I Watched My 82-Year-Old Grandma Get a Tattoo

Auriane Alix
It made me think about the perspectives from which we see things and how we make decisions.
Photo by Jamakassi on Unsplash

She walked into the tattoo shop as naturally as if she was going to the grocery store. She looked at the drawing, corrected a few lines, with no stress, no apprehension. Looking at her, I had the impression that she was choosing Christmas cards.

Then she sat down in the black leather armchair. She reached out her arm to the tattooist and calmly observed the operation as indelible ink penetrated the pores of her skin. Always with incredible tranquility.

It all started the day I got my first tattoo. I went to lunch with my 82-year-old grandmother, and inevitably, she saw the still fresh black ink on my forearm.

“Here we go, you’re doing it too,” she sighed. She looked disappointed. In her eyes, I was doing the same thing as a lot of people “my age”, without understanding the consequences and permanence (except that I did). She asked me why. I explained. She sighed again and began to serve the meal.

A moment later, as we were having coffee, the conversation broke off. She grabbed my arm, pulled it towards her, and turned it silently while observing and analyzing the lines, fading, and shadows.

She didn’t say anything, for at least 2 minutes.

Then, changing her tone, she said, “That’s not bad. That’s good. I would have liked to draw it myself. But on a piece of paper…”

We didn’t talk about it for a few weeks. Then I went back to lunch with her, and she said, very seriously:

“ — I’ve been thinking about it, and I’d like to have one!
— Have what? I said.
— A tattoo!” she replied, as if it was obvious.

I laughed, more by surprise than anything else. It seemed surreal: my 82-year-old grandmother wanted to get a tattoo. I asked her what she wanted to do.

“A little something on the wrist. It would be like a jewel, a bracelet, but at least it wouldn’t bother me when I moved. I wouldn’t have to put it on and take it off.” (that I can confirm!)

On one of her forearms, she wanted to symbolize her 7 grandchildren. On her other forearm, her 3 children.

I arranged everything for her. We had lunch at the restaurant before the appointment. I asked her if she was stressed. Not at all, she replied.

The tattoo artist brought the machine close to her first forearm. The characteristic buzzing invaded the room. I looked at my grandmother. She was still stoic. The tattooist asked her if she was ready. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Of course.”

I stood there for a good 45 minutes, watching my grandmother get a tattoo. I don’t mind telling you I took pictures. If I’d known I’d ever see this…

She walked out of there satisfied, proud of her two plastic-covered forearms. The most amazing thing was that she didn’t seem to understand my amazement. To her, everything seemed normal. And it made me think about some things.

The biggest lesson I learned at that time was that it's all about perspective. We make a big deal out of certain things, whereas if you look at them in another way, in an unconventional way, you realize that it’s not much.

I thought about it for five years before I got my first tattoo. My grandmother decided it in a week. And she didn’t blink.

For her, it was nothing to be injected with ink for life. She didn’t care what other people thought. Whether it hurts or not. Whether it was conventional or not. And yet, she’s not the most unconventional person I know.

She wanted it. So she did it. No big deal.

It also taught me to do things when you want to do them, while you can still do them. We have one life. Let’s fill every day with things that make us happy. Things that bring us joy. Whatever they are. Life is meant to be lived.

Every time I see my grandmother’s pretty tattoos on her forearms, it reminds me that the way we see things depends on the point of view from which we choose to look at them. That if you want something, all you have to do is stand up and get it.

Conformism is an aberration. Freedom is a chance. Limits are the ones we put on ourselves. And the things you want are within reach.

A decision can be made in an instant. We just have to stop thinking too much.

In a way, it’s all simple. We’re the ones who make it complicated.

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