We were 18 years old and totally allowed by law to get ink done, but our mom had already said in passing that if we ever got tattoos, she would PERSONALLY drive us to Children’s Hospital to get a Tetanus shot.
“Children’s hospital?” we said, unamused. “We’re 18 years old.”
“STILL!” our mom said. “They wouldn’t turn you away.”
She saw my tattoo first.
Joy said it’s because I never bothered to pull my pants up, which is true.
(Joy would routinely mouth “TATTOO” and make gestures with her hand from across the room, after I bent down to feed the family dog.)
“What is that?” my mom asked one day when she was visiting me in college.
I was standing, bent over the desk in my bedroom reading an email, and my lower back was exposed.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: Our tattoos were done light years before the movie Wedding Crashers was made and the term "tramp stamp" existed.)
“It’s Henna,” I said immediately, surprised by the genuis of my lie.
“WHATS. HENNA.” my mom said as I pulled up my pants.
“It’s…like temporary ink,” I said.
“No, that’s real!!” she said, walking over to inspect my lower back. I ran to the other side of the room.
“Tattooing isn’t even allowed in South Carolina!” I said. “You can’t even get one here! So how could it be real?”
(Answer: We got them done in New Orleans, during the summer we came home after our first year of college. Also, they have since changed the law in South Carolina. They have tattoo shops...but only in industrial zones.)
Somehow my mom believed me then, or ignored it, until she saw Joy’s tattoo by accident one day, months later.
“It’s…Henna,” Joy said, because I had told her what I had said, and we needed identical stories for our identical tattoos.
“I looked up Henna on the internet and it’s supposed to go away after a few weeks,” our mom said.
“Um.. I keep getting it redone,” Joy responded. Ha.
The issue was dropped again.
Years later, probably after a few beers, we finally admitted that OMG mom, yes they are real tattoos and no, we did NOT get them done in an alley with dirty, broken needles.
The guy that did my tattoo had a tattoo on his face and neck, though.
It was a tattoo of a hand, coming up his neck looking like it was grabbing the side of his face, the way someone would do to you in a threatening manner.
(Take your right hand and grab the left side of your face...with your wrist by your neck and your thumb on your cheek. It had long nails. Creepy.)
I asked the guy who had such a hold on him that he would need to get a tattoo like that (the devil?) and he told me it was none of my damn business. Ha. WHO HURT YOU??? I wanted to ask while shaking him.
Joy and I flipped a coin to determine which one of our friends would go with us in the tattoo room (only one friend allowed per twin).
And then I was up first, and I straddled a chair so my
“Hold your breath,” I heard the man with the face tattoo say.
He started the whir of the machine and it didn’t really hurt at all, except for the swiggles in the lower case cursive "j’s" Joy had drawn for us.
“What are you doing?” face tattoo asked me a minute later.
“Holding my breath,” I said, still holding my breath.
“I said DON’T hold your breath!” he said. “You’ll pass out!”
I exhaled and then freaked out a little about how I’M GONNA PASS OUT? REALLY??? But I never did.
When he was done, I actually felt an odd sense of empowerment, more alive than before I was inked.
As such, I pumped Joy up appropriately. “I doesn’t hurt at all!!!” I said. “Piece of freaking cake!!!”
Joy straddled the chair.
Yet, once the whir started, all Joy could do was cry.
She buried her face into our friend’s armpit who was standing in front of her. She whimpered, and her tattoo started to bleed, where mine had not.
“Excuse me…sir...,” our friend cradling Joy’s face said. “Is there a way you could maybe take a little break?”
“No.” he said immedialtey.
I realized he must have thought Joy was the biggest wuss ever for fussing over two squiggly J’s, and he had an entire hand on his face. With nails.
Joy survived thank GOD, and our matching tats are still looking good even after ten years.
(Joy obsessively puts sunscreen on hers because she said she’s NOT getting it retouched.)
I told her she could always just keep getting Henna in its place.
Our mom would love it.