The Tattooed Lady

I don’t have any tattoos. I didn’t used to think that was unusual, but then I didn’t used to spend a lot of time on a university campus.

I figure by the time I’m 80, I’ll be the only person on earth without a tattoo, unless by then the tide has turned (as tides often do) and the 25-year-olds are all ink-free. Then the kids and I will mock their tattooed, middle-age parents.

Whatever your take on tattoos, I think we can agree that some tattoos are better than others and it’s hard not to have a reaction when you meet someone with a lot of tattoos. I met someone like that this past weekend.

I should probably back up and say that I was still smarting over the recent edict by my landlord, Hector, banning my dog Milo from entering the house. Milo was sitting outside my window, looking at me plaintively, and I couldn’t even take him on a long walk because I had come down with a terrible cold. I stumbled out to the kitchen to replenish my coffee and I saw that Hector had a guest.

Lynn is about 70 years old. She was wearing short shorts and a tank top and her arm was in a sling. The rest of her, except her neck and face, was covered in tattoos. I don’t remember what they all were, but I do remember they included a large portrait of an elderly couple (her parents perhaps?) and numerous slogans. She was sitting on a stool in the kitchen with her dog and they were both eating pizza.

I was annoyed.

Lynn’s large, blond dog (named Sandra Dee, which also annoyed me for some reason) was eating pizza in the kitchen while my dog could not even come to my room for a game of Sit and Stay. And I had a cold (did I mention that?) I retreated to my room and spent the afternoon grumbling and blowing my nose.

The next day, Lynn was back. She brought Sandra Dee, who played outside with Milo. I was again refilling my coffee when she came up behind me and asked, “Does Milo spend all his time outside?”

I told her he had to, per Hector’s instructions.

Lynn said, “Well, that’s no good. He’s going to get lonely and when it gets cold he’ll want to come in. I’ll talk to Hector.”

And she did.

The next thing I knew, the rules for Milo had been relaxed. Sandra Dee became a regular playmate for Milo and, most amazing of all, the immense clutter of Hector’s house and backyard slowly began to recede. I learned that Lynn is a retired nurse. She lives alone in the mountains with six dogs and just had a shoulder replacement. But even with one arm, she is formidable.

And now I am more than a little ashamed of the things I thought when I first met her. Yes, I was mad about my dog, and I was sick. But on top of everything else, I saw a person with a lot of tattoos and I made a judgment— and it was not a kind one.

I can hear her outside now, “Hector! We need to throw this junk away!”

And, lo and behold, junk is being thrown away. Good stuff (long lost beneath the junk) is being recovered, and space is being made. Things are better for Milo. Things are better for me. Things are better for Hector.

And we all have the tattooed lady to thank.

Till next time,


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