My junior year of college I got a matching tattoo over spring break with one of my best friends. It sounds like the beginning of a tattoo horror story, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Sydney and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. Our parents worked together and became good friends. Mostly over dinner parties that lasted long into the night, our families grew extremely close.
We went through the trials of adolescence together, stayed friends despite doing really fucked up things to each other, and remained close even when we live far apart. I've always been fully confident that Sydney will always be in my life. It never even felt like an option.
And if our friendship fell apart, as inconceivable as it seems, she will always have played a role in my life worth honoring. Getting a matching tattoo with Sydney felt like a completely reasonable commitment.
But it's not like we actually planned it. We spent a few weeks joking about it and trading MySpace comments, because this was 2005, of the worst designs we could find.
We also agreed at the time that whoever outlived the other would tattoo a llama with our faces on her ass. Thankfully we are both still alive.
Somewhere in the midst of all the joking, we got somewhat serious and decided on matching pirate skulls. The conversation that put us in motion probably went like this:
Sydney: Wanna get pirate tattoos tomorrow night?
Me: For real?
That night remains my favorite tattoo memory.
We chose a studio based on recommendations from friends, drove to the other side of town, met the artist, and found out that we had to wait a couple hours until she was free.
This suited us just fine. We didn't have a design planned beyond "pirate skulls" on opposite hips so they'd line up when we stood next to each other. I'm 4 inches taller than Sydney so they never line up evenly, but whatever.
We worked with Jason, the dude behind the desk and resident piercer, to draw up our pirate skulls. And promptly realized we had some serious decisions to make. Specifically, we decided to have crossed swords instead of bones, to have the skull's jaw attached, and to include teeth.
Two significant design elements Jason had originally suggested as jokes. The first was to color the eyes and sword hilts pink. The second was a small crack in the skull he drew because we were "acting like crackheads" but we thought looked badass and kept it.
Going over drawings and options with Jason was full of fun and laughter. And our night just kept getting better.
We also became friendly with a woman in the lobby waiting for her husband's tattoo to be completed. The couple, who looked like they were in their 40s, had ridden their motorcycles in from Daytona for this tattoo. Sydney and I were fascinated.
Somehow, and I'm still not sure how this came up, in the course of our conversation this woman decided to get her clitoral hood pierced as a surprise for her husband.
We didn't think she was serious at first, but as she filled out the paperwork she asked us to stay with her and hold her hand. Naturally, we agreed. No one should have to get their genitals pierced without a supportive hand to hold!
All four of us went to the piercing room. I held her hand while Sydney stood further back. She took off her pants, and Jason cleansed her vulva. Then he studied her for barely seconds before indicating the spot he would be piercing.
It was the first time either of us had considered there could lovers who found clitorises without clumsy fumbling and awkwardly mumbled questions of "Is that the spot? What about here?"
Suddenly we found him verrry attractive.
I couldn't watch from there. But the woman gave my hand a quick squeeze, let out a sharp yelp, and it was over. She was grinning and thanking us all profusely.
The rest of the evening was relatively less eventful. The couple left, both wearing broad grins. We held each other's hands through the tattoos, ate at Denny's, and didn't wear jeans for a few days.
Getting that tattoo with Sydney was an awesome experience. And when we face troubles in our friendship, I look down at my hip and am comforted by the evidence of how much we love each other.
And it just looks cool. That toothy skull with slightly faded pink eyes always makes me smile, even when I'm shaving my bikini line off the sword hilt.
But for all my positivity regarding matching tattoos, I also have firm guidelines for myself. These are my personal rules -- subject to change if I ever feel like it.
1. No names. With the exception of children and possibly pets.
2. No matching with romantic partners. I believe it's a jinx that dooms relationships to failure.
3. Follow existing tattoo guidelines/tastes. One of the most important people in my world has a completely different aesthetic taste in tattoos than I do. Neither one of us would compromise our preferences on that, and so matching tattoos don't look like they're in our future. It's not just a shared tattoo, it's also YOUR tattoo.
4. Imagine the worst. What if the other person does something completely unforgivable? Or you do? What if they die? What if through time and distance you grow apart and never speak again? Would you still be happy to have that matching tattoo?