HomeCultureThat Time We Got Matching Tattoos in Mexico

That Time We Got Matching Tattoos in Mexico

You did what?! A Traveling Tale by Lisa Riley

And Other Stories

Last year, I got matching tattoos with my best friend, Annette.

In Mexico.

As you might imagine, there were some comments when I got home. Most, I’ll admit, were of the, “Did you get a side of Hepatitis with that?” variety. But I also had to field a fair number of, “Matching tattoos? Wow. That’s…brave. You must really like each other.”

As a matter of fact, we do!

Matching tattoos are one of those things that most people think sound like a really bad idea – like genital piercings, or a reverse mohawk. I used to agree with those people – at least insofar as I thought I would never want to get matching tattoos with a romantic partner. It just seemed like too much of a commitment! Which is funny, when you think about it, since I’ve been married (twice) and marriage is supposed to be for life (clearly not in my case, but still)… So, why would I balk at having the same tattoo as the person I was married to? But, I digress…

matching tattoos

A passion for travel.

As some of you may have guessed, Annette and I love to travel. Even more, we love to travel together. The first trip we took together was with my family, to the Oregon Coast, when we were 16. My family did a lot of road trips when I was growing up, but this was the first time I was allowed to take a friend along. It changed my whole idea of travel.

Suddenly I had someone to roam and explore with; someone to stay up half the night with; someone to commiserate about my family with! It made the trip so much more enjoyable. And, the adventures we had seemed to last longer, seemed almost tattooed on our memories since we could relive them over and over with each other.

That trip was close to 30 years ago, but we still love to travel together. Since both of us have jobs and kids, we are usually relegated to short trips. An overnight at Mt. Rainier. Four days in Vegas. A three-day weekend on the beach in California. You get the idea. We never have a lot of extra time, but we excel at packing maximum fun into a minimal time period.

So, in the summer of 2017, when we decided to sign up for a yoga retreat in Mexico together, we made sure to tack on a few extra days for exploring. We booked two nights in Sayulita, as we had both heard great things, and it was only about an hour’s bus ride from our location.

Our yoga retreat was as you might expect – challenging, rejuvenating, illuminating. We arrived in Sayulita feeling like new women. Roaming the town (it’s not big, so this didn’t take long), we reminisced about our long friendship and all the trips we’d taken, both together and apart. (We agreed we preferred traveling together.) As we walked around, we noticed a couple of tattoo shops in town, and I jokingly said (or maybe she said?) that maybe we should get a tattoo while we were there…

And that’s how it started.

As a joke, of course. But, once it was out there, we kept thinking about it and talking about it. Why not get tattoos together? Both of us already had tattoos, and we loved them… We loved each other, and our friendship had already stood the test of time.

Before the day was out, we were making an appointment and searching for our “perfect” tattoo. A matching tattoo.

And I love it.

A Case for Matching Tattoos

As with anything you do to your body, whether or not to get matching tattoos is a personal choice. A choice involving many factors, none of which should be anyone else’s opinion on the subject. In my case, the decision was made on the spur of the moment – but one that happened to be the perfect moment to commemorate with such an act.

In that moment, I was with my best friend in the whole world; in a country I was exceedingly fond of; in one of many new places I had explored with this person; following a ritual retreat in which we bared our tender parts and came through both stronger and more vulnerable. These are the moments that SCREAM to be marked in indelible ink!

There are many cases for matching tattoos, each as unique as the people getting them. Many married couples get matching tattoos, for instance. Some are small and inconspicuous, like tattooed wedding bands on their ring fingers. Others, like this couple’s wedding tattoo, are a bit more…bold. ?

matching tattoos
Photo: Sacred Jinx via flickr.

I have friends that have matching tattoos with siblings, parents, children, and exes. Some of them still have excellent relationships with those people, and others… Not so much. But, does that really matter? At the time you chose to get your tattoos – in that moment – that relationship meant something important in your life. The relationship may change, but that moment will always have importance. At least, that’s how I see it. And, even if I’m wrong, tattoo artists say, “It doesn’t matter.”

What Tattoo Artists Have to Say About Matching Tattoos

I searched around online to see what tattoo artists think of matching tattoos, thinking they would have some horror stories, but most of them were all for it. The general consensus seems to be:

  1. Tattoos aren’t really forever. At least, not anymore – not with insane cover artists and laser removal. So, worst case scenario, you want to get rid of it… You can.
  2. They recommend you make sure there is some artistic quality to it, so that you like the look of it.
  3. Make sure your chosen design means something to you. Basically, if you love the tattoo, you will want to keep it. Regardless of any personal connection.

And then again, for some people, it is precisely that mark of personal connection that they crave. As @SophieMorris on bucketlist.net says:

Tattoos can mark significant events in your life, both good and bad. Sometimes, the most challenging events in our lives can lead to the most dramatic personal growth. Relationships formed during traumatic events can have an unshakeable bond. My friend, Sarai, told me about the matching tattoo she has with her sister:

Photo: Sarai-Anna Leah Lowe

Keep me wild, keep me safe.

A Story of Survival by Sarai-Anna Leah Lowe

The reason I decided to get matching tattoos with my sister was to signify a promise made, and my dedication to our bond. To give a small backstory, my little sister and I have always been close. There were times, of course, when we’ve argued. But I know she will always have my back. And vice versa.

Our upbringing was not glamorous or even normal. There was a lot of trauma, both mental/emotional and physical. We depended a lot on each other. Being the elder sister, I felt the need to protect her to the best of my ability; she was my baby sister and I wanted to shield her from the evil around us. Meanwhile she, being the baby, was somehow always able to make things fun and keep me grounded. There have been many times when I felt as if I couldn’t go on, and she helped me see the light again.

We had talked about getting matching tattoos before. Then, last year, she surprised me for my birthday with a tattoo appointment. We brainstormed and designed our tattoos together. Mine reads “She Keeps Me Wild” and hers reads “She Keeps Me Safe”. We set the words against mountains and trees to remind us where we came from. And that, no matter what, we can face any obstacle together.

We made a promise to each other when we walked out of the tattoo parlor: To always be present in each other’s lives, to always have a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, and to always stand up for each other.  -Sarai Anna Lowe

Of course, there are some relationships that are simply indelible. My sweet niece (and SEL columnist), Tayler Larson, has such a relationship with her mother (Amy Larson) and grandmother (Mary Sargent). Theirs is a bond that has overcome many obstacles, including whether or not to get matching tattoos. In the words of Tayler’s mom (and my cousin):

Photo: Amy Larson

“I never thought I was a tattoo person.”

A Sisterhood Story by Amy Larson.

For most of my life, I thought tattoos had a certain “look,” and that look just wasn’t me. I remember saying that I wouldn’t ever get a tattoo because I wanted to be able to wear a beautiful gown to a black-tie event and look elegant. In my mind, tattoos and elegance did not coexist. And let’s not forget that I am nearly paralyzed by making decisions, and I second guess myself endlessly. It can take me months to choose a paint color! Plus, my tastes change dramatically from year to year.

So, to think of painting something on my body that I could not change or remove seemed like a recipe for anxiety and regret.

But as I got older, I watched the societal perception of tattoos change and I began to see people of all ages getting them for a myriad of reasons. What used to be (in my mind) a symbol of rebellion, anti-establishment, or poor judgment was becoming, in essence, a declaration. A declaration of self, of belief, of faith, of loss, commitment, love, artistic expression, heritage… even a declaration of family. And tattoos were also becoming more beautiful, more diverse, more feminine. In some cases, even (yes!) elegant.

Over time, my two older children both got tattoos. My husband began to express interest in us getting one together. And, funniest of all, my mother, then in her 60’s, began saying she wanted a “tat”. Now, I come from a conservative, Christian, middle class, suburban family, where most grandmothers do not have tattoos! LOL. But my mother is a force of nature and never one to color within the lines. My daughter was immediately on board, saying, “Grammy, I will get a tattoo with you!”

And, thus, the conversation began.

One thing to realize about my mother, my daughter and myself, is that none of us has sisters. My mom is an only child, I have one older brother, and my daughter is sandwiched between two boys. I think this has given the three of us a unique relationship because, in our family of men, we have only each other. Plus…we all love daisies.

My mother had daisies on her wedding dress, and always said they were her favorite flower. I think because they are wild and free, happy and unpretentious, just like her. Then it was a bouquet of white daisies that were the first flowers my husband ever gave to me, long before he was my husband. Ultimately, when we designed a new wedding ring years later, I included daisies in the design. And, I think my daughter fell in love with them because they had become representative of the women in our family; of our feisty spirits, and our unique “sisterhood”.

Photos: Amy Larson

So, as the tattoo talks progressed (and I was the foot-dragger, big surprise) it was decided that we would each get three daisies. Suddenly, all of my reluctance and fear of regret disappeared. I knew this tattoo wasn’t a symbol of something that I would grow out of, or a style that would change. This tattoo wasn’t an impulse.

It was a declaration!

In October of 2016, my daughter made the appointment and we took the plunge. My mother was 69, I was 43 and my daughter was 22. Yes, there was wine involved! Now, the three daisies on my shoulder are a testimony to the two women in my life who made me who I am and who always have my back. And if I ever get to go to another black-tie event, I will proudly leave my shoulders bare.

I love you (1-4-3), my Sisters.  -Amy Larson

Photo: Amy Larson

The great thing about tattoos is that they tell a story.

A Brief History of my Aunt Mary.

Mary Sargent is one of the most authentically selfless, generous, and honorable women I’ve ever met. She is considerate to her own detriment at times, but has always put others before herself. She is hilarious and fun and makes everyone feel special. She is the aunt who always “loves you most”. In a FB thread recently, she told at least 5 people that they were her favorite. My cousin, Melanie (a.k.a. The Goddess), started cracking up:

OMG, I am dying! The one thing you can count on with the Moozers is that you are always her favorite! Just don’t bother to try to differentiate what kind of favorite… Just appreciate how Loved you are! Or at least that’s how I take it. And heck Tim, at least you’re on the top of the heap this time! Hahaha ?

And, Mary’s response?

Melanie Sargent, how do you know these things? But yes! When someone is my favorite…that’s what they are!! Dearly dearly loved by this old bird!! 

Aunt Mary, or Moozy as she is affectionately called within the family, is beloved by all who know her. And, personally, the more I get to know my dear Moozy, the more I adore her. Aunt Mary is fierce in her loyalties, strong in her convictions, and (more and more) secure in her feminist beliefs. This last has been a bit of a revelation (for me, at least), and a welcome one.

It has been fun to watch my (somewhat) sheltered, Christian aunt begin to recognize and embrace her power as a woman. Seeing her stand up to my charismatic, opinionated Uncle Phil has been especially satisfying for me (there aren’t too many women in my family who stand up to Uncle Phil), and this tattoo story is a prime example. Uncle Phil DID NOT want Aunt Mary getting a tattoo, but she did it anyway. I asked her about it: “You mean how he almost showed me the door and Amy got in his face on my behalf???” She laughs about it now, but I think it was a big deal. That tattoo holds power, and it is her power.

(Aunt Mary, you’re my Shero. Love, Lisa.)

Video: Mary Sargent

A force of nature.

Moozie Gets a Tattoo, A Film by Mary Sargent.

Getting a tattoo at the age of 69 was such a power play for me as one who always had bit of an edgy core with a conservative face. (Grin.) Daughter Amy, granddaughter Tayler and I had some love we wanted to commemorate by way of matching tattoos. I was SO on board, and couldn’t get to the tattoo parlor fast enough. My only challenge was the Mister I live with, who thinks they are a mark of the devil (only partly kidding). So, the actual getting of my tatt with my girls was delayed by about 2 years. Plus, Amy had some anxiety about it. (She would probably not own this but it’s true!) Anyway, the design of a trio of daisies (which we love) and us being a trio without sisters, the expression of 143 which in our family means I love you…all served to make up our Love Tatt. 

I have never had so much fun! 

I was the first in line, and though they thought I would get a stamp-sized, piddly little token tatt, I went BOLD and BIG! Showy!! It has been fun to see the shock and awe. It was NOT fun to come home to my husband who WAS NOT AMUSED. But, 3 years down the road, my marriage survived 8^), and I would get another one today! (From Lisa – she’s not kidding. She already tried to get me to agree to one!!) I believe tattoos should be meaningful.  Ours made a statement that we hold close in our hearts.

Thanks, sweet Lisa, for wanting to write about us.  We love you! -Love, Aunt Mary


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Lisa Riley
Lisa Riley
Lisa is a Restoration Ecologist and Technical Writer from Bend, OR. Her work takes her across the western half of the country, putting plants in the ground and trying to do her part to save the planet. When stuck in the office, it is generally to write proposals, planting designs, weed control plans, and other technical documents (nothing remotely interesting or fun). Lisa has always loved to write, but has only been published by Annette (bless her heart) in her former publication, True North, and in the one she currently edits, Red Tricycle. Reading, writing and exploring the world are what Lisa loves to do (besides saving the planet), and She Explores Life is an attempt to integrate them all into something bigger. She is just looking forward to seeing where this all takes us!