I got my first tattoo for my 39th birthday, when I was on holiday in Umhlanga. I went to Electric Eye Tattoo in Gateway Mall with a picture of the Grim Squeaker from Terry Pratchett's Discworld. I love the Squeaker, this little Death of Rats, and I found the perfect picture - I'm so besotted with it that I made sure the original artist's signature (Hanie Mohd) was added to the tattoo. Abigail, who did my tattoo, was friendly, accommodating and informative, and really put me at ease during the session.
Most of the rest of my tattoos were done by Ryan "Busta" Boltoon of The Golden Tiki. He started with my sci-fi back piece, which is about a third finished. It will eventually be a collage of my favourite spaceships and space travel devices. These are from some of my favourite series and movies, and all of them represent the family that you make yourself. The saying is not actually "blood is thicker than water" - it's "The blood of the sword is thicker than the water of the womb", and means that your brothers and sisters in war can sometimes form stronger bonds than those with whom you share genes. I love my family, but there are things only your best friends can understand.
My spaceships are also about the joy of exploration - since I will never be an astronaut, I have these on my skin to remind myself that there is joy and wonder to be found in exploring space and nature, even vicariously.
The Grim Squeaker on my left ankle is joined by The Librarian - also from Discworld - on my right. I love books, I love magic and fantasy, and Terry Pratchett's wizardly orangutan just nails the frustration of being interrupted while reading.
Finally, I have another spaceship on my left wrist, tattooed by Jinx of Fallen Heroes, who has since left for Portugal. I designed the original tattoo, using my favourite quote from my favourite series, Firefly - "You can't take the sky from me". Says it all, really.
So why do I, a 43-year-old woman working for a big corporate, have tattoos? Why do I plan on getting more? Well, I've never been particularly good-looking and I've always had self-esteem issues. But ever since the needles first bit into my skin, I've realised that I'm pretty darn fantastic. I love the way the colours and designs make me feel. I'm more confident with them on my skin, and I'm always looking for chances to show them off. Thankfully it's not an issue at my place of work, but of course they can be covered up quite easily. I have no intention of getting "job-stoppers", because I'm not in the kind of industry that would allow for those. I do admire people who have beautiful tattoos on their hands or neck, but they're not for me.
I have very specific ideas about the kind of tattoos I want, and as I'm not much into flowers, skulls, birds or butterflies, I'll stick to the things that bring me pleasure. I want swathes of colour and cheer across my skin, so I'm glad that I only got into it much later than my young self wanted. I'm glad I never found that elusive "perfect" wolf picture, because I'd never have had my spaceships if I'd gone with that. It would have been a loss.
As for what my family says, my mother was shocked at first, but she has grown to like them. I think she'd be more against them if they were skulls or demonic, but she sees how much joy I take in them, and she has never criticised them to me. Not that it matters; the only person whose opinion is important to me in this regard is my husband, and even he would never dream of telling me what to do with my own body. He's quite chuffed to be married to "that tattooed chick", in any event. All he asks is that I don't tattoo my face, neck or hands, or have anything gross or freaky, and I'm perfectly satisfied with that.
I hope to encourage young people - specifically, young women - that tattoos are not scary or a sign of a bad upbringing. They're an art. And as they're on you for life, respect yourself and the art, and think before you get that first one. Don't just go for the first bit of flash you see just because you feel pressured. Take the time to think about what's important to you, and I don't mean your significant other's name, or the lyrics of that song you like. Research, consult, look around, and be prepared to pay for an artist who is not only good with the tattoo machine (it's not a "tattoo gun"), but will also advise you on what will work and what won't. Listen to them. They've been doing this for years and want you to be happy with your art. It's good for business. And please, don't go for someone cheap. I promise, it's not worth it. "
My friends Lauren and Cashe got their pics taken, too. Pretty cool, no?