Why I Got My First Tattoo At Age 55

Quest_Tattoo_webYep. My first ever tattoo.

I have considered  getting a tattoo for over 20 years, but never found the courage—or the symbol—to forever mark my lily white skin. Forever is a very long time.

Two weeks ago, the planets aligned, and I finally went under the needle. Here are a few reasons why:

1.) In planning the debut of a new experience for men over 38 called re:Quest (A Rite of Passage for the Second Half of Life), I learned that a true rite of passage requires a symbol. Historically, these symbols have been circumcision, burning the flesh, and other rather extreme acts of self-mutilation. Since none of those seemed particularly appealing, the idea of a tattoo seemed to be the reasonable option.

2.) I finally had a symbolic reason for a tattoo. As I focused in on the goals of re:Quest, the idea and art seemed to magically come together.

—The hilt: getting a grip on my ego
—The double edged sword: represents the congruency of the two parts and the two halves of my life
—The fire: the crucible of life
—The length of the sword versus the hilt: the measure of meaning of the first half of life (the hilt) and the hope for a larger second half of life (the blade)
—The re: my brand and my initials
—Quest: the act of searching for meaning
—The sword: represents chivalry and courage

3.) I found the right tattoo artist. A true legend recently located her shop to Austin. Shanghai Kate is arguably the most famous female tattoo artist in the world. Mentored by the legend of legends, Sailor Jerry, close friends with Ed Hardy, personal tattooist for Howard Stern, the only lady featured in the new movie “Tattoo Nation,” and a consummate artist—she was the quintessential artist to create this eternal symbol of my crossroads to the second half of life.

My first email from her sealed the deal. I inquired about how her hourly charge and she replied, “I don’t have an hourly charge. Time does not exist in tattooing. It is art. Time does not exist in art. I am an artist.” She not only became my tattoo artist, She is now a new friend and a kindred spirit.

Question: How about you? Do you have a tattoo…or plans for one?

9 Responses to “Why I Got My First Tattoo At Age 55”

  1. Looks great Randy and I am thinking of something, but nothing has triggered it yet. Being in 2nd half of life, I need to make it to a re:Quest!

  2. that’s great. they say there are two kinds of people in the world. Those with Tattoos and those without:) I have two and both have significant meaning and a third on the way. That’s the thing about tattoos for me… it needs to have significant meaning to be on my body for the rest of my life. It’s cool to see the meaning of every part of yours. well done!
    Spence Smith´s last blog post ..Surviving A Rough Transition

  3. Looks great (where is it on your bod?)! I have no tattoos, nor any plans to get one at this point. Maybe I’m not old enough yet ;). Love how there is significance in every part of your tattoo.
    Pat Callahan´s last blog post ..Thursday Fun – Using Your Cell Phone in Public

  4. Love the symbolism!

    I keep thinking of what I would want to get and never come up with anything that would be something that I’d like to look back on in 30-40 years.

    Glad you went for it!
    John Regan´s last blog post ..Fancy words about how to really get in shape: Gamification and the Quantified Self

  5. Looks Great. I got my first tattoo earlier this year (age37) for mine and my wife’s 14th Anniversary. Mine is a Simple Black wedding band with shading.
    Since I am a Triathlete and take mine off a lot for training or racing I didn’t like being without it. Now it’s always on.

  6. Got my first piercing a couple of weeks ago (eyebrow), and am currently planning my first tattoo.

    Turned 39 in March.
    Warwick´s last blog post ..Shame

  7. Well… I got my first one 4 years ago and now have a total of 6. My first was a line from an Augustine prayer, “Late Have I Loved You” that I got shortly after my first Recreate conference. Then I got a half sleeve with two bluebirds and cherry trees with the line, “If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly…” for my two babies because I sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow to them every night before bed. Then I got the first line of a Rilke poem, “We are cradled close in your hands and lavishly flung forth” because it was what God was speaking to me about his church and my place in the church. Then came my largest piece – covers half my back- the first phrase of the piano score from Debussy’s “Reverie” because it’s my favorite piano piece from my favorite composer and my favorite to sit down and play at my piano. Then… a Salvador Dali pencil sketch of the crucifixion… because it’s imperfect and bloody and real and an obvious reminder of the single most important act of love in our history. Last was a black and white hummingbird with a tiny red heart – this one is deeply personal and signifies something that I’m not ready to share but that needed to be commemorated. All of my ink started coming at a very pivotal point in my life when EVERYTHING was going wrong and I needed to put some permanence to the things that mattered most to me. The most permanent way to do that was to mark my body with images that would be a constant reminder of what I don’t dare forget. Bravo, Randy for recognizing a moment in your life that needed permanence. I love it…
    Abbye´s last blog post ..Ahi Tuna Lettuce Wraps With Sriracha Lime Sauce

  8. Got my first (& so far only) tat 2 years ago at age 60. It’s a cross with flowers, a dove and written across it ‘He is Risen’ in living color. Many of my friends asked ‘what would your mother think?’ (she had died 2 years prior). They were surprised to hear that she and I had talked about my getting a tat many times and she was fine with it. And besides I was 60, hadn’t asked her permission in a whole bunch of years! :)

  9. Wanting one some day but like you and Spence. I want them to have meaning plus I to will have to apologize to my mom several times :)

Created by Randy Elrod
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