Disclaimer: Before anyone attacks me, I have NO problem with anyone getting a tattoo. I have NO problem with anyone who has a tattoo. This post is about why I haven’t gotten a tattoo yet.
So what’s the big deal? Am I afraid of needles? Well, I sure as hell don’t like them, but that isn’t what has stopped me. I just have a somewhat weird set of criteria that has prevented me from pulling the trigger so far.
My Rules for Getting a Tattoo
- It must come at a great cost. And that cost is not financial but is either emotional, physical, or both.
- It must mean something to me before it does to someone else.
- It must mean something to me long after getting it.
- It must make for a great story to tell my grand kids or great grand kids.
Back in 2005, I finished Ironman Florida for the first time. The race was in November and my birthday was in December, so Christine decided to pay for my Ironman tattoo as a present. But I put it off. I couldn’t explain it then, but it makes sense to me now. In 2007, I did Ironman Florida again. Similar results and no tattoo. So why didn’t I get the tattoo? It just didn’t cover all of my rules.
As tough as it was to train for the Ironman, especially when Hurricana Katrina created havoc in our lives, I was never worried about finishing it. Short of a major mechanical or crash on the bike, I knew I could finish. I wasn’t a time cutoff risk, and I felt I could just keep going. When I crossed the finish line I was excited and thrilled, but not in that euphoric mountaintop way. It was there. I did it. Next.
The 2007 race was much more emotional for me because we had raised almost $70,000 for Habitat for Hope. I had a better time than 2005, but the fear of finishing was about the same. It was just something I did, but it didn’t define me. They say once you complete an Ironman, you will always be an Ironman. Right now I could not swim, bike or run 1/10 the distance of that race without drowning, crashing and cramping. And a tattoo on my leg would just remind me of that.
The Rocky Raccoon 100 mile trail run was probably the race that has come closest to meeting my criteria. And that is probably because I failed epically the first time. The emotional and physical cost to finish that race was enormous (for me and my family!) I went into it the first year knowing I could finish (I didn’t) and the second year praying that I could (I did). From the torrential rain to dehydration to massive blisters to major cramping, those two races have plenty of stories to tell. Finishing that race was a great accomplishment for me and some of my close friends. But the exhilaration and sense of achievement faded fast. Almost as fast as my fitness level (which sucks right now). So once again…..no tattoo.
When Mason talked to Christine and I about getting a tattoo, he explained what he wanted and why. And we said no problem. Because it destroys all of my rules and probably some I haven’t thought of.
- It must come at a great cost: Let’s see….10 days in a hospital in enough pain to be on morphine. The fear of never being able to swim again. The emotional toil of having a disease that will be there forever. The pain and suffering of having to fight to get back in shape because he dreamed of swimming in college. CHECK!
- It must mean something to him before it means something to someone else: He designed the tattoo his senior year of high school and planned to get it for over a year. It represents both his faith in God and his conviction to fight the disease within him. It embodies who he is: a Crohn’s Warrior. And he is a great example for others struggling with the disease. CHECK!
- It must mean something to him long after getting it: Uh, hello? He will have Crohn’s forever. CHECK!
- It must make for a great story to tell his grand kids or great grand kids: Okay, imagine Mason is telling this story to his grandkids. But imagine he is speaking in an 80-year-old viking voice.
Grandkid: Hey Pawpaw Mase, what is that symbol on your side?
Mason: Ah my wee little lad, that is the symbol of a Crohn’s Warrior. You see, when I was a young strapping boy in the prime of me youth, I didn’t have this one pack ab like I do now. I had 12 pack abs and the muscles to go with them. But one day after a 20 mile swim workout, my innards felt like they were ripped in twain and I ended up at the hospital. After a couple of days, they shoved a camera up me arse and when I awoke they said I had Crohn’s Disease.
Grandkid: Pawpaw Mase, what is an arse?
Mason: Uh… Go ask your poppa. Anyway, stop interrupting the story. So they told me I had Crohn’s Disease and I would have it forever. By the time I got out of the hospital, I had lost over a stone in weight and me 12 pack was down to 4 or 5 abs! Now it was me dream to swim at the university, so I had a choice: lie there and cry like a sissy girl or tighten up me kilt and jump back in the pool.
Grandkid: So what did you do?
Mason: Do I look like I would just give up and cry? No, from that day forward I became a Crohn’s Warrior and have been battling it ever since! I worked my a……rear off and got back in shape. This symbol on my side reminds that God is with me and to keep fighting until my last breath.
Now, I don’t think I will ever have a tattoo with a back story as good as Mason’s. I may never have a tattoo with the rules I have in my mind. But who knows. I still have a few mountains to climb.
By the way, I have a question: