Friday, October 12, 2012

The Girl with the Prawn Tattoo

At some point during the summer of 1993, I discovered ‘grunge’. It started with Pearl Jam. I lay on a beach in the South of France listening to whatever was popular at the time on my Walkman. Then my batteries ran out. My little sister, engrossed in a book handed me hers. I put the headphones on, I pressed play… and then I heard the opening bars of ‘Alive’ for the very first time.

In the South of France with my sister
Sam had discovered grunge through her school mates, a group of grubby hairy boys who played guitars and thought they were cool (to be fair, they were). During the course of our holiday I worked my way through her tape collection. The music spoke to me. It took my teenage angst and turned it into poetry.

I changed a little that summer. I swapped my sandals for Doc Martins (which I spent an entire morning rubbing against a brick wall, scuffing up, the worn out look was way more ‘grunge’ than the brand new look). I dyed my long hair purple. I started wearing tie-die hippy dresses and wrapped strings of love beads up my arm. I started smoking. I honestly thought it made me look cool.

I wanted a tattoo. But I was 15. And my mother forbade it. And despite many a  stroppy teenage tantrum she wouldn’t change her mind (which kind of makes sense now…).

Over the years my musical tastes evolved, as did my hair colour. But I always wanted the tattoo. There were a few times I got as far as the shop front. I looked at pictures. I accompanied several friends as they got theirs. Something held me back… maybe I was scared of the pain, or of making a mistake and living with the consequences.

At the grand old age of 29 I finally worked up the courage to get the tattoo that I’d always wanted. I chose to have a small butterfly on my foot, deciding that that it would be easy to cover if necessary, a subtle tribute to my purple-haired-Doc-Martin wearing days. It was also the last leg of my around the world trip and getting a tattoo seemed like the perfect souvenir to what had been the trip of a lifetime.

My travelling buddy Rob came with me to hold my hand and stop me chickening out. Sporting some seriously cool ink he proved quite the expert. I chose a design. The tattoo artist arranged a transfer of my little butterfly on my foot. 

“Is this ok?” he asked.

I considered the transfer for a moment. Clearly I needed to be sure about the position…

In that brief moment I decided to change the angel of the butterfly, so that I could see it better. So that when I looked down, I would see it the right way up…

What I didn’t realise was that whilst I got to see a butterfly, small and subtle just as I wanted… when other people see it, it doesn’t look anything like a butterfly….

It looks like a prawn…

I have a tattoo of a prawn. 

I must admit that I like prawns, especially when they are the main ingredient in a Thai Green Curry, or smothered with garlic and barbequed to perfection. But I don’t like them so much that I want to pay tribute to them for the rest of my life!

Thank god I didn’t get it filled in pink!

Do I regret getting it done? Nope! Not one bit. It was something I always wanted and five years later I still feel the same way.

Plus, as an added bonus… It makes me laugh!


  1. Very sweet! Mine is of a lily. Can't see it at the moment, because of engorged boobs and swollen belly!

  2. Love this! 29? I was 40 when I got my first one, and it took 12 months and several attempts, and then a change of tattooist to get it right!!

    I love hearing the stories behind why someone gets a tattoo. And good tattoos are pieces of art. I love the two I have now, and when I get the next one, I will be going back to the same tattooist who made my wrist beautiful, and my side gorgeous.

  3. I love that your butterfly became a prawn!! What a great story and reminder of your journey! I've not got one ... call me chicken lol, but I reckon it'd be on my foot or wrist if I ever got game.

  4. You went where I could never go. In my gorgeous grunge days and nights hanging out in London I wondered what kind of tattoo wld represent how I always felt and who I was ... Being a Gemini I couldn't decide. Instead o got my nose pierced in India but took it out when the towel loom would catch in it when I washed my hair ... Not very grunge was I?

    1. I got my nose pierced too - in Thailand on the same round the world trip. I nearly fainted it was so bloody painful! It lasted the rest of the trip but I took it out when I started a new job after the travels x

  5. I was the same as Bachelor Mum - I got my nose pierced because I couldn't ever make up my mind about a tattoo design. The nose ring came out eventually because I was a complete coward about changing and cleaning it. Lucky because now my kids would be using it to swing on! I love that you have no regrets about your tattoo - it is part of your journey and something that makes you you.

  6. I love your prawn how adorable. I am so glad you worked up the courage to do something you really wanted too.

  7. Lol thats cute. I don't think I could get a tattoo. BUt some tattoos I see I think wow they are awesome and some are just way too much.

  8. I got on when I was about 22 I think. I have a butterfly on my shoulder blade, for two reasons, 1. I love butterflies, and 2. it reminded me of trying to catch butterflies in the butterfly net at my Grandma's house, and I missed my Grandma a lot (she had died 3 years earlier). I would love to get another one, something to represent my daughter but I'm not sure where or what yet. I am tempted to wait till we are finished having kids and get something to represent them all.

  9. Haha, Sensational! How could anyone regret something that makes them laugh every day when they see it?

  10. oh bless your cotton socks!!!!

    I want a tattoo.. I wanted one to mark my years in the UK..

    but chickened out because I don't want it to hurt!!!

    Its a great story.. and fabulous to tell the grandchildren one day!!

    1. It's actually not that painful! No worse than waxing I'd say :-)

  11. Another added bonus is that you get a great story out of it and others laugh along with you :)
    For some reason, I wouldn't have pictured you to be a grunge kinda gal. Then again, I saw Pearl Jam in concert and "Ten" was my anthem album throughout my last year at uni...but you probably wouldn't guessed that about me :)

  12. Oh Pearl Jam! How awesome were they?
    I have an angel and it was support to be on my shoulder blade, but I pointed to the wrong area, so it actually lives at the nape of my neck. And people keep asking if it's Caspar. Why would I Tatoo myself with Caspar?

  13. Older brothers and sisters have a huge responsibility to pass on cool music. Mine failed, but it all got sorted when I left home :)

  14. My very first tattoo at 19 was a butterfly on my ankle, it looks like a butterfly, but one day when I was at home, my dad did not know about it, and said "have you just been to the beach?". I said "yes" my dad then said "oh then you have a bit of seaweed stuck to your leg" referring to my tattoo. The thing is he was serious, he thought it was actually seaweed! :(

  15. That's so cute, at every one of my tattoos (4) they've made me view it in a mirror as well as looking down at them which, given your adorable prawn is probably a good thing. I checked my text tattoo stencil about a bajillion times before I let them ink it, I was so terrified of them spelling it wrong!

  16. LOL!!! hahahahahahah. ROFL!!! Still laughing ...
    You're hysterical.
    A prawn ....
    I have a tattoo on my right foot in the same spot as well. Not of a butterfly prawn though .... a moon and three stars. Got mine when I was 30.
    So pleased I didn't get one as a teenager. I may have ended up with Andrew Ridgeley on my arm or something (he was the other dude in Wham).

  17. I was a grunge girl too. I saw Pearl Jam at Alternate Nation. Those were the days!

  18. that's cool. I have a butterfly wing on my foot, and people always ask where its body is!

  19. I have 4 and I regret 2 :(

    First was a rose on my shoulder blade when I was 18. Then my ex husband forbid (hence he's an ex) me to get another. He finally relented and I was "allowed" to get one but only if it was next to my rose, so I got a fairy next to it when I was 19....

    Next came matching tattoos for me and my bestie for her 21st. Then when I was 23 I got my favourite tatt, a gecko on the top of my foot...

    One day the rose and the fairy will be removed!!

  20. I plan on getting one before I turn 30 next June. This is a cute story. I love that you don't regret it!

  21. I had a good giggle reading this! I love how you have embraced it, even if it isn't what you originally though!

  22. I got my first tattoo when I was a rebellious 16 year old. I didn't live at home, so I had no-one telling me I couldn't! Back yard job that is actually not too bad for a backyard job!

    And my second tattoo about 2 years ago on my wrist.

    I'll be back again too once I can afford it with no guilt lol

    I like your prawn. It represents something. And they're the best tattoo's!

  23. Good on you. I love that it has so much meaning behind it, even if it does look like a prawn lol. I've always wanted a tattoo but I am way too scared, both of the pain and the regret. My husband hates tattoos on women and that doesn't help either. I still want one though, but probably words along the inside of my foot. (Can be hidden easily). Don't know....maybe one day.

  24. I was 30 when I got my first. I had wanted one since 15, so the fact that I still wanted it 15 years later made me decide to do it as a 30th birthday present to myself. Since then I've got another one and hoping to do one more with my kids names or something. Just haven't decided exactly what yet! :)

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