Tat: A Tale

By Leslie Roman-Williams | February 19th, 2015

An unlikely boomer gets a tattoo.

It was something I swore I would never do. It would be trashy. Undignified. Disfiguring. Then, as I considered memorable ways to mark my 60th birthday, I realized it was the perfect idea.

I – a silver-haired, non-hipster, non-young person – would get a tattoo.

Fear of extreme activities ruled out bungee jumping, mountain climbing or even cosmetic surgery. My budget wouldn’t permit a bucket-list trek. A tattoo commemorating this birthday made sense.

Sort of.


My husband was supportive as I searched the Internet for designs of a rose, honoring my mother’s maiden name. I wanted one whose stem covered a bunionectomy scar (insert snarky comment about old ladies’ feet here) with its blossom reaching just above my big toe. Just large enough to flaunt but not stand out like some gang symbol.

It was easy to locate a tattoo studio, what with Richmond now considered a well-inked city. I made a few inquiries and ended up at the River City Tattoo Co. for a consultation and portfolio review with one of their artists, Ian Hopkins.

I appreciated his reassurance when I apologized that my tattoo intentions might be a little old-school or too simple for his skills. We discussed dimensions, colors, time frame, budget, then made an appointment for the following afternoon. On the way home, I had a pedicure. After all, what was the point of artwork on my foot if my toenails looked scruffy?

I arrived at the studio with my husband, wearing flip-flops that would allow my tattoo to “breathe.” Ian and I made a few modifications on the design and I signed the necessary releases. The price would be $60, the minimum under River City’s per-hour pricing.


While Ian prepared his station with attention to sterile detail, lining up the hues of the rose, my husband inspected designs. I was astonished when this former Marine, who had eschewed any tattoos, announced he just might get tattooed himself.

(Live with your spouse for years, think you know him, and then he can still catch you off guard.)

I settled onto the comfortably padded table while Ian shaved my toe area and placed the design template for approval. Once I affirmed it looked fine, he asked if I was ready. I told him I would go to my Happy Place, closed my eyes, then the procedure began.

People always ask: Did it hurt? I can’t really answer since I have a fairly high pain tolerance. It did feel like a combination of an electric toothbrush’s vibrating with a Brillo pad’s scraping: intermittently uncomfortable but not excruciating. I wimped out by not watching but remained very calm. My husband checked in periodically and seemed impressed with the progress.

Within a half-hour, voilà! Poised daintily on my right foot was a three-inch, lovely pink-and-white rose with stem and leaves in variegated greens. Ian photographed the result for his portfolio. My husband also captured the historic moment.


All the instructions for post-procedure care made me wonder: How do multi-tattooed people do it? Who rubs that antiseptic cream on parts of the body they can’t reach or see (and some parts we wouldn’t want to, either)?

For the next month, I babied my foot as tenderly as a Riverdance soloist after a grueling performance. I couldn’t submerge my foot in standing water, which meant no swimming pools, but still managed bath time by perching my leg on the rim of the tub. Very gymnastic.

I delighted in showing off my tat to anyone who asked about my birthday. Truth be told, I offered up the information with a show-and-tell to those who didn’t ask.

Would I get another? Probably not, because, hey, I made my point. But as with any birthday, any possibility, it is true: Never say never. A rose is not necessarily just a rose.

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