I’ve been thinking about tattoos.

I have one already. It’s the poor choice of a young girl who just so happened to fall prey to peer pressure. If you must know, it’s a butterfly on my upper/back hip, and due to its location, is rarely seen by most people. I’m grateful for that as I’m not that fond of it. I never got it colored in and it has blurred a bit with the passing of time (almost 18 years). I’ve thought about getting it covered over with something else but nothing has come to mind yet.

I love hearing the story behind the tattoo. The meaning. I’m particularly moved when it is in remembrance of someone dear. My butterfly one has no real story, or at least, not one I like. I went with 3 friends to a tattoo shop so they could all get them. One got a shooting star or half moon (or both?) on her ankle. Another got a sunflower she drew on her pelvis (hi Jenny Two Times!). And my boyfriend at the time got Super Grover on his arm. When I questioned him about permanently inking a Sesame Street character on his arm and how, maybe when he was older he’d regret it, he said to me, “Super Grover will always be cool.” I hope that is still true for him. (And I am relieved we are no longer a couple.)

Mostly I’m thinking about them because I am hoping to get another for my 38th birthday (April 18th if you haven’t marked you calendars). I’m imagining the one I’ve been dreaming of for a couple of years now which I’ve alluded to here before. The one I (almost) feel ready to get. But I am torn because I also love the idea of getting a word tattoo. I’ve seen some really lovely ones and I think they are powerful. But then again, I am a lover of words. So I’m considering combining the two somehow. Lucky for me, I have an artist boyfriend who will draw it for me.

I am wondering – if you had to get a word or symbol tattooed on your body, what would it be? And why?



43 thoughts on “Permanent

  1. I have three.
    – The 18 year old $50, I’m gonna be cool tattoo that I regret to this day.
    – The second was a ‘real’ tattoo. A Celtic armband with my initials on the inside of the arm that took 8 hours. I am not Irish. Why I chose this? No Clue, but it is a ‘real’ tattoo.
    – The third is what I feel a tattoo is all about. A friend left us too soon. He was a graffiti artist and he had an amazing tag. A couple of friends got it on the inside of our left arm next to our hearts. Each one was a tiny bit different based on different versions of his tag.

    To answer your question I will be covering up the first one with my kid’s baby footprints walking up towards my heart.

  2. Funny you should ask . . .

    I have 6 (kind of. Some I got at different times, but they are kind of one). They all mean something to me, such as the stars I got for my newphews or the “Sisters” symbol my sister and I both have.

    Next Tuesday, her and I are getting 3 new tattoos each. 2 of mine are Angelic Symbols, meaning “Truth” and “Honesty”. These words and their meanings have played such a HUGE role in my life these last few years and I love the thought of having those symbols on me every day.

    I can’t wait to see what you decide to get!

  3. I have 2, and both are symbols of life changes I was going thru at the time(s) I got them. I don’t regret my tats, but I do wish I had gotten them in different areas. I work in an accounting office where we have lots of little old people clients that I don’t want to offend, and it sucks that I can’t wear tank tops in the summer because the tattoos would show. I really want another one, something to represent my heritage (Irish Cherokee). I’ve thought about getting a tribal tattoo and changing an element of it to an Irish symbol.

  4. Hey Sizzle!

    Thought I’d share mine:

    An explanation of the 9 kanji on my back and why.

    There are many ways to look at why someone would get a particular tattoo, from the ultra-personal (“This is a portrait of my child”) to “I thought the zombie fetus astronaut would look GREAT on my arm!”

    I’ve seen some tattoos that are SO ridiculous, I find myself embarrassed for the complete stranger with the horrifying (not in a good way) ink. (Like the Human Centipede tattoo)

    The Human Centipede guy had his reasons. Just like I had my reasons for the kanji. I have to respect his headspace with regards to his footie freakshow. Me, I’m a ‘very personal tattoo’ kind of girl. Capricorn tat on right ankle, Rat kanji on left ankle, Skinny Puppy logo on upper left arm and the aforementioned spinal kanji.

    My tattoos are so personal to me, when someone asks what they all mean, I tend to glaze over it really quick. I hate talking about my tattoos, especially with strangers, because the meanings and stories behind them are so deeply personal…I just can’t share with anyone on the street.

    I HAVE TO get tattoos that are meaningful, as my personality and astrology combine to make me deadly serious about my beliefs and experiences. Even the dermal implants I’m planning to get for my wrists have incredibly important meaning to me.

    The act of putting ink under my skin or piercing or modifying a part of my body is a moment of intense reflection, rememberance and introspection, and the pain of the process is a necessary final acknowledgement of the pain of learning and growth that resulted from the time/era/act/idea/person being commemorated. And then, finally, I can move on from the thing being commemorated with a clean slate, with a new area of reflection on my body.

    That’s a LONG answer, I know.

    I guess the nutshell is: for me, the act of choosing the tattoo or mod, understanding and evaluating why, choosing the artist and venue, the mental place I go during the process and the moving forward is all very important.

    Sizzle, if you’ve had an idea in your mind, and/or dreams about it, likely it is a really good idea for marking yourself with. 🙂

    To wrap up, for all the writers reading this, here are some incredible literary tattoos, enjoy!

  5. L’Chaim. It means “to life” in Hebrew. I have countless personal connections to the word and the number associated with the word (18). And I like to think I live my life for life, if that makes sense. Great question today.

  6. Almost 10 years ago, I had the word “Revolution” tattooed on the top part of my wrist, with a bracelet design on the underside. At the time, I was fresh out of social work school – fired up and ready to change the world. I was also doing a lot of poetry at open mic nights and “Revolution” was the title of the last poem I performed before I left St. Louis. I got the tattoo about a week before I went to go work for the Federal government. I got it as a reminder that although I was going to work for “the man” that I wouldn’t forget my creative, social work, community-based roots.

    Fast forward 10 years: I no longer with the Feds. I live in the suburbs. I do wonky policy work that is largely disconnected from actual people. I haven’t written a poem in about 5 years – and wouldn’t dare get on a stage to speak one. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, but I don’t have any regrets when I look at my wrist and hope for some of the fire to return to my spirit.

    I’ve been thinking about getting another tattoo on my other wrist. It would say “Grace” – I know I need a lot of it and need to get a lot better at giving it to others.

  7. I’m not a fan of tattoos. I once experimented with a henna tattoo and would try that again. But the whole permanency of a real ink tattoo doesn’t work for me, I think after sometime I would change my mind and regret it. A word sounds nice, but then there’s the whole issue of labeling I really don’t like, so I guess that would be out for me too. I don’t know, I think you should pick something that reflects your soul, that way, even if/when your body changes you will identify with the image/word because your soul will have remain the same. I don’t know if I’m making any sense here… but in any case, hope it turns out great!

  8. Sadly, I only currently have my sister tattoo (an ancient Germanic symbol representing a full year) but I have plans for a tattoo representing my sweet 6 year old pup, a childhood favourite that has remained with me throughout 20+ years, and I actually have plans for a half-sleeve/backpiece I would LOVELOVELOVE to get completed before I die.
    I LOVE word tattoos! I think they’re gorgeous! Here are two of my favourite tattoo websites: –it’s not been updated recently, but what is there are beautiful literary tattoos
    and of course the ever wonderful –I check it almost daily.

  9. I have a tattoo on my lower back/upper hip of a crescent moon and stars. I got it when I was in college. The symbol doesn’t have any deep meaning, I just really like it. I always said I would get a tattoo when I turned 21. So I did. It’s not the most beautiful or well-done tattoo but I have great memories of getting it and I would never cover it up.

    I have the word “spot” tattoo on the top of my left foot. Spot was the first dog my husband and I adopted together. This is my tribute to him.

    I have plans to get more tattoos, probably on my back. Paw prints with the first letter of my dogs’ first names in an abstract font in the middle. My dogs have all changed my life in some way and I want my body to reflect that.

  10. I have two tattoos — one on the top of my foot, which is just a silly little star — my college girlfriends and I all got different tats in the same place when we were freshmen.

    But I have another one on the small of my back and it has a great story. I worked for a small event planning company right after college, and the owner / president, Karen, was basically my hero. She was just amazing and I admired her so much and learned so much from her. The day of our holiday party, which was scheduled for 5 PM at her home, she gathered us all in the conference room and handed out envelopes… each containin $200 in cash, with the instructions of “you have the afternoon off — go spend this. You must spend it on yourselves. No gifts, no bills, no donations… be back at my place at 5 PM with something to show for it.”

    I was the youngest person in the company and DETERMINED to do something outrageous — so I spent half of it on stuff for my apartment (perfect – I was right out of school!), and the other half on a tattoo on my lower back. It is the Japanese symbol for the word “Soul,” which I got because Karen always believed in doing everything with soul.

    A year later, she passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer, so while I did not get the tattoo for that reason, it now has a even more meaning. My only wish is that it WAS in a place where I could see it so that I remembered more often to “do it with soul.”

  11. I’m not sure there’s anything that I’d want on my body FOREVER, but I’ve always thought if I did, I’d get the Pisces symbol (the “H,” not the fish), because well, I’m a Pisces, and the symbol is also the first letter in my name, so it has a double meaning.

  12. As an artist I have thought about a tattoo but never got one because I am always changing. Thankfully I never got dancing bears around my belly button. 😉

  13. This post makes me so happy. Because I am SO EXCITED for you to do this and I KNOW It’s going to be amazing and beautiful. The story, and the process, and the tattoo itself, too.

    I love Cayly’s Margaret Atwood quote (“A word after a word after a word is power”) and it’s been a line that was in her life for years and years. I have a few of those, but loving words as much as I do (and various stories and poems and such), I think I might have the hardest time choosing one (or a full sentence) to commit to my skin, because there are just so! many options.

    I actually wonder if someone I might get E.E. Cumming’s “for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” I don’t imagine I will ever stop loving that, and I definitely want an ocean-themed tattoo (or twelve), but water is one of those things that’s as equally hard to draw as it is to tattoo.

    Some days it’s hard to believe I have seven! tattoos. And then other days it’s hard to believe I don’t have a full sleeve yet.

  14. I have three, and only one of them means anything to me. If I was to get another, the word/symbol would be/mean ‘strength’. Because I hope I have it — in character, conviction, friendships, will, life, etc.

  15. I have “Love, v.” tattooed on my right deltoid. I’ve never regretted it. I plan to get another soon. 🙂

    DO IT. 😉

  16. I have a small tattoo on my lower back that I don’t love. I got it when I was 22, right after I graduated college, and it seemed like such a great idea at the time. (It’s a green balance symbol, for my astrological sign.) I’ve been toying with the idea of getting something else, in a totally different place, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll have that same regret with a new tattoo, too. I would think not, since what I want to do is much more special to me than my other tattoo, but there is still that lingering doubt. Maybe it’s like with everything else in life — when it’s right, you’ll just know.

  17. I read all the time, but I never comment. What does it say about me that a post about tattoos gets me to finally comment?

    I have two literary tattoos I’m thinking of getting. One from a book and one from a poem. I would love to get “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird for multiple reasons. First, it’s one of the greatest classics. One of the few books I was forced to read for school that I straight up adored. And… it’s my mother’s absolute favorite book. It would be a tribute to her and her love of words and so many other things I could say about her. Sadly, she hates tattoos. But she loves me, so she would accept it as part of me.

    The poem is Consummation of Grief by Charles Bukoski and the line is “I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead”. It just strikes a cord in me, makes my mind stop and contemplate. It also addresses my complicated feelings and adventures with Death.

    So I just need to find a place to get a new tattoo that isn’t completely obvious and won’t stretch or wrinkle much. Good luck there, right?

    Also, I love hearing the stories behind tattoos as well. I can listen for hours!

  18. I have a sun with an ocean wave behind it and a moon with stars swirling around it. The moon means more to me because of my name coming from the Roman goddess of the moon…also, FYI, Tori and I have that exact same tattoo. SO WEIRD. (I found the picture online, but not of Tori specifically, just the tattoo in general).
    My friend Heather has the Bulgarian word for peace on her wrist, because she served there in the peace corp. I think that is cool. I have thought many times about getting the om symbol, but I think I might be done with tattoos.

  19. I have the triple goddess tattoo on the back of my neck. It’s symbolic of the goddess that lies within me (and every woman) at each stage of her life. It also reflects my personal belief system.

    On my left inner wrist I have a black widow. The meaning behind that is personal, but I will say no- I don’t kill my mates, though the thought has crossed my mind on occassion! LOL.

    My brother has drawn up a bursting sun flare that all of us siblings are going to get tattooed on ourselves. He is just making some finishing touches.

    Also, my children were both born cesarian, so I would like to have their names tattooed along the scar. Something pretty.

    My tattoos are all meaningful, and I think long and hard on whether or not to get them. It took me 12 years to get the spider on my wrist. The goddess symbol I did not contemplate on for very long, but it’s meaning is deeply wound in my soul, so it was kind of a no-brainer.

  20. Out of my many, I have “Strength” tattooed as part of a modified sacred heart on my left leg. Got it after my divorce in 2004 and it’s a reminder of where I was and what I’m capable of. 🙂

  21. I have 3 and have never regretted any of them for a minute. My last is the word intuition…it’s on my back. It’s to remind me to always trust that little voice that’s never wrong.

  22. I only have one SO FAR. It’s a modified taijitu, in turquoise and purple, with hearts where the dots usually are. I got it in celebration of my marriage (my birthstone is turquoise, Bret’s is amethyst). Every element of the design (which I created on my computer for the artist to follow) has symbolism to us.

    I have a wonderful psychedelic sun design I’ve kept since high school, planning *someday* to have it tattooed on the back of my shoulder. That may happen very soon, as the sun has recently assumed a major symbolic role in my creative rebirth.

    I LOVE the literary tattoos!

  23. I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but have always wanted one. My “dream” tattoo is a bird (comic) one wing aloft, with feathers up/down in a decorative and meaningful pattern. If that didn’t work, I’d want the bird upside down, mid-air, over a frying pan.

    Bluntly, I’ve always dreamed of having a tattoo of a bird ‘flipping the bird’.

    It’s probably best that I avoid getting tattoos. I’m clearly not mature enough to own one.

  24. I have a small heart tattoo that I got when I was 19. It didn’t have any significance (just wanted a tatoo) and it’s in a place that no one except my husband sees it. If I ever get the tummy tuck I so desperately need after having twins, it will be gone. I don’t regret getting it, but I’m not terribly attached to it either.
    I have another tattoo planned, though I’m still stuck on a final design. It will be a hummingbird and possibly some cherry blossoms. Hummingbirds were my mother’s favorite and everytime I see one, I think of her. I realize that cherry blossoms are a popular tattoo choice, and I originally shyed away from them because of that, but reconsidered when I looked into the symbolism (particularly the Japanese symbolism). It seems to fit.

  25. I have two. The first I got in NYC in a seedy joint, it’s an Egyptian Ankh, a symbol of fertility and eternity on my back just above my right kidney. It’s not a fabulous job. But I love the memory of going to NYC alone to meet people I’d met of the Internet. It was 1996, that thing just wasn’t done then.

    The second is a Jamaican-style sun on my back. I was going to get Rah, but couldn’t find any representation of him I liked. This sun I still really really love. It’s on the back of my neck.

    Right now, I’d love a piece that would go from the my shoulder to my knee. I just need to figure out what… I’m thinking a vine or flowers of some sort… maybe a leaf being blown in the wind. Dunno.

    I love tattoos. I love looking at tattoos. The only ones I find really repulsive are tattoos on hands. It’s just skeevy.

  26. After my mom died, I had a dream that she was drawing a mermaid on my chest. Later I found an actual picture of a mermaid she drew and got it tattooed on my ankle (sorry mom, but I don’t want a tattoo in any area that will only sag more as I get older). If you want some ideas of what not to get (and some entertainment), check out

  27. I want a tattoo, I’ve had a few ideas floating around in journals and what not. Biggest factor holding me back right now, the money. Someday.

  28. I’ve never got a tattoo. It just never really appealed to me. But if I did get one it would say “Tajar” on the underside of my right wrist. Because Tajar is the name of the guy who lives in my head and writes all the wonderful stories in my mind 🙂

    I’m looking forward to hearing what your new one is going to be… I’m very intrigued 🙂

  29. Diane and I have the same tattoo, I say you get a matching one and we can all be super cool. I am totally kidding about that, we coincidentally have the same tattoo and while that is cool, I would never have done it on purpose to be matchy matchy with someone.

    I want another one and have been thinking about it for years. I was chosen for Miami Ink and then had to cancel because of surgery. When I was ready to go they had gotten pretty popular and didn’t need me because they had famous people that wanted to be on. I am actually thankful that I had to cancel because I have no idea now what I would want and might have gotten something I regret. If I ever decide what to get, or my kids ever draw me a picture that isn’t gigantic I will get another one. I wish I had an artist boyfriend. I can’t wait to see what you decide!

  30. As a soon to be nurse, wedding rings have a certain ick factor (it went where?), so I’ve considered getting the Hebrew word “beloved” in my ring finger. My wife and I have the saying “I am my beloved, and my beloved is mine.” inscribed in our rings and I love the sentiment of it. Compounding factors are that even though it is only 3 letters, that is hard to do on a finger, and as a Jew tattoos are kinda verboten.

  31. To me, tattoos are like the color pink. People love or hate them, seems to be no middle ground. I have no tattoos, no plans for one, but if I had to pick something, I’d get a blue crab. I’m a Cancer and grew up on the Eastern Shore of MD, so it’d be fitting for a couple of reasons. I will say that I absolutely hate when I can’t tell what a tattoo is on someone. I don’t expect to know the meaning, won’t even ask, but I’d at least like to be able to appreciate the artwork.

  32. i love (my) tattoos. i have five. the classical 18 y/o one on my ankle that i don’t love (any more) for how it looks like but will always love for how happy it made me at the time and how it reminds me of the day i went to get it (with a good friend to this day).

    #2 was drawn by a friend in MN and i got it done on my last day there to always remember the best year of my life. it’s on my right shoulder blade so i don’t see it very often myself.

    #3 i got for my 30th b-day. two stars on the inside of my right arm just below the elbow. i got those because i love stars and thought it was cute. still do. no deeper meaning to that one.

    now my most recent and most precious ones: the words “true happiness lies within” which i got during the last week of a six week clinic stay (for depression) last summer and the five swallows i got in december in honor of my dad who would have been 70 a couple of days later.

    i love all of them but the last two are very conciously very visible and reminders of a tough (and important!) journey i was (am) on since the end of 2009.

    here are all my tattoos. and here’s more about the most recent one.

  33. I have 3 that I designed myself. And I waited a long long long time to get them. My first was done on 12/4/2004. I just realized at that moment that I did NOT need a MAN to fulfill my life and I was tired of ALL fucktits on this planet (Channeling Bridget Jones). So I designed a broken peace sign, with my childhood nickname written in teal blue in the center…and had the words: Strength, Truth, Wisdom, Laughter written around the black broken peace sign. This one is located on my lower back.

    The 2nd one was done 2/2006 and it’s teeny tiny on my inside ankle on my right ankle… it’s off a stick girl with long curly hair holding a teeny tiny yellow star standing on a half moon…with the words “I am a moonchild.”

    And lastly my third…when my art company became trademarked in Wash DC …I got a cartoon version of myself that I drew on my left outer calf leg with my company name above my cartoon self and my name below.

    I always said if I was ever murdered and cut to pieces, someone would be able to ID myself if they held up that part of the leg 🙂

    I regret none of them and would like to add a 4th.

  34. I probably will never actually get a tattoo, but I have thought about what I would get done if I chose to go there.

    Symbol: I’m a math geek, so it would be a colorful unit circle. Boring to many, beautiful to me.

    Word: above my c-section scar, my daughter’s name-cision, as is “Sizzle-cision.”

  35. I have three:
    – A small cross on the inside of my right forearm. It was my first tattoo shortly after I turned 18. I grew up Catholic and, though I’m not actively practicing, it’s still a big part of my life. I had seen something on one of those educational channels that described that during the Roman persecution, Catholics would get a cross tattooed on their forearms as their “pass” into the underground masses. I thought that was pretty cool, so I got it as a reminder of my faith.

    – A celtic armband on my left bicep. No story here. I wanted one, I found one I liked, I got it.

    – A dragon on my back. My mom informed me that, at 55, she wanted a tattoo. So her and I each got one on Mother’s Day that year. I love sharing that with her (even though we got different tattoos).

    If I had to get a word or symbol, I’m not exactly sure what I would get. I’d probably lean towards some uplifting phrase that made me feel good every time I saw it.

  36. I have two tribal sharks. One on the inside of each ankle and they have each of my grandson’s names over them. I am only supposed to be having the two grandchildren so I don’t know what I do if they have any more. LOL I have one more tattoo that is a sun and my son has a matching sun just in diffent colors. I got my boys covered. I have a friend though, that got the word believe tattooed on her wrist in white ink. It is beautiful.

  37. Ooooh, I’ve been wanting a tattoo for years, but I haven’t had the guts! And I haven’t quite found one that really calls out to me. I love cherry blossoms, but choosing a part of my body that I would like to have it on is difficult.

    A word tattoo is a GREAT idea actually!!!! (Especially since, as you mentioned, you are a love or words). I would love to see your future tattoo.

  38. I have 5 right now and have decided to get my 6th for my 35th b’day (April 4). I am also in desperate need of a back piece I designed a couple years ago but it’s a large piece and I am working a connection for that one. I love all mine, they all represent a time or place in my life and I don’t actually care what anyone thinks about them.
    Whatever you get make sure it speaks to you and no one else, tattoos are deeply personal to us “tat enthusiasts” I can still remember exactly why/what/who inspired my tattoos, I even drew 2 of them myself.
    btw…my next one will be my first “word” tattoo and it will say ” Smooth seas never a skillful sailor made…with the “S” in sea coming out of a wave. Thinking it’s going on my right foot or right ribcage….not sure yet.

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