Friday, April 15, 2011

Tattoo you.

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

• Shoplifting in the eighth grade.
• Dancing suggestively at the office holiday party to “Pour Some Sugar on Me”.
• That damn tattoo.

Let’s just get it out of the way right now.

Mom and Dad, you were right.

I was just out of college, it was 1996. Ahhh…the nineties, the heyday of the resurgence of tattoos. People were getting tribal tattoos, arm cuffs, tramp stamps and dolphins on their ankles left and right. I wanted one, badly. But rather than do a little research on where would be the best pace to go, which shop is the cleanest or had the best artists I decided to do things a little differently.

How about in a marine’s barracks in Okinawa in the middle of the night drinking shots of Jack Daniels and smoking Marlboro’s?


I had just graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre and nothing else to do so I thought I would travel around the world to places like Japan, Macedonia, Bosnia and Okinawa with six strangers I had never met before in my life.

I had auditioned for a local theatre company that put on those audience participation, murder mystery dinner “shows”. Every show followed pretty much the same pattern: the audience mingled at the bar, while actors with either a crazy costume, wig, or accent came in one by one to drop hints about who they were, what they were doing there, or who they were sleeping with.

The show included one (or all) of the following “characters”:

• A hillbilly
• A bimbo
• A detective

Two murders happened throughout the course of the evening, one during the salad course, and one during your bland pasta, chicken or bloody prime rib.

After the first murder, the detective revealed himself, interrogated suspects, and asked the audience to try and help solve the murders. Cheesecake was served, the murder or murderers were arrested, and everyone went home wondering how they spent fifty dollars on that.

When I was cast, I was honestly pretty excited about it, I mean I was going to get paid to act! The producer was a woman who reminded me of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, with her constant use of the words “sweetie” and “dahling”.. She asked if I would consider going on a ‘tour’ and travelling with the group. What the hell, I thought – it sounded good. I figured we would be going to the Oregon Coast, or maybe somewhere fun like Las Vegas.

But no. I was going on a Department of Defense tour, or DOD tour as Bob Hope liked to call it.

When you are in your early twenties and you find out you are going to travel the world, get put up for free and get a weekly per diem, that is pretty damn exciting. However, when you find out that everyone else already knows each other and has been performing together for quite some time that can be quite nerve-racking.

Needless to say it was a lovely group of people, and I met my best friend Laura on that first tour, so for that I am forever grateful, sweetie-dahling.

The accommodations varied from four-star hotels (Brussels) to tents in the dead of winter where if you cried, the tears froze to your face (Bosnia).

Tent City.
I am sure my face is covered in frozen tears inside of one of these tents.

So fast-forward through many countries.

Lots of mess halls.

Lots of sitting around waiting for luggage, planes, and taxis.

Lots of really fun and grateful soldiers who loved to get us off of the base and show us some of the local culture. Who knew Reykjavik, Iceland had such fantastic nightclubs? Or that the food in Zagreb, Croatia was to die for? For a girl who had never traveled outside of the United States, this trip was pretty sweet.

Private Benjamins.
Do these hats go with our outfits?
Here is what I can recall of the night of the tattoo.

We were performing on a base in Okinawa, and I was playing the role of “the Baroness”, a wealthy woman with a Russian accent, wearing fur and gi-normous fake diamond jewelry. While mingling with the soldiers I came across one wearing a lovely tank top t-shirt displaying his artwork for me to admire. In character I asked him about them.

“Oooooo, I lick all of yur luvlee tatoooos. Whur did yoooo git thim?” I asked, in the worst Russian accent you have ever heard in your life.

“I did them myself” he answered. I was intrigued. I sat closer. He had an armful of them, and he was big and muscle-y and no, I couldn’t tell you his name if my life depended on it.

“Vow, I vould luv to git a tattoooo tooooo.” I purred.

“I could give you one after the show,” He said.


So with zero thought, no cell phone, and absolutely no common sense, a few of us adventurous types went back with said marine along with some of his buddies to his barracks. We listened to music, sipped booze from the bottle, and discussed what tattoo I was going to get. Honestly I hadn’t put any thought into it, I just knew that I wanted one. I racked my brain for something meaningful, something important. Then…a-ha! A yin-yang! You know, one of those Asian symbols that mean, I don’t know, good and bad? Happy and sad? I don’t know, I’m in Japan right? Nope, Okinawa. Okay, a yin-yang it is. And of course, on my ankle! Because that is awesome and everyone will be able to see it. Yes, that is what I have always wanted, a yin-yang on my ankle. He crudely drew it out on a scrap of paper. It was pretty unimpressive but I thought it would look better once it was permanently on my skin.

I don’t remember it hurting, I just remember smoking and drinking and having no doubt in my mind that this experience and this time in my life was beyond perfect and that every time I looked down at this symbol on my ankle it would bring incredible memories rushing back and I would be flooded with energy and yin-yanginess.

I thanked this stranger who just carved up my skin and stumbled back to my barracks.

And here we are today and guess what – my tattoo is just okay. A yin-yang, really? What the hell was I thinking? The symbol meant nothing to me then and continues to do the same. All I know is that when I want to wear a skirt and a sexy pair of high heeled sandals in the summertime, I cover it up with makeup. Not because I am embarrassed to have a tattoo, but because a tipsy marine did not give me the best tattoo that I want to show off to the world.

I wish I could afford to get it lasered off but I know that costs big money. So I’ll stick with my cover up.

I have used several over the counter concealer/powder/foundation combos which work ok, but aren’t made to cover my blobs of color. The coverage with regular makeup lasts for a while, but starts to lighten up and it ends up looking like I have a giant bruise and then I have to come up with a story of how someone tried to take me down by clubbing me in the ankle.

Not anymore.

I have finally found the end all be all of tattoo cover up.

All thanks to my friend Amanda at the MAC counter.

Studio Finish Concealer makes my tattoo disappear like magic! And with the warm summer months ahead I am beyond thrilled to finally have found something that truly works. The formula is water-resistant, so it won’t sweat or run off, which eliminates the need for topping it off with powder. And it is specifically formulated to cover other lovely things like moles, blemishes and yes, tattoos. A little goes a long way, so the little pot of product will last you a long time.

And here is an insider tip that Amanda let me know: Instead of finishing off with powder, finish off with hairspray. Yes, the same glue that sets your tresses can set your leg or lower back makeup as well. Try it, it works!

Ahhhh, no more waking up a half hour earlier when I want to be bare legged at the office.

I supported my armed forces. Now I finally have something that can support my legged forces.


  1. I don't think you were the only one who came back with a semi-regrettable tattoo.
    PS I played the hillbilly and detective at the same time!

  2. Yes Tyler, there were a few others that joined me. I believe a teeny tiny flower and a smooshed Calvin were their last minute choices. And you were the best damn hillbilly detective I ever did see.

  3. you may regret the tattoo, but you have a better story than most! (This is Laura, BTW)

  4. LOL. I wish I had known you and laura then! Crack me up.
    BTW I have 4 different mascaras in my make up bag right now. One, of course, is the obligatory Big Lash by Maybelline. I am wearing as I type. BUT....Maybelline has come out with a new mascara (well, new to me) that makes your lashes so long I only wear it at night. It is (da da da duhh) Falsies! Yep, that's the name, Falsies!!! about 6 bucks. (and this is Michelle)

  5. Michelle, I have tried and loved falsies! Will have to write an entry about that one, so many possibilities...

  6. I think it's worth remarking that SNL's Michaela Watkins played that hillbilly too. She must have played it better.

  7. Love this story!!!
    Reminds me how in 5th grade my not-so-good-of-an-influence best friend discovered how to "tattoo" from her gangster boyfriend using Indian ink, sewing string and a needle. She had me tattoo her up big time. I am mortified about it now. There was most definitely a ying-yang and bubble-letter outline of her name. Yes. Her name in 11 year old handwriting on her for life. She later taught me how to huff. Awesome.

  8. Oh my God Brooke, hi-larious. 5th grade, are you kidding me? Thank goodness you were smart enough to not let her reciprocate n you, I would have jumped right on that prison-tattoo.

    I have a super bad influence friend story brewing in my head now, stay tuned for that one.