First Time Ink Experiences From Men and Women Over 40

Maybe it's time to take the plunge!

Woman with a tattoo
Getty Images
of 10


Tattoo by Various Artists, Primarily Martin - Lucky Stars - San Jose, CA and Shannon - Marks of Art - San Jose, CA. Collector: Linda

I will be turning 63 next month and I got my first tattoo at age 60. It's a flash piece from a popular studio in town and it's above my outside ankle.

Three months later I got a tattoo of my sun sign, Aquarius, on my right inside forearm. Then I had the sun added over the waves. Following that I had 6 stars added, from my wrist to the inside bend of my elbow in basically a shape of S. Then I went to Hawaii on a trip and stopped by the local tattoo studio and added many little cross stars and dots to make it look more ethereal. Then I got swirls added to really make it into an S and pull it together and not look like it was floating. After that I added my moon and rising signs, 5 more stars and another set of swirls.

It has come to be very meaningful to me. I was adopted and the first 6 stars I got tattooed were coincidentally done 2 weeks before I got the phone call that my birth mother had been found. I discovered that my twin sister and I have a half-sister and a half-brother. Our mother is now 87 years old and I have met with her 3 times. Unbelievably, she lives 25 miles from me. The night I made the first call to my birth mother and found out about my siblings, a friend who was here said, "Now I see why you have 6 stars: you, your twin, half-sister, half-brother, birth mother and birth father!" Later, I added 2 special stars for my adoptive mother and father. I am attaching a picture of my tattooed forearm. Hopefully, you can see it well.

The creation on my arm has all been my own doing, a little at a time over a year and a half. It was a real shocker at first to have a not-so-subtle tattoo on a place I would see it everyday (the one on my ankle I can hardly notice) and I was quite self-conscious at first, but now I'm very proud of it (especially since I created the design) and like to show it off.

of 10


Tattoo by Rich Wren - Mercury Tattoo - Glenside, PA. Collector: Cat

I am a 48-year-old woman who was always interested in getting a tattoo, but never had the nerve or knew what I wanted to get permanently inked on my body.

Well, having a teenager daughter gave me the "inspiration" for my very first one at the ripe old age of 45! A very simple tribal sun on my left shoulder blade and I was hooked! My artist, Rich, said to me during our very first session, "You'll be back. I can tell!" Needless to say, he was right! We have just completed the 1st part of my leg "sleeve". This portion consists of beautiful, colorful calla lilies and splashes of water incorporated around 2 existing kanji characters Rich had already done on the outside of my leg. The next section will include a red cardinal. Haven't yet decided whether it will be in flight or resting atop a tree branch. This is also my first color piece. I am a big fan of black and gray, but I do love my colorful flowers!!

I enjoy everything about the tattoo process. I have been told by my artist that no other clients of his are as curious or ask as many questions as I do each and every time we have a session. I enjoy watching him set up for our sessions, prep his tattoo machine and mix his inks, etc, etc, etc!! I think I am becoming a tattoo "groupie"!

of 10


Collector: Roger

I received my first and only tattoo last September on my 48th birthday. My 53-year-old sister got it for me. She had told me several years back that if I ever found the pattern that she would get it for me. I went back to Indiana to visit with my pattern in hand. I returned to California with a platypus on my shin. I have loved the platypus since I was 10 years old. I know I'll never get tired of it.

of 10


Collector: Scott

It's a widely accepted phenomenon. Finding dimes is a message from a loved one from "the other side." I have been finding dimes for 9 years, since my son died in a horrible car accident. I probably have 200 of them! And they are always in the weirdest places. On the shoulder of the road, in a driveway, etc. I almost always find a dime during a race (I am a runner). I stop to pick them up, and have been almost trampled by runners behind me.

I had this dime tat on my wrist, (I was 48) in a spot usually covered by my watch. The silhouette is my son's instead of FDR. Now whenever I have to remove my watch, I find a dime.

It always makes me smile.

of 10


Tattoo by Jeff Bosco McManus - Tropical Tattoo - Ormond Beach, FL. Collector: Kari

I got my first (and only!) tattoo at age 51. I had planned to do it for my 50th birthday, but the right time did not present itself. I'm an oncology nurse at a clinic that treats patients with multiple myeloma. It is the leader in the treatment of this type of cancer and we have patients from all over the world come to us for treatment, typically staying in town for a month or more at a time. We get to know our patients and families very well and some even become good friends.

About three years ago, I became close to the wife of one of our patients. One day, I mentioned that I was going to get a tattoo for my 50th and the wife said she always wanted to get one also. From then on, we always talked about getting our tattoos at the same time.

I went to visit them in Daytona for the annual "Biketoberfest" motorcycle rally in 2006 and on the Saturday night of the event, her husband (my patient), took us to a tattoo studio. My artist drew out his interpretation and it was perfect. But as good as the preliminary drawing was, the tat turned out better than I could have imagined. I envisioned some intense cat eyes looking through purple flames but the artist really captured what I wanted to portray. At that time, my patient could not get a tattoo due to his treatment, so last week, I flew down to Daytona to surprise him for his birthday and to take him to get HIS tattoo! I was making good on a statement I made while I was being tattooed..."I'll get you for this!" (I have a very high pain tolerance but there were some times it was pretty ouchy being in that location.) So now, all three of us have our tattoos and the circumstances surrounding how we got them further seals our friendship.

of 10


Collector: Barbara

I was 53 when I got my first one and will celebrate my 61st birthday with #4.

Each one has a special meaning to me and are in places that are not visible to everyone because they are a very personal thing to me. I am also a wedding and event planner and I'm not sure what my clients would think about this old grandma with tattoos. When my oldest daughter found out I had a tat she was furious, not because I had one but because I didn't tell her! Funny how that works.

I have never been sorry I have my body art and in fact my birthday tattoo will be the logo of the hotel I work at in Baja Mexico and my boss is paying for it. I love the La Fonda Hotel and Spa where I work so it is only fitting that I have it forever imprinted on my body. If you are interested in seeing my body art I will gladly send pictures because I am very proud of them.

Some will ask why I even bothered to get one at 53. Well that's an easy one. Because I could, besides that, if I got one when I was 20 it would probably not look too good now but when I die my tattoo's will still look really good.

of 10


Collector: Steven

I got my first [tattoo] at 56 after open heart surgery. I figured why wait any longer, life is too short to wait. When I was younger in my family's house was decorated in Asian decor and we had a statue of a happy Buddha in the living room. Needless to say the decor is gone but the Buddha is still with me. My sister tried to steal it to no avail. Then in 1969, I went to Vietnam and after a couple of months I shaved my head on a dare and when I walked down the street the locals called me Buddhaman. All of a sudden I had a nickname that stuck to this day. My license plate says BUDAMON, as that was all that was available so now I'm Buddamon. Both my grown girls have tattoos. One has 11 the other only 1 so it's become a family thing.

of 10


Tattoo by Scott - Shoe's Tattoos - Schuylkill Haven, PA. Collector: Jim

Wanted to tell you my story about getting my first tattoo after 40. I got my first tat at 47 to celebrate my two children. Prior to that, the thought never really crossed my mind about getting one.

My first tat was an alligator and two hearts- my son's name is Gator (4 yrs old at the time) and the two hearts were for my daughter Gracie (3 yrs old). They are the loves of my life! The following year, things took a turn for the worst when my wife & I separated after being married for six years. The hardest thing was not being able to see my kids every day; to kiss them good night and before I left for work in the wee hours of the morning; missing a lot of the little spur-of-the-moment, day-to-day experiences.

The next tat I decided to get was a tiger face (for quiet strength and patience). Then came my first dragon (a royal Chinese blue dragon) with its tail curled around the gator and hearts for their protection. Then came the tiger scene on my back, another dragon (green) on the other arm and back, and back to fill in the tiger face upper arm with a jungle scene complete with a dragon fly. Currently, I'm in the process of getting a third dragon (yellow) with the other dragons and to fill in that upper arm.

The tats have kept me quite busy these last few years. All the work has been done by Scott at Shoe's Tattoos in Schuylkill Haven, PA. The symbolism of each has met the strength and inner power of one's self as it relates to me and my children and dealing with the ups and downs of life. I've met a lot of great people connected with the tattoo world and seeing so many awesome tats being done has me always thinking of what ink will be next. I'm 51 now and still going strong.

of 10


Back in 1999, when I was 53, I got some serious medical news on the same day - a mammogram came back with some concerning images - and they needed me to retest. My dermatologist found something she thought might be melanoma, and she took a sample to test. Both of these things happened within a two hour time period on the same day. I had to wait two weeks for the skin biopsy to come back and it was the longest two weeks of my life. I spent a lot of that time thinking about what was important to me and what wasn't - and what I still wanted to accomplish.

When I got the "all clear" on BOTH medical issues, about two weeks later, I felt like I had faced death down and triumphed. I founded the "Not Dead Yet Club." A few of my friends who had faced similar life and death moments, and provided me with the emotional support I needed during that time joined as well. I decided that there would be only ONE yearly membership fee. We all had to decide (a year ahead of time) on one thing that we had always WANTED to do - but had either never worked up enough nerve or got around to doing - and write it out and put it in a box...and then do it.

First on my list was a tattoo. I had planned to get one for at least 20 years, but always talked myself out of it. Since I'm an artist, I designed my own and took it down to the local tattoo parlor. And at 53, got my first - and so far, ONLY - tattoo. Since then, I have done big and small things; some I kept up, and some I only did once, but that first thing - the tattoo - was the beginning of the Celebration of Life for me.

of 10


Three years ago my son lost his job and he tried many different avenues for work - but the pay scale in Pennsylvania is pretty low. When he lived in Delaware he was a supervisor for a poultry plant and he worked part time for a tattoo shop in Rehoboth Beach. He came to me and asked me to invest in him opening a Tattoo Shop- I agreed.

On weekends I would work the desk for him in the shop. I grew up in a generation that really didn't identify with tattoos - but the more I watched him work - the more I came to appreciate the art. So at a mere 50 years old I sat down and got my first tattoo. So from my hip to my knee my tattoo covers all my spider veins - and I love it - at least I don't have to look at all those purple lines anymore. So now I have a portrait on my left arm a quarter sleeve on my right and some bear paws on my other leg - again to hide spider veins. I now love tattoos!!!