In praise of the bestie tattoo
“I can’t believe we’ve been friends for almost ten years,” I said over a snack with one of my closest friends, Jess. We were scrambling to get caffeinated and fed before running out the door for her bridal dress fitting. When Jess asked me to be her maid of honor a week earlier, we shed happy tears while considering our past near-decade of friendship. There had been a regrettable year of lapsed communication, one move to Berlin (mine), one move to Melbourne (hers), and innumerable nights spent over beers, laughing and talking. We had been through college, a car accident, a Beyoncé concert, long-term relationships, and long-term break ups together. She provided an endless stream of support and love, and I had done my best to offer the same.
Now, as we momentarily marched towards a bridal fitting, the reality that Jess and her fiancé would soon be moving across the country for graduate school loomed gloomily. For all the immediate joy around these tremendous life events, Jess and I slowly had to say good-bye, piece by piece.
As we chugged our green tea and pulled up directions to the bridal shop, I ventured, “You know, maybe we should do something just the two of us before you move. Dinner or a night out or…even get tattoos.” It seemed like a innocuous suggestion and one that I didn’t think would take at all – while both of us have tattoos, neither Jess nor I are tattoo enthusiasts. Dinner would have been just great! We would have a cocktail or two, split a pizza and dessert, and cry in the car about how much we’d miss each other. Easy.
Jess whirled around, slammed her hands on the counter top, and yelled, “WE SHOULD ABSOLUTELY GET TATTOOS.”
When your best friend is about to move 1,400 miles away and gets that excited about the mere idea of a tattoo, well, grit your teeth—you’re getting inked.
I booked the appointment for a week later, with a tattoo artist whose work I loved, and we quickly overwhelmed him with design ideas. Mountains? No, a wood-cut wave! But what about agave plants? No, too “done.” What about placement? I chose to add it to my sidepiece. Jess debated whether her upper or lower arm was better.
Jess mused, “Are we getting the same tattoo or just getting tattooed at the same time?”
“I don’t know. Are there rules around BFF tattoos?”
We drew a blank on that one.
On the day-of, I picked Jess up for our appointment and suggested that we head to a bar, ASAP. My nerves were finally getting the better of me – and, after all, what’s getting a BFF tattoo unless you start with a trip to the bar? We nervously swapped stories about getting tattooed and squirmed over how much it would hurt. Two tequila shots and Tecates later, we rock-paper-scissored for who had to get tattooed first. Jess lost, I appointed her first up, and she finalized her tattoo choice: a sprig of lavender.
“It’s the two of us! You and me!” she said.
The buzzing of the tattoo gun amplified with the sound of our laughing, gritting, and distracting renditions of our favorite songs. Jess bared her arm to the tattoo artist while using her other arm to grip my hand. Fifteen minutes later, she stood up and proudly walked over to the mirror to check out her fresh tattoo. Blood and ink mixed together on her upper arm and were wiped away to reveal a simple, beautiful illustration.
“I love it,” she sighed.
We swapped seats as the artist tried to strategically fit the imprint of my new tattoo over a larger sidepiece of the Battle of Gonzales flag I already have. He sheepishly let me know that I’d need to be topless for the tattoo and that I was welcome to go take some gauze and make myself some makeshift pasties, which brought about inconsolable giggles from the two of us.
“Really?” I asked, while the poor tattoo artist nodded. “Alright, if you say so.”
I lay down and took a deep breath. “Here we go!”
I grimaced through the next twenty minutes. When it was all over, I stood up, placed my side next to Jess’s arm, and we hugged. Three weeks later, we held that same embrace and said a temporary good-bye as Jess set off on her move.
The two of us, her and me, live on together in a simple illustration of lavender sprigs, intertwined. When I catch a glimpse of my new BFF tattoo in the mirror, I can only think about the silly, small adventure we took together to get the tattoo and the bigger adventures we have yet to tackle. No matter where our friendship grows, or even if it falters, there’s testament to how much we loved each other – BFF tattoos and all.
[Photo via author]