “I should totally say qapla’ to him!” But before my mouth could form the word, another part of my brain said, “shut up, you fool! He’ll think you’re making fun of him!” I hate it when my brain fights with itself, so I just said, “Dude, that Klingon tattoo is badass.”

He looked up at me and said, “thanks, man!” He took a couple steps away, stopped and turned back to me. He said, “actually, I guess I should say qapla’!”

“Dude!” I exclaimed, “I was totally going to say that, but I didn’t want to be That Guy.”

He pointed at his tattoo and sheepishly said, “well, I’m clearly That Guy, so…”

“Oh no,” my brain shouted, “I made him feel bad!”

Thinking quickly, I gave him the Klingon salute and said, in my gruffest Klingon voice, “Today is a good day to be That Guy.”

He returned the salute with a closed fist and a smile. We went our separate ways, and I thought to myself, “maybe I’ll get myself an original series command insignia tattoo…”




92 thoughts on “majQa’!”

  1. Yes. I’m the proud owner of a couple of nerdy tattoos myself — Planescape from AD&D 2e on my back, Myst as an armband — and 40 is definitely not too late to get one.

    TOS insignia is a good pick. Where would you get it?

    1. If I get it, I’ll probably put it on one of my arms, maybe upper arm. I’m not sure I can handle getting tattooed, is the thing, so I may end up being that guy who only has one. If I am that guy, then I want to be sure it’s something that means a lot to me that I love. I guess it’s a little weird that I’m part of Star Trek and love it as much as I do, but my love for TOS existed long before I was cast on TNG.

      If I can handle it, then I’ll almost certainly be that guy with as many tattoos as he can get. If that happens, I *really* want an octopus as part of a sleeve.

      So, as you can tell, I have a lot to think about.

      1. Tattoo tip: bring something to eat with you! I was ravenous after my (small, on my forearm) tattoo, to the point where I went to eat at the shady sushi buffet down the block from the tattoo shop I went to. After much thinking, I’ve decided a PB&J sandwich is probably the best food after. At least that’s what I’m going to bring with me the next time, when I can decide what else I want permanently etched into my skin.

        Also, 40 is definitely not too late to start! As for being able to handle it, after I got mine I thought “ugh, I’m not sure I can do that again,” but now 2 years later I find myself wanting another one.

      2. I was just in awe when you said Maj Qa’! I so love the Klingon language. But I have to admit you should get the Tri-Foil. That is very honorable indeed!
        May you survive and succeed in what ever ink you chose to get. Personally I would get a smaller one if you do get one.

      3. Tattoos are addictive! Once you know you can handle the first one (and it’s really not that bad, kinda like the pins and needles when your foot falls asleep) you’ll be making appointments for the next.

        And yeah, I have an octopus, too (sitting at a vintage typewriter).

      4. You are totally right! A Tattoo stays for the rest of your life as a part of you. So be sure, that you choose well. Now that you are 41 you will know, that it should be something you love and be proud of it. In Your case, dice could be a nice tattoo, but this is just an idea. Years ago, I would have said, a straight flush, but your time of hard poker playing are gone. I got my self a tribal on my right arm. I have it for 20 years now an I’m just fresh of 42. I don’t regret to have it, because there is a wonderfull story bound to it. Just be sure to let it be made good. Look at the one who makes it and make sure that he really knows his buissness!
        Best whishes from germany


      5. You’ll be fine, they’re licked on by kittens.

        I think – I hope – that I get you about TOS. We’re of an age, and while Star Wars was my first big-wow SF experience, it was TOS that captured and held my imagination as I grew up. That astonishing, vivid universe full of high concepts and gloriously flawed people. Yes, there was Spock’s Brain, but counterpoint: Spock, therefore your criticism is irrelevant.

        Gene Roddenberry and the astonishing talent that he drew together really did create something special, and significant, and I am proud that a tiny part of that genius will be with me all my life.

      6. My dad didn’t get tattooed until he was in his 40s. (He also pierced and gauged his ears to a 6 around the same time.) It’s your body and it’s never too late for modifications. I have one tattoo, so my suggestion is to get your first tattoo on a meaty part of your body if you’re worried about pain. I got mine on my ankle and all those bony bits were VERY uncomfortable/painful to get inked.

        Also, when you mentioned Octopus, my mind immediately jumped to Erika Moen’s artwork. She LOVES octopuses and has done several bold designs that I think would make killer tattoos. (Warning, some of her stuff is very NSFW)

      7. It’s totally not weird for you to be a fan of Star Trek! I’d personally go for TNG because it meant a lot to me, but you love what you love. If I had to guess, I’d say you’d go for an Engineering insignia?

        Upper arm’s a sensitive place. Skin’s thinner. When I got my armband, it looked like someone implanted a golf ball under the skin, from the swelling. It did go down quickly, though.

        If you can handle it on the upper arm, you’re probably good for other places.

        If you have normal pain/endorphin responses, unlike me, then after the first 20 minutes or so, the pain should be mitigated somewhat, so it makes larger tattoos easier to manage. It also helps that it’s something you love enough to want to endure the pain.

      8. Once you get the TOS insignia on one arm, it would be rad to have the mirror universe Terran Empire insignia on the other arm. Also plays off the Evil Wil Wheaton meme…

      9. Pro tip: Try drawing the tattoo you’re thinking of getting on yourself with a black Sharpie, first. That will help you decide if you like the placement, figure out your body contours as a factor in the design, and discover if it can easily be hidden under clothing if needed. Then you can live with it for a couple of days and see how you feel. I did this with mine, and it helped a lot with the decision process. I’ve drawn quite a few potential tattoos on friends while they were debating a particular design. I even got asked to draw on a very drunk fan of my art at the Phoenix con, after making him promise he was going to sober up before hitting the tattoo parlor.

        Don’t sweat the Sharpie drawing being exactly what you want — you just need a rough approximation for this. (That said: GEE IF ONLY YOU HAD A FRIEND WHO’S AN ARTIST AND WORKS FOR BEER. HINT. HINT.)

  2. LOL Very happy the situation turned out well. Geek tattoos are so great, as are Klingons.

    On a semi related not, at our local (rather small) Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention, one group regularly hosts a Klingon themed party room in the evenings. For the last three years running, my cohorts and I stop by to drink with Klingons while dolled up in TMNT costumes. I believe they also put on Batleth tournaments, one of which I got to observe and cheer while eating breakfast this year.

  3. Wil, I just turned 41 myself and got my first tattoo 3 weeks ago. I’ve been wanting one since I was 18 yrs old and felt now was a good time. So, no, 41 is not too late to get your first ink.

  4. I too have recently discovered tattoodar. I’m almost 40 and considering my first “ink”. I want an owl but want something as geeky as I am…but borg owl just doesn’t seem right. And bazinga as a tramp stamp would be funny…but I doubt I could pull that off. Suggestions accepted here <~~~~~

  5. How about “Don’t Be a Dick” in TNG font? And YAY for CGI enabling actors to get as much ink as they damn well please.

    For the record, mine is a brain with the word “think” below. I get plenty of comments, none of them douchey.

  6. Just remember to breathe the whole time. I kept holding my breath and he would have to stop and say “Just breathe sweetheart.” My guy was fairly awesome! He also weighed like 350 pounds and looked like he rolled in from a biker gang and was the sweetest person ever.

  7. I have also wanted a tattoo for years but couldn’t think of something I’d want on my body forever. A couple of years ago, I came up for a vague idea for what I want. I turn 40 next month and think that’s a good time to get it. But, my daughter turns 18 almost exactly a month later and she’s asked me to hold off on mine until she can get one too. She wants us to go together. Thing is, I think we may both be those people who won’t be able to stand the pain. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  8. I’m in my 20’s still haven’t gotten a tattoo. The only tattoo I am considering currently, is a tattoo of Calvin and Hobbes with Hobbes dressed as The Doctor. They shall, be riding in there wagon. Only, the wagon will be blue to represent the TARDIS.

  9. I’m thinking your tattoo #2 should be “Sparks McGee”: a cowboy hat overlaying some stripes in the top-to-bottom pattern of the Original Flavor Wesley Sweater.

    I’ve got a head start on you in the age department by a few years (just turned 45), and while I keep thinking I’d like some ink, I’ve so far not been able to come up with something that wouldn’t have me berating myself with “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, CRIDER?” at some point in the near- or far-future. Thus, nothing. The closest my brain has come to a decision was to get a Ford Mustang running-horse logo in black with traditional white-to-yellow-to-orange-to-red flames that Ford used in some advertising in the ’90s while I was working there designing parts of Mustang engines. Plus it would go with my (currently 2) Mustangs. But in the size that would fit on my scrawny upper arm, all detail would be lost, so no.

    So maybe something less detailed. But WHAT??? And as a result, I have nothing.

    There’s no real end to this story except that this post gave me a chuckle and dredged up a mental argument that still occasionally amuses me. :)

  10. I’m sure that you have considered what effect having one or more tattoos could have on your acting career. Are there a lot of roles out there for That Guy With an Octopus Sleeve? Maybe getting tattooed will change your image, get you calls for parts you might have missed out on before? That could be interesting.

  11. I tell my students, who can see one of my tattoos pretty easily, to wait until they’re 25. A lot of them are getting tattoos in High School. I’ve even seen a few come in with them from the Junior High. If the person I was when I was in High School decided to get tattooed, I’d be wanting to go back in time to give him a swift kick for what he probably would have chosen.

  12. My husband waited until he was over thirty. He now has a beautiful triscele on his calf and a celtic boar on his upper arm, along with a couple special runes that were burned on (it’s late, there’s a word for that, but I can’t think of it!). Tributes to his ancestry and guiding principles. I have a fairy on my back, but I regret it – it still itches sometimes after over a decade. Oh well.

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with, and kudos for waiting for just the right thing!

  13. Using my powers of psychic detection…the perfect tat for you would be two 20-sided die done fuzzy dice style. Humor + irony = awesome. 😉 But seriously, friends have told me for years it’s never too late for ink. Just don’t put it anywhere that might sag or wrinkle excessively. 😀

  14. You should get half your head tattooed completely black and half your head tattooed completely white.

    Then you can look in the mirror and have a fight with yourself.

  15. For me, I was at a significant turning point in my life. I just finished another roll-up at the newspaper I worked at in Palm Springs, and I had tremendous stress and depression bearing down that morning. I had listened to Kid A all day and night for a few weeks. Before I left work, I had my boss make a perfectly scaled, vector line-art reproduction of the Radiohead bear from the album artwork. I gave the printout to the tattoo artist at an all night shop in Yucca Valley. It was easy for him to make the transfer and he went to work. And the rush was indescribable. I could feel the stress and depression melt away. It was an image I chose, I planned, and had meant something important to me. Now that you mention this, I think I’ll start a folder of images, and dust off my Illustrator skills. Ralph Steadman’s bats flying up my arm would be a perfect 40th birthday present to myself.

  16. I didn’t start getting tattoos till I was 30. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t end up with any horrible tattoos I would regret. I am so glad I waited and I totally encourage you to think long and hard about what you want. I walked around for 10 years with my first tattoo design in my wallet.

    But don’t be fearful about getting what you want. I have friends who work in the industry and have no problem covering their tattoos with make up when needed. They have told me that the make up they use for burn victims covers up really nicely and lasts a long time.

    I think one of the nicest things that I didn’t think of before I got tattoos was the fact that once you have them, no one can take them away. They become a special part of you. I am permanently ill and often have to have tests done. They were always making me remove my wedding ring and every thing that made me feel like me. But I beat the system and had a sewn heart tattooed on my ring finger, so they can’t ever make me feel like my love for my husband isn’t with me. It really was life changing for me. I hope you find a tattoo that helps you celebrate life and makes you happy every time you see it.

  17. “Today is a good day to be That Guy.”

    HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA! Nice. Thanks for that one, Wil.

    And I long considered what I would get if I ever got a tattoo. A handful of things were frontrunners, but no one thing jumped up as the leader until finally I settled on the rebel alliance insignia. Haven’t gotten it, and likely never will, but that’s the current leader for sure…or perhaps the Jedi Order insignia. I dunno. My dilemma is that then I leave out my other fandoms, such as Trek…and that stings a bit. So, here I still am, thirty-seven and still in undecided. I’m okay with that. 😉

  18. Man, I got my first tattoo at 50, so you are no way too old to consider it!

    I’ve got two now, and the one that gets the most compliments/comments is not the pretty girly one on my ankle, it’s the nerdy one on my forearm that spells out “I am star stuff” using the symbols for amino acid molecules, with my favourite Carl Sagan quote under it: The cosmos is also within is – we’re made of star stuff.

    You’ll know when you’ve found the right image. Trust me. Then go for it!

  19. My wife got her first tattoo a couple years ago (she’s up to three now). She was 53 so I’d say age has nothing to do with it (well, except for what your friends told you–that your 40-odd-year-old brain’ll make sure you don’t do that stupid tattoo that you try to hide all the time ’cause you forgot what insipid idea got into your head to do that one. :) ).

    I’d thought of tattoos but I’m a hairy beast and dark skinned so it’s sort of wasted on me. Besides, I prefer geek clothing…can always change things out. :)

    Have fun with the tattoo. I suspect you won’t stop at one.

    1. Oh, forgot, don’t forget to feel free to get inspired by Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade) and do something specific to your kids.

      And, from the experience my wife had, remember to find a place you can look at often. She did one on her shoulder and realized after she can’t really ever see it. The other two are on her wrists for easy viewing!

  20. What a co-inky-dink. I have one tat, and it’s the Klingon imperial symbol – the 4 colour version.

    I was something like 37 when I got it done, and I chose it in part because it’ll still be a nice piece of art when I’m in the nursing home and can’t remember anything except that music used to be better back in the day, and played at a gosh-darn reasonable volume too.

    Oh, and I went for upper arm because it’s something that I wanted to have rather than display. It’s all good though, the no-stigma zone is up to about the chin now.

  21. I, too, am 41, and this will be the year I get a tattoo — my son’s best friend’s dad owns the best tattoo parlor here in the town we’re in.

    The first one will be a custom one, but my second tattoo will probably be a Psi Corp symbol from B5. Hadn’t considered the Klingon Empire symbol, now maybe I should…

    I did consider — and discarded — Trill markings. Maybe once I’ve retired from my day job.

  22. I’m working on my sleeve right now and Tumblr tags and Pinterest have been really helpful in compiling a folder of tattoo inspiration. Placement and size are key and being able to see tattoos on real people helps a lot. I also very much recommend using a marker or pen to do a rough drawing on yourself. Re-draw it at a variety of sizes and wear it around for a few hours and be super nerdy and take notes. Sketch it out. Take pictures. Whatever. I wish I would have done all this when I started getting tattoos at 18-years-old, but at least I can be obsessive about it when I’m 32.

    And speaking of age, no big deal. I’m taking my mom to get her first tattoo on her 60th birthday.

    Protip: Bacitracin for 24 hours + Washing with antibacterial liquid soap several times a day for the first week + Eucerin for two weeks = Pretty tattoo.

  23. I got my first tattoo when I was 45, then added to it when I was 46. That was 15 years ago.

    My husband could never decide what he might want for a tattoo, but finally came up with a design he liked at age 59. But then he got too sick to get the tat (too high a risk of infection), and died at age 60.

    So, I guess the lesson is, if you know what you want, go for it, because, you never know.

  24. I wanted a tattoo from the time I was 16, but was 32 before I found an image I loved, and had just stumbled on it accidentally when looking through a gift shop. I got a second tattoo a year later for the same reason. It’s definitely not too late to start :)

  25. I have 2 suggestions (as someone who has a backpiece currently getting covered up into a completely different backpiece): find the absolute best artist you can, no matter how simple you think the tattoo is. If you see someone with absolutely gorgeous work on the street, go up and ask them! Most people are really happy to pass along who did theirs. It doesn’t even have to be in “your” style, just something you see is very well done.

    Second, take a bottle of water and a banana. They’re the best, least messy way to get some good stuff into your system. Also, don’t worry about it if you need to take a quick break. A good artist won’t mind if you have to take a few minutes to stretch or just breathe.

  26. My wife has fourteen tattoos and she will be the first to tell you that they are addictive – once you get one you will want more. I have considered getting one a few times over the years, but never did (it is something you’ll be wearing the rest of your life after all).

  27. I’m 44 and mom to a 23 yo who got her first tattoo at 18. She now has a full sleeve + a gramaphone behind her ear – I call it her “Can you hear me now” tattoo – and some artist characters on her other wrist. I, too, have wanted one for years but never wanted to get anything that would end up looking trendy or make me go “what was I thinking?”

    I finally had an epiphany earlier this year. I got to meet Mike Nesmith of the Monkees after a show. I know, I know, but watching them in reruns in the early ’70s is probably what caused me to develop a love for Pop and what I like to call “Happy Music”. Even more importantly, it was the germ of an idea of Mike’s that turned into MTV and that was very important to this girl growing up in the 1980’s.

    I was driving into D.C. to pick my husband up from work so we could go to the venue and a lightbulb when off. Mike wrote a song called “Listen to the Band”. As someone to whom music is one of the most important things, this is a statement I can get behind and will never argue with. It wasn’t trendy – it would be timeless. I had a Monkees poster I’d had in my room as a teenager that I was going to get signed (1 Monkees item per person – unlimited solo stuff) so once we got to meet him, I explained my rationale and asked if he could personalize the poster inscription. He did, I scanned it, took it to a tattoo artist who then resized it to fit and put it on my inner left forearm. I see it all the time, it makes me smile every time I do and I’ll never ask “What was I thinking?”

    I have the whole story, plus pictures on my blog –

  28. All three of my sisters have tattoos, and I always said I would get one when I turned 50. … I’m 51 now, and still no tat. For years I’ve been planning what it will be, but haven’t taken that next step, yet. Okay, if you get one, I’ll suck it up and go… in a year or two. :]

  29. Cool story. I didn’t get my first tattoo until my late 30’s. I decided to make my first tattoo something that commemorated an event, since that’s something in my life that would never change. So I got the numbers ‘26.2’ on the back of my leg to celebrate finishing my first full marathon.

  30. I’m in my 40’s as well and am for the first time seriously considering getting a tattoo. I’ve held off this long for the same reasons… don’t want to get a “cool when I’m 20″ tattoo and then have it be not quite so cool at 40, 50, etc…
    My daughter is named after a flower, so that’s what I’ve decided to get. Something small, either on my wrist or ankle, and probably the orange version, because my husband loves orange, has played for a baseball team that wears orange for 27 seasons.

  31. I got one of The Tick on my arm. Been debating about going back for an Arthur to go with it or a big “Neat!” comic bubble.

    Whatever you decide to get, just be sure it’s something exactly like you want and it’s something you’d be happy to show off. With you, the insignia would be awesome. You may even thing about putting it on your left pec where they are on the uniform and when you have your shirt off, you can pat your chest and say things like “One to beam down… If you know what I mean.”

    And yes, there is pain, but it’s not much worse than a scrape falling off your bike. The worst bit is the first minute or two because your endorphins kick in and you get used to it.

  32. Klingon tattoos present an interesting challenge to me, because I am a Klingon-speaker and a stickler for getting conlangs *right*, and because – as with Chinese hanzi and Tolkien’s elven languages – a lot of the Klingon tattoos out there are just wrong by my standard.

    So, when I seen incorrect Klingon tattoo (like a pIqaD text with the word «qapla», rather than «Qapla’»), my initial instinct is to politely point that out … but then I pause, because no matter how polite I try to be, the fact is that I’ll likely be irrevocably changing their perception of that mark they’ve permanently etched into their skin:

    If I don’t tell them, they can go on being proud of their awesome tattoo, and the odds that anybody will ever notice the error is slim to none (as opposed to a Chinese tattoo, where the odds are quite high that somebody will).
    On the other hand, if I do point it out, there isn’t really mch they can do about it anyway, but they may become really self-conscious about it, even around people who would never know the difference between an accurate Klingon text and an inaccurate one.

    So, I end up holding my tongue (except one time when a guy specifically asked me if his tattoo was correct and, sadly, I had to inform him that it wasn’t). However, every now and then I do manage to intervene before a person gets the thing printed, which always feels good.

    The moral of this story (I hope): DIrlIjDaq Hol nov mu’mey DaghItlhpa’, DuboQ po’wI’ ‘e’ yItlhob! ‘ach po’wI’ SoHchugh, ‘eDjen yIDaQo’!
    (Before writing foreign words on your skin, consult an expert! But if you are an expert, don’t be an ‘eDjen!)

  33. As someone in his 30’s with a few several tattoos now (and more planned), let me relate my experiences:

    * Pain: it doesn’t really “hurt” so much as it does nip/feel like the worst need to itch you’ve ever had… think the initial “ouch” of getting a jab. At least, that’s what it was like for me 5 times out of 6 (including chest, inner bicep, and tricep – all notorious “ouch” points) – everyone is different, and different areas are more sensitive. My first tattoo was painful to begin with, mostly due to the rubbish tattooist, but also cos he was going over a boney part (forearm), but after a while your body chemistry kicks in and you get a natural high. There’s a chance you’ll bleed a little, but the better the artist, the less likely this is. Most the time what you think is blood is just excess ink. A good artist will also go at your pace, giving you a chance to adjust to the sensation of the needle.

    * Subject matter – make it personal, and make it true to yourself. On first glance, someone might think most of my tattoos are very much vanity/nerdy tattoos. But each one means something deeper than first appearances suggest, and some are very personal. Most of the time I don’t want to go into the meanings, so I give the person the “surface” answer as a deflection. A good artist will be able to take an idea, expand on it, and make it awesome and unique. Which leads me on to…

    * Artist. Do your research. Find the guy who most people recommend by word of mouth. Visit the shop before you commit, and have a chat with the staff beforehand. Look at examples of their work. You should feel comfortable with the artist, and sure he’ll do a damn good job. I didn’t do this with my first tattoo, because I didn’t want to deal with the waiting lists that go with the good artists, and you can tell the difference in quality at a glance. Now I go to a shop I have to get up at 5am just to be in with a chance of getting inked that day (many of the best guys are walk-in, first-come-first-served only, even for continuing work). Many artists have a particular style they specialise at, so bear that in mind when picking.

    * Afterwards. The healing process of a tattoo isn’t always pleasant, though I seem to have lucked out most of the time and it’s not been bad. After a day or two it will scab over and look terrible. It will itch like crazy for 1-2 weeks. Whatever you do, never itch it. Apply lots of maximum-factor sunblock. Nappy rash ointment is your best friend for healing it up well! Apply twice a day for 2 weeks, then once a day for a further 2 weeks. You might find you also get cold-like symptoms after a few days… this isn’t unusual, and it passes pretty quick in most cases.

    Overall, I heartily recommend anyone who has been thinking about it to go get a tattoo, as long as they aren’t rushing into it just for “the look”. Personally speaking, I find it very therapeutic to get inked; most of mine have come at the end of major depressive episodes in my life. They have provided both a touchstone for me to reconcile how I was feeling, and helped draw a line under it, so I can move on… but again, that’s just me! Sitting in the waiting area, you soon find everyone has very different reasons and feelings about tattoos!

    If you do decide to go ahead, good luck!

  34. I got my first tattoo this past July at age 44 because like you, I wanted to make sure the image I chose was one I was willing to have emblazoned on my skin for the rest of my life. When I found the perfect image (a skull and crossbones made out of a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles), it still took me a while to work up the nerve to get inked, but now that I have, I have zero regrets!

    I got it on my left leg just above my ankle where I can see it, and I absolutely love it. It’s a relatively small design, and it took all of 20 minutes to get done; the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. It hurt, sure, but not that bad, and watching the artist work actually helped because it distracted me.

    So I say if you’ve found the right image, go for it!

  35. Woot! Finally a topic I know more than you about! :) I have a very large and (if I do say so myself) beautiful tattoo on my right thigh of a tree growing from the back of a turtle and an infinity symbol, a night sky with the Pleiades, and two fantasy birds. (It’s complex and deep; so am I.) I got it in my mid-30’s, after much consideration. (Props to my tattoo artist, Bek Huston, of Heathen Ink, for doing such a great job.)
    I love my tattoo. It’s been a couple of years and I still love it and I will love it always. I intend to get more; tattoos in honor of my children and probably my spouse. (OMG! I just finally resolved what I was going to get! Woot! Yay, inspiration! (A hand of cards (ace, queen, and two jacks of hearts plus a joker) in a garter belt on my other thigh; our song is The Gambler.))
    ANYWAY, get a tattoo. Don’t worry about size too much; make sure the design is something you love, that comes from your heart or your soul, and you will never regret it. Seriously, do not worry about the pain. Get into an interesting conversation with the artist or a friend while it’s being done and it’ll be FINE.
    Oh, and, yes, don’t pick someplace you can’t see it fairly easily. Those places are best for when you run out of space or for a tattoo that is only for other people to see. (There are such things!) Avoid the tenderest places on your first go. (I am not looking forward to getting that garter belt all the way around my thigh, let me tell you!) If you go with the upper arm, remember that there’s a fair bit of moving around you can do there; sort of dead middle is a classic, but you might want it higher, especially if you are thinking of a sleeve down the road.
    Also, don’t worry too much about needing to cover it; I’m sure you are well aware that make-up has come miles and you could easily have it covered for a role. Plus, if you are speaking from your soul with it, you won’t care anyway.

  36. i got my first tattoo at 28. got my second last year at 41. i’m slowly working on an armband and have an appointment on tuesday for the next piece. it takes me a while to figure out what the next part will be because it has to feel right to me, and then i have the artist tell me all kinds of “you don’t want that because when the ink spreads out it will look awful,” and “that’s too much detail,” and then i have to modify the idea and go back and forth with the artist until we are both happy with the design. and just expect that in 10-20 years or so you may want to get touch-ups. my first is in need of serious touching up (reds tend to fade faster i’m told), but the worn-out version can be found on carl zimmer’s science tattoo emporium.

    the pain is really only bad over areas with very little flesh like ankle bones and tendons. mostly it’s just like a bad scratch that keeps on going. try to avoid aspirin based products and alcohol as they are blood thinners and will make it bleed more. follow the healing instructions to the letter. POIDH!

  37. Your life cries out for a coat of arms. Rampant rescue pup, dice, TNG insignia, Don’t be a Dick slogan …

    Maybe someone can design it so that you can have it done in pieces that stand alone – oh man, crisscrossed railroad tracks instead of swords – so you can have it done in pieces.

  38. My mother got her first tattoo about 2 years ago. She is approaching 60. If a tattoo is something special to you, something that makes you happy, then get it. All art is personal and you need not make any justifications to anyone but yourself :)

  39. Wil, I got my first tattoo (a heyiya-if) at 49, and it took me 10 years to work up the courage to get it. But I did, and have no regrets, except that I wish I had found a better artist. Today, I am working on the design for my third one, and might break my ‘no color’ and ‘no easily visible’ personal taboo.

    I’ve decided that any new tattoo I get must be beautiful, unique, and genuine art, which means they won’t be cheap. Both the ones I have are from the ‘future’ and not easily identifiable unless you’re either an Ursula K. LeGuin fan, or a Star Trek fan (my second one is Vulcan calligraphy, and it does NOT say ‘live long and prosper’). This makes selecting it a rather lengthy process, and getting it done expensive, but the feedback is worth it.

    A tattoo is a walking artistic statement of who you are (at the time it was applied). If it takes you a while to make a choice, that’s good. Just make sure you find an artist who will do your idea justice, and you will not regret it, and you’ll join the rest of us permanently inked-up wretches.

  40. I teach social studies – so I considered a compass rose – ok, yeah, dorky, but after both of my sisters came home with ink, I promised my mother she would not have three tattooed children.

  41. My first and only tattoo was on my 21st birthday. It took me 5 years of contemplation to get that one, and I still love it. 13 years later, and I’m finalizing my ideas for my second tattoo. I think it’s a really good thing to be deliberate in your decision making process. I look at so many tattoos and just wonder…are they really gonna love that in another 20 years? Tattoos are simultaneously very personal experiences, but they can also be a proclamation to the world. It’s also kind of neat to get it at a turning point in your life, as a reminder of a time & a place.

    Also, they’re a pretty wicked adrenaline rush. Have fun :)

  42. You should really mess with people’s minds and get a Star Wars tattoo.

    I’m 42 and still tattoo-curious – I’ve been thinking about getting one for ages, I mean about 4 years, know where it’ll be and everything (wrist), but it’s got to be The Perfect Design or I’ll be glaring at it for the rest of my life.

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