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When I’m at the gym, it seems like I’m the only guy who doesn’t have a tattoo. I’ve thought about it before, but when I was last considering it I just haven’t had something meaningful enough to me. I’m not the tribal tattoo sort so I wanted something meaningful. That was awhile back, and since then I’ve gotten married to an incredible woman. She doesn’t have any tattoos either, but we’re both considering getting something that represents the other.
I was thinking a classic and plain diving swallow on the inside of my upper arm because her nickname since she was a kid has been “bird.”
But is a tattoo at this point just cliche? It would show if I was wearing a short sleeved shirt. Also, I’m 36 years old.
I’m new to the advice column game, but I suspect everyone else in this business would write back to you and say: Don’t ever get a tattoo that has the name, face, or symbol of someone with whom you’re romantically involved. Never. Ever. Ever.
I also think neither Dear Abby nor Carolyn Hax has a tattoo. I do…perhaps more than one…So I understand wanting to tattoo your skin. There’s something primal and kick-ass about sitting in a chair for two hours while some sketchy-looking dude runs a needle over your back. It hurts like hell, but it’s also part of the initiation into the society of inked persons. And when it’s all over, you have something beautiful and hopefully–unless it’s 4 a.m. and you’re in Vegas–meaningful that will remain on your skin forever. Maybe it’s a symbol of your religion or your children’s initials. Whatever it is, it’s the ultimate statement of individuality and style.
I even understand the impulse to indelibly link yourself to your partner. What could be more romantic? People should go into marriage with only the best intentions, a commitment to being with one’s spouse for the rest of one’s life–and it sounds like that’s absolutely what you did. But the closest couple in the world is at risk of separation, whether by death or temptation, conflicts due to financial stresses or family drama, and yes, even plain old changed feelings. No love is safe from everything.
On to the specifics of your question: I don’t think there’s an age limit on getting a tattoo. There’s nothing about being 36 that would make it a “cliche” or inappropriate or pathetic (unlike, say, still wearing your high school letter jacket). But, I’m intrigued by this line: “When I’m at the gym, it seems like I’m the only guy who doesn’t have a tattoo.” That, to me, sounds like you just feel left out of the tattoo club–which is NOT a good reason to get one.
I don’t want to tell you to not get the tattoo just because it’s related to your wife. Few are things are permanent in our lives, and any tattoo could become a source of regret. The Christian who gets a cross on his forearm may become an Atheist ten years later; the Bob Dylan fan who gets a lyric on his calf may get sick of explaining its significance to everyone. Perhaps it’s only necessary that you realize that committing to a tattoo is a leap of faith. It requires the sincere belief that you will continue to value what you find important today, important in the future as well…which when you think about it, is the exact same faith required to commit to marriage.