It’s hard not to stare at people on the train to New York City. I mean, it just IS.
It’s like a Play-Doh Fun factory on there. One after the other, they keep coming — frat boy, elderly arts patron, Asian hooker. Each one is wildly different from the person who passed before. God is nothing if not creative.
But of all the fascinating cases on our trek last weekend, I could NOT stop staring at the mother and newborn across from us. The mother was like some Caribbean goddess with raven locks, a billowing sundress, and this chocolate-eyed baby cradled in her arms. Almost as dramatic was her boyfriend in iridescent green skinny jeans. It’s quite possible he was one of the Black Eyed Peas.
But here’s what made me sneak this crappy snapshot on a moving train. She was nonchalantly shaking up her baby’s formula when I spotted the most mind-blowing tattoo on her left arm.
It read – and I’m not making this up:
This on the very arm that was feeding her newborn babe.
Her ginormous diaper bag is blocking the bicep in question, so you’re just going to have to trust me. But the swear was in an elegant cursive, the “POW!” was like a comic book graphic, and it hit me square between the eyes. POW.
That POW got me thinking. If one is going to launch into the lifelong commitments of both body art and the family way, there are certain pitfalls I’d think you’d want to avoid.
From the perspective of this middle-class mom from the Connecticut ‘burbs, here are some helpful hints that future candidates for motherhood and tattoos may wish to consider:
1. Your tattoo will be one of the first words your child ever reads. Keep it PG.
I want to cry when I picture that darling little girl a few years from now, dragging her tiny finger across her mom’s arm and sounding out the words like her preschool teacher taught her. “Fffff….uuuuu…..What’s this say, Mommy?” GROAN. You do not want this to happen. EVER. So for the wise woman who’s thinking long-term, go with those Japanese characters that translate into something zen-like. Even if it is a swear, your future kids will never know. Do it for the children.
2. Future mothers must be strategic about tattoo placement. Let’s face facts: there are certain areas that lend themselves to spread over time and multiple children. Those angel wings splayed across your haunches? They could very well look like the work of the devil after love handles have their way with you. So may I recommend the tops of feet – or better yet, toes? With age and diabetes, your toes may swell like Vienna sausages, but at least there is limited flesh spread.
3. For crying out loud, a tattoo is forever. Spell it right. How are you supposed to foster a love for learning in your children with something like “Sweet Pee” scrawled across your shoulders? Trust me, this is not aspirational. It might as well be a “Kick me” sign.
If I learned anything from the girl from the train, it’s that motherhood is a lifelong commitment, and so are tattoos. Neither should be entered into lightly.
So you may seriously want to rethink that Calvin-peeing-on-a-Chevy tat.
Save it for the back of the minivan. At least you can peel it off when you’re done with it.
And believe me, you will be. I already am.