S I X T Y - F O U R

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.
-- from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles, 1967

This experience follows up on the one I posted a few years ago which was entitled I Regret My Tattoos. That was probably a poor choice for a title since it was tongue-in-cheek (I do NOT regret my tattoos, never did, never will, as you will read below) and possibly kept some folks from reading it.
Well too bad they missed it, cause I think it is pretty good.
Maybe this one will get an audience for Regret.


One of the many inane comments I suspect every tattooed person hears from time to time is, “How are you going to feel about those when you get old?”

I suspect most of us have answered that with zingers like, “Who knows” or “Who cares” or “You mean IF I get old.”  Stupid questions, stupid answers.

Well I have begun to get a little better idea of what it will be like being tattooed when I get older losing my hair, NOT so many years from now.  At fifty-six, I am getting a bit closer to old than to young.

I was fifty years old when I got my first tattoo. Six years, a dozen or so gallons of tattoo ink, several hundred hours under the needle, and and several thousand dollars later, I am covered wrists to neck to toes.

After I had accumulated some serious coverage, I started to wonder how medical professionals would think of me and treat me.  Were they going to think me unworthy of their skills?  Would I be left in the emergency room to bleed to death while the “respectable” folks got all the attention and treatment?

I usually don’t go to doctors unless I am really SICK.  I began to get answers to my concerns when I first went to a doctor with a serious cold after I had accumulated a large amount of ink on my chest, back, and upper arms.  The doctor’s reaction was: he just did not comment.  The nurses either said nothing or commented with something like “nice ink” or told me about their own tats.

The first really interesting medical experience came when I had a complete physical exam.  The doctor had of course seen almost every square inch of me during that exam, and by that time I was pretty much completely covered in tattoo, including my butt.

The good doctor, who was considerably younger than I am, asked me to “bend over the table.”  We all know what that means, don’t we?  So I complied and then heard the familiar sound of latex being installed over fingers.  Then I felt The Touch, when the doctor began his digital examination of that last few square inches of me.

So there I was, fifty-something years old, bent over a table.  A thirty-something year old doctor had his finger in me, and I was awaiting the diagnosis. Is my prostate OK?

Well, he did not mention my prostate.  His comment, as he twiddled his finger in my ass, was to say rather clinically, “You certainly do have extensive tattooing.”

I absolutely wanted to explode with laughter.  But I controlled it and with a slight giggle said, “Yes Sir, thank you!”  and he withdrew his finger from my ass and told me I could get dressed now and then go down the hall to the lab to get blood drawn.  I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day!

About two years after that digital exam, I had a colonoscopy.  For that I got to take a little nap.  But when it was over, I got an interview by the doctor and a couple of the nurses about my art.  They were genuinely interested and I enjoyed the conversation.

I had a few more brief encounters with doctors and nurses, but the real test of the medical community’s acceptance of me as a tattooed old man came when I had a serious motorcycle accident.  I was completely clothed in denim and leather, so none of my tattoo was visible while in the ambulance and initially in the emergency room at a major trauma hospital.  I was in great pain but do remember being surrounded by people.  One guy wanted to cut my jeans off, but a lady said, “No, we can take them off, just undo them and pull them off gently.”  So they did.  I really was hurting too much to remember much that was said when my completely tattooed lower body was revealed to them, except that they determined I had a lot of cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a badly fractured leg, the latter requiring surgery which was postponed until the next day.  So they took me to a room and gave me an IV with the button to self-medicate myself with morphine.  Much better, thank you.

Next day the docs came in and told me how screwed up my left leg was: multiple major nasty fractures requiring surgery and the installation of a long rod and screws to hold it all together.  They wanted my consent to do that.  So I asked a few questions, I am sure, but I explained to them very clearly something like, “LOOK, I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on those tattoos.  I had this bike wreck leaving the hotel from a tattoo convention where these leg tattoos won major awards.  If you are going to have to be cutting my tattoos, PLEASE line everything back up when you sew it back together.”  They assured me they would do their best so I my worst fear was somewhat assuaged and I signed their forms to allow them to do the deed.

I was there in the hospital another week after the surgery, but I was not really able to look at my poor leg because of being in such pain I could not move it to look at the damage, but the doctors came by to look at my leg and always told me what a beautiful job they did and that they really did not screw up my tattoos. All I could do was thank them and hope they were telling me the truth.

I was (and still do) have visions of an operating theater, the kind you see in movies (and this was in a teaching hospital affiliated with a major medical school). There are doctors and nurses crowded around the operating table where I am lying, obliviously anesthetized. Scalpal in hand, the doctor pulls up the sheet to begin the operation. Suddenly she says, "Holy SHIT, look at this bastard!" And they pull the sheet away and remove my gown and everyone is laughing and cheering and they turn me over to see my back side. And then they let the students from the gallery come down and look. And when everybody has had a chance to look all they wanted, they fixed my leg. And then they all took pictures.

Anyhow, I found out later that, whatever else they did in the operating room, they really did do a fantastic job on my leg and sewing up my tattooed skin. There was one incision about an inch and a half long through which they inserted a rod and closed with four sutures. And there were four other incisions, through each of which they installed a big screw through the rod into the bone and then closed each incision with a single suture.

The nurses were a lot of fun.  Some of them did not comment about my tats, so they may have hated them, but most of the nurses wanted to see more of my tats and several of them wanted to talk about and show their own tats.  There were also some police officers guarding a prisoner in a room down the hall.  One of the nurses asked me if the policemen could come in and see my tattoos.  They came in and looked and we talked tattoos and they showed me theirs.  One nurse came in and said she was just off duty from another area of the hospital, had heard from other nurses about the tattooed guy, and wanted to see.  I showed them all I could.  I was like a rock star!  And I ate it up.

So now I know that when I’m sixty-four a lot of the folks that are younger than me are going be tattooed and are going to think I am a pretty cool old geezer.  My tats should still be looking pretty good then.

When I’m eighty-four, maybe the tats will be fading and fuzzing together, but they will still be there and if the young folks are interested, I can show them pictures of what they looked like when they were newer.  They can go to my web site http://ta2guy.org and see that the old bastard had some great ink!  And they can show me their ink and we will play cards and be great friends.

And if they aren’t already tattooed themselves, maybe I can give them a little more encouragement to cross over the line to join the ranks of those of us who are free to be ourselves!

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four.”

-- from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles, 1967

Go to Ta2Guy.Dan's I Regret My Tattoos Page

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Come back soon to see if I have added anything new!

Last updated Saturday, January 2, 2010

And if you do not have a tattoo, GIT ONE ! ! !

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