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Quelle Surprise!

I love nothing more than doing something that surprises people, including myself, except the older you get, the more predictable you get and, well, it ain't easy. Especially when you've  always been the uber responsible, play-it-safe, play-by-the-rules kinda girl. This grand adventure of mine--my Sabbatical from Life--certainly stunned many people, including myself, but until last Monday I'm not sure I could think of another recent example. So what did I do last Monday? 


Jude got inked!


Now before you chalk this up to some sort of mid-life crisis come 15 years late, you should know that I've secretly thought about a tattoo for years. Something feminine and meaningful, something inspiring. The main thing that kept me from acting upon it was the thought of the pain. I can't stand needles. When I get a vaccination, I have to turn my ahead away so I can't see the long, pointy object about to be jabbed into my innocent bicep. I put off blood tests until the absolute last moment--and again, I can't watch because my imagination processes the visual of the needle filling with my blood and damn, it hurts! 

Whenever I ask people who've gotten inked how much it hurt, the admission that it was quite painful has been fairly universal. Each time someone told me about the pain, I'd nod to myself, yeah, I'm not gonna do that, and yet, I could never completely dismiss the idea. 

Then I find myself in Paris. Alone. I can be anyone I want to be. Hell, I can be me. Not to sound all self-helpy, but when it comes down to it, isn't this entire adventure about giving myself permission to be 1000% Jude, without worrying or caring about what people may think of me? Isn't it about putting aside the gang of insecurities and fears (physical, intellectual, emotional) that have inhibited me for the first five-and-a-half decades of my life? And really, what's the physical pain of a tattoo compared to the emotional pain of separating myself for three months from my husband, my dog, my friends, and my relative financial security?

If ever I was going to do this thing, this was it. Paris was the right time, the right place. 

I'd been in the city a week and I was being a flaneuse--going in a general direction, but without a specific destination--when I found myself on the tiny rue des Haudriettes in the Marais, passing by a tattoo and piercing shop called Aenima. It seems odd to use the word "pretty" to describe a tattoo shop, but it is pretty to me and thereby less intimidating. What most struck me though were the words etched on the front window glass--"cruelty free." It wasn't just the literal meaning, but it gave me the impression that these guys have a sense of humor and I liked that.

(Did I want to go in? Oh, Jeez, should I go in? I have so many questions. But will they laugh at me, a 55-year-old woman getting her first tattoo? What am I even thinking?)

I walked by--on the other side of the street. I went and had lunch, I poked into shops. I bought postcards, I sat in a cafe drinking coffee and "talking" to my husband on WhatsApp. But Aenima was on my mind. Before leaving for Paris, though I'd breathed not a peep to my husband, I had confided to a few friends that I was kind of, maybe, perhaps considering a tattoo. (You know, maybe, oh, I don't know, if had the guts, is that crazy, but it would be cool, I think, an inspiring quote or something, except it's ridiculous, I'm too old.) One of these friends--Kathie M.!--gave me some great advice: if you want to do it, do it and do it at the beginning of your time in Paris. I think her reasoning was that it would set a tone for what was to come.  Merci, Kathie!

On the walk back home, I told myself that if I stumbled upon the rue des Haudriettes again, I would make myself go in and get some information. It was a small street, it seemed unlikely. Fifteen minutes later, I was walking back and forth along the sidewalk fronting the shop. It may have been my fourth time going by the window when I took a deep breath and put my hand on the door handle. It was locked! There was a guy in there, a woman and a little dog on a velvet couch, but they were closed. I exhaled. That was a close one! Except as I turned to go, Laurent came and opened the door. I had been pushing when I should have pulled, or pulled when I should have pushed. Of course they were open! How could he help? 

I will spare you all the details of my interrogation over the process--before, during and after--but I will tell you that Laurent could not have been kinder or more patient with me. He was incredibly professional and seemed supremely confident that getting a quotation tattooed on the inside of my foreman would not hurt at all. I walked out with his business card and with the expectation that I would message him on Facebook with the exact quote I wanted so he could connect me with one of his artists and make an appointment!

I had many quotes in contention, but most of them were really too long. Friday night at 11:30 pm I settled on one and messaged Laurent, who responded within 10 minutes. By the next morning, he quoted me the price and put me in touch with the artist, a very handsome, badass looking guy named Antoine, but who goes by the moniker of "Pirate Twanoo," and I had an appointment for 3 pm on Monday!

Ho. Ly. Shit!

I'm thinking Laurent made the appointment so soon because he may have sensed my trepidation. Might have I backed out if I'd had more time to think about it? Needless to say, Sunday night was the most insomniac of my insomniac nights since arriving in Paris. I couldn't stop reviewing all the possible quotations--this was permanent after all--or thinking about what Ken would say, what my friends would think....and the pain. Once the pirate starts, I thought, I can't stop him because it hurts too much. What if I couldn't keep still while he was working and the entire thing was messed up--on my arm like that...forever!?

Twanoo is the dark and brooding type--a modern day Heathcliff--and like Laurent, as nice as could be. I was there two hours, but the majority of that time was preparation. The actual tattooing lasted perhaps 40-45 minutes and, I have to say, it really wasn't all that painful. As it turns out, I sort of got two tattoos. I mean, yes, there are two, but I think of it more as a compound tattoo because they are two parts of a whole.

These photos were taken when it was fresh, and the quote is difficult to read in the picture, but inked on the inside of my left forearm, there's this inspirational blockbuster from Matisse:  

Il y a des fleurs partout pour qui veut bien les voir

There are flowers everywhere for those who really want to see them. A reminder we all can use, especially moi. In the spirit of this quote, I had the brainstorm to get the cherry blossoms inked on the inside of my right wrist.

To think the idea of the pain had been holding me up, when it was really quite tolerable. Admittedly, the inside of my wrist was "less fun" than my inside forearm, but still, I was laying comfortably with my eyes closed, a little pillow beneath my head, and yes, there was the occasional fleeting sensation of a razor blade cutting my skin, but for the most part it was like a vibrating fountain pen moving across my arm--and that vibration had an almost numbing effect. It was all over so quickly!

I'm looking at my arms now, still stunned at myself for actually doing this. I thought I would wait to tell Ken until the tattoos have completely healed, but that will take about three weeks and there was just no way I was going to be able to keep such a big secret for so long. I made it till Wednesday morning, catching him on a WhatsApp video call at about 7:00 am his time. 

And yeah, he was shocked. Exactly what I was hoping for!

**Merci, Laurent et Twanoo!

About Me

About Jude

Jude was born with wanderlust and a love of language running through her veins. No wonder then, that she grew up to be a fiction writer with a passion for traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. While in Paris, she'll be working her way into a brand new novel (her fourth), taking a break now and then for runs along the Seine, attempts at French conversation at cafés, and strolls on the Left Bank, channeling the ghosts of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and all their creative genius pals.

You can search out more of her writing on

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