MilSpouse Ink: How Many Tattoos are too Many?

I have two tattoos. They’re small and hidden away in locations that can’t be seen by the public eye, and although I could probably do without the first one, I love my second one and the meaning it holds for me.

I can’t exactly pinpoint the motivation behind permanently scarring your own body in the name of art and personal expression, but I do know that tattoos are addictive. Within months of getting my first tattoo, I got my second one. Months later, I had the itch for a third. I was a needle’s length away from a shoulder butterfly or quite possibly a tramp stamp when I came to my senses.

Did I really want to flip through an album filled with my future wedding pictures and see a butterfly overshadowing the most beautiful dress I’ll ever wear in my life? Did I really want my future kids to ask me why my lower back is covered in indecipherable Japanese writing? Did I really want to continue marking up my body with symbols that probably wouldn’t mean as much to me when I was 40 as they did when I was 20? What kind of message would it send to other people like potential employers, co-workers, women I’d like to befriend, if I’m covered in tattoos?

The answer to those questions cured my tattoo addiction.

But the addiction to tattoos seems to be commonplace in the military, both for servicemembers and their spouses. At least on the servicemember side, those tattoo habits are kept in check by service-specific regulations regarding content, location and size. But what about us spouses? Should there be some unwritten rule of etiquette for our body art? After all, if the military thinks it’s uncool for our husbands to have sleeve tattoos, what kind of message are we sending if we show up to a military ball with a parade of military spouse tattoos running down our arms?

I understand that for some, tattoos symbolize something greater than mere decoration. Tattoos can act as memorials for lost love ones, reminders of strength or testaments of love. And I think that’s perfectly understandable and acceptable. But not if it requires half your body to accomplish that goal, not to mention half your bank account (tattoos aren’t cheap!).

I’m all about freedom of expression. However, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of seeing more tattoo than skin. (Okay, well, I might make an exception for Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. But that’s it.) And when I see women with more tattoos than I can count, I have to wonder what they were thinking. Take the jaw-dropping gorgeous actress Megan Fox as an example. Now Megan, I’m sure Marilyn Monroe holds a special place in your heart, but did you really need her face tattooed on your forearm? (The answer is no, which is why you chose to undergo the painful process of removing it.)

I’d also like to think that I don’t judge a book by its ink. I know plenty of people who have multiple tattoos, and I never thought twice about it. But the world is a judgmental place.

In certain situations, appearances do matter. And while I can’t say that I’ve seen many military spouses sporting anything as drastic as a facial tattoo a la Mike Tyson, I can say that I’ve seen some that made me wonder what they were thinking.

So what do you think? How many tattoos are too many? How many tattoos do you have? What kind of special meaning do they hold for you? Do you think people judge you because of your tattoos?

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