My first and last tattoo.

Yes, it is true and I am having a hard time believing it myself. I have not told my parents yet, but I did tell my brother and sent him a picture so chances are they know. But so far no angry texts from them. One of my cousins blasted me on Facebook telling me that  in the Bible (she gave me the exact chapter in verse) it says not to get tattooed. I am thinking that getting a tattoo is the least of my sins.

Anyway, let me explain how I walked into a tattoo parlor for the first time in my life and got a tattoo at age 51.

My running twin Yvonne was diagnosed with stage three triple negative breast cancer a few weeks ago. She said that she would get a tattoo to mark this occasion. Her doctor recommended that she wait until after chemotherapy to get one. Up until this point I had been dying  pieces of my hair pink to honor those women in my life who are breast cancer survivors.

Can you tell us apart?

Sadly I was running out of hair to dye. We have to do something about this disease.

Anyway, I took Yvonne’s news very very hard. I honestly don’t know why unless it is because at times we look a lot alike and people, my sister included , have gotten us mixed up. I cried so much that I swear I lost five pounds.

Someone asked me if I was going to shave my head. Wow, would I? Could I? I mean I could and I would really like to think that I would, but I wavered. I wavered in a big way. And listening to Yvonne talk about her upcoming regiment, I felt completely helpless. Helpless in a way that I had never experienced before and that was scary.

two tatts
Victoria and me just after getting tattooed. Not sure why I look white in this picture

So when the word tattoo was mentioned I agreed to get one. What I did not anticipate was how fast I would be ushered to the tattoo parlor. I had butterflies and I am so glad Victoria was there with me. I will not lie and say that it did not hurt. It hurt, but I figured that whatever Yvonne was going to face would be much harder than the 10 minutes of pain I felt. Yes, it took more time to make the stencil than it did to actually do the tattoo. And for the record, I am a wimp. I hate needles.

So yes, now I am marked for life. But this time I chose to be marked. This is not like those random acts of fate that took me into womanhood bruising my heart and my soul. This is not a broken heart from a bad romance, the lost of a job, a betrayal, or any of the rites of passage I survived.

This about showing strength in a way I had never done before. This is about honoring Yvonne for the rest of my life while not saying a word. This is about doing something when I had nothing to do. Yes, dare I say it? This is about me. About me being the activist and instead of marching in the streets, I am displaying my cause on my wrist and in my heart.

Now you know, it is not a rumor. I really got a tattoo, but please…don’t tell my parents.




  1. Elizabeth Gilchrist

    Good for you, Doretha! You have embraced your friend’s health struggle in a very real way.

    • Thank you. It is my first and last tattoo. It is interesting to see people’s responses to me having it.

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