“Everyone’s doing it,” Francesca (Fran) says. “It’s our turn.”
My friend Fran and I decide it’s time to take a walk on the wild side. She nabs her husband’s Visa card, and I pawn a ring to pay for a tattoo.
Of course, our first concern is exactly what does one wear to get a tattoo? After lunch at a sushi bar and much soul searching, Fran opts for a lovely little ensemble that cries out brunch at the country club, while I, in sneakers and still wearing a sweaty towel around my neck after a workout at the gym, look like Kung Fu Smurf.
We’re in my Hyundai because Fran doesn’t want to drive her luxury Lexus to THAT side of town. I mean, think about it! The girl is about to become a permanent piece of pincushion art, and she’s worried about a dimple in her door?
“You got your stuff?” I ask, removing my Neosporin ointment from the glove compartment.
“Yeah, got it.”
Fran forks over her tube of prescription anesthetic the urologist used on her husband during some minor surgery.
“I can’t remember the exact medical term for the procedure,” Fran says, while I read the label. “But basically, they Roto-Rootered his pee-pee, and he never felt a thing.”
Something that will numb a pee-pee is good enough for me.
“So, what’d your hubby say about you getting a tattoo?” I ask, smearing both ointments on my cheek.
“He says tattoos are trashy, sleazy and low class,” Fran replies, taking the tube and rubbing some salve on her ankle. “It really turns him on.”
Giddy, we’ve kissed the suburbs goodbye and begin our journey across the great age and cultural divide.
Painted across the blackened store front, right above the skull and crossbones, is written “Tattoos, Body Piercing & Tarot Card Readings.”
There’s a definite sinking feeling in my stomach, and then I realize I’ve stepped into a pothole.
“Gee!” Fran says, jumping to the side to miss the crater. “You’d think someone would open a tattoo parlor in the mall.”
“Yeah, right between Macy’s and The Disney Store,” I reply.
“Well, lookie here,” Fran says. “There’s a lawyer’s office next door.”
I’m assuming this is supposed to somehow heighten the credibility of the establishment, but it’s going to take a lot more than a reputable tattoo parlor to raise my opinion of lawyers.
Dodging broken beer bottles, we stumble around to the side door.
“Are you numb yet?” I ask, checking her ankle.
“Can’t feel a thing,” Fran says, pinching my cheek.
“Let’s do it!”
The door jangles shut behind us. And while we girls politely avert our eyes from the pierced and tattooed proprietors, they stare at us like we’re wearing edible clothing. One young woman has her shirt pulled up, and, in plain sight, is getting her breasts tattooed.
“Take a look around,” one of them finally says, pointing to the walls papered from ceiling to floor with drawings. “We’ve got every design in the world.”
“We want the Christian fish,” Fran and I speed-speak in unison.
After a brief conference, the illustrator comes up with a sketch that passes Fran’s approval. I decide to go with my first inclination: a beauty mark to look like Marilyn Monroe.
He starts the tattoo drill thingamabob — BUZZ, BUZZ — on my face, and I nearly faint.
“Looks great,” he says, turning to Fran and patting his knee. “Put her here.”
Fran throws her foot in his lap like a pro. “Nice pedicure,” he says, as he pulls on a fresh pair of latex gloves with a snap.
He starts the tattoo gizmo again — BUZZ, BUZZ — and Fran yells, “STOP!”
Fran, figuring a visible tattoo might not be the best accessory for the career of an electrical engineer, decides to get hers on her hip. Modestly wiggling her slacks to bikini level, she stretches out across the chair.
“How’s it look?” she asks, straining to see her little fish.
“Looks great!” the illustrator says, lighting a cigarette. “And the tattoo turned out pretty good, too.”
Thrill behind us, we’re almost home. Fran’s pants are around her knees, and she’s fanning her fanny. And I, as Fran so eloquently put it, look like I’ve got a permanent ketchup stain on my face.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.