Rosemary Donahue
September 09, 2015 1:25 pm

There are four things you need to know about me that are important for this story: 1) I love my dogs, 2) I’m easily excited, 3) I love tattoos, and 4) I’m an editor.

My brother and I have always wanted to get tattooed together, and last month when he came to town, I decided to make appointments for the both of us. I had been following a great artist on Instagram for some time, and decided to get a tattoo of some California poppies on my arm. She has a really great way of doing flowers and I thought it was a nice (and subtle) tribute to my home state. I also asked her if she had time to do another small tattoo — my dogs names in a simple heart outline — and here’s where the story gets fun.

So, my dog’s names are Milo and Lily, and I love them from their tails to their noses. I’ve had Milo for over a year, and Lily for just a month — but she’s already family. They each have different and quirky personalities, and I know it’s cliche, but I feel so lucky that we all found each other. I’ve wanted for a long time to get a tattoo commemorating my love for Milo, and when we got Lily, it was obvious she needed to be let in on it, too.

When we got to the shop and it was time to draw up the outline, I asked for their names to be centered in the heart with an ampersand between them. While she drew the tattoo, we chatted about The X-Files, pizza, and how hot it was (I know talk about the weather is usually boring, but it was August! In New York!). I was thrilled when I looked at her outline — I had been concerned she’d spell Lily with two l’s but there was only one to speak of, and the shape of the heart was exactly as I’d imagined. We sat down, she shaved my arm, and got to work.

After my turn was over, my brother climbed on the table and my boyfriend surveyed my new arm decorations. He was thrilled with the poppies and told me how beautiful they looked. Then he looked down at the heart and said, “Uh… isn’t that ampersand backwards?” I looked down, confirmed that the ampersand was, indeed, backwards, and laughed at the irony of it all.

You see, I’m an editor. Or rather, I am trying to be an editor — though I edit a literary magazine and blog, I do that in my own time and for free; right now, I’m actively seeking positions in the publishing industry. I immediately had visions of sitting down at an interview for an editorial position and watching the interviewer’s face fall as they realized that I, the woman asking for a position as point-person for all things language, had a mistake of a punctuation mark permanently emblazoned on my arm.

So, what did I do? Well first, in a state of denial, I Googled things like “ampersand backwards?” to see if the orientation was something of preference; something I could potentially get away with (it isn’t). Then, I pondered trying to pull off the whole “it’s a choice I made on purpose; I try not to take myself too seriously” thing (I can’t). Then, I Googled fonts. So many fonts. The specific search term, I believe, was “ampersand in every font.”

I finally found one with curves in all the right places to hide the telltale straight lines, and I sent my artist an email. She was, of course, overly apologetic — but we had both been so excited about our conversation and so wrapped up in making sure the spelling was correct, it was an easy mistake to make. I assured her there was no harm done, especially because it was such an easy fix, and that I was actually kind of glad to have something funny to write about. We made an appointment, she fixed the ampersand, and now, looking at my arm, you’d never know anything was ever wrong. Unless, of course, you’ve read this story.

Related:

All the tattoos I didn’t get and the one I did

Why I had my friend’s handwriting tattooed on my body

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