Sunday, February 6, 2011

Think Before You Ink by Gerris Ferris Finger

Gerrie Ferris Finger is a winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition.  She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband, Col. Alan Jay Finger, USMC (Ret.), and their standard poodle, Bogey.  Gerrie is also retired after twenty years in journalism at The Atlanta Journal Constitution where she edited the columns of late humorist Lewis Grizzard and covered local and national news.   You can read more about her here:, follow her blog here: 

Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake, is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after their foster parents’ house burns down.

This winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel – From the Publisher, St. Martin's Minotaur.

The second in the Dru/Lake series, The Last Temptation, is under contract; no release date set.

by Gerrie Ferris Finger

If symbols on cave walls were man's earliest form of communication, what do artful (or awful) tattoos communicate?

Ewwww, pain. Tatted-up basketball players must not feel pain. Some years ago, before the tattoo rage, I interviewed a tattoo artist in Atlanta for a newspaper story (I am a retired editor/reporter). He said that if you can't stand the sight of blood, and if needles make you cringe, you're not someone he wants in his shop.

People have fainted, thrown up, ran out screeching. Most people, though, grit and bear it. As with dentistry, technology has improved the implements of torture.

I do not like needles or the sight of my blood flowing outside my veins, but I had no trouble watching him tattoo a woman's shoulder. The needles didn't go in far and moved in an up-and-down motion, spreading the ink below her skin's surface. While he wiped blood pricks, and with her smiling valiantly, he told me that he doesn't work on drunks. That belies the notion that people get drunked up, sentimental and decide to have their girlfriend's name tattooed in places where you shouldn't have tats. His wasn't an indictment against alcohol or girlfriends names on the odd body part, but because alcohol makes you bleed more profusely. As he pushed red ink beneath the girl's white skin to make a rose, he pointed out that the girl had very little bleeding. Nevertheless, she was going to need bandages and iodine, and have a perfect excuse for her pain killer of choice.

Back to symbols as a form of communication. What are the most popular tats, and  what do they say to us? I believe symbolism plays a significant role in our lives, a lot of it unconsciously. Most of us believe our Zodiac signs have meaning, so why not have them permanently emblazoned on our skin. I'm a Sagittarius. I kind of like the half horse, half woman (wearing a cover-up) aiming a bow and arrow at anything displeasing. My husband's a Scorpio, and I'm  glad he doesn't like tattoos. He's a dedicated, career Marine, but still wouldn't let a body artist pierce the Eagle, Globe and Anchor into his skin.

The beautiful rose is a favorite of women. I went to the internet (of course) to learn the meanings of the most popular symbols. A rose can mean several things:

beauty, deception (?), femininity, love, lust.
Mariah Carey made the butterfly popular during her "Butterfly" days. A daisy represents innocence. That would be for those under the age of six, right?
Anyone not seen a heart tattoo? My father had one with a purple banner across it. He got it in World War II, and sixty years later, at his passing, it was still quite visible.

A Celtic knot symbolizes the eternal nature of the human soul and is usually worn as an armband. I like the Celtic Cross (being Irish), but there's also the Egyptian Cross, Maltese Cross and the Iron Cross (for the Goths in our midst).

An Iron Cross with barbed wire means mystery, pain and anger. But coil vines around it, and it becomes a feminine symbol.

Angels express a wearer's belief in his own goodness. The archangel Michael, the field commander in the army of God, trampler of Satan, projects might. And Satan himself is all the rage with those who sport Harley-Davidson tats.

The Phoenix and the Dragon (Chinese anyone?) symbolize power and mystery in Eastern and Western cultures. They are to be feared and worshipped. The Phoenix tattoo expresses one's hunger for immortality.  I'd go for it, but for the needle and blood thing. I'd stay away from anyone tattooed with a snake, skull, spider and pinup girls. No kidding. They're popular with the guys.

What's the best time to get a tattoo? Not summer when you think they'd look cool with your halter tops, tanks and flip-flops. The answer is winter. They have to heal. All that scabbing and peeling. Ewww.

They say a tiger tat never looks bad. I wouldn't know, but as the epitome of strength, I had to get a tiger in my tale.

Thanks, Kaye, for allowing me to have fun.


L.J. Sellers said...

I have small tattoos on both ankles/calves and I love them. They're easier and prettier than wearing jewelry. I want more, but I'm pacing myself.

For the record, I wanted a tattoo since I was 18, but I waited until I was nearly 40 to get it. By then, I figured I knew it was something I wouldn't regret.

Ellis Vidler said...

Interesting article. One of my nephews has several tattoos, quite elegant work. And one niece has a small one. They love them. Different times I guess. It never entered my mind!

Kaye George said...

I never wanted anything beyond pierced ears, but I do want some more holes in them someday. My sons have tats and like them. I think it's too late for me, even if I wanted one. It would soon be saggy and, um, unsightly at my age. Well, I suppose everyone's will be eventually. But maybe not ankle ones. Ankles don't sag, do they?

I do love jewelry, esp. rings.

Patty said...

Interesting, loved the symbolism. Not a tat fan, don't want one, never did. My Dad was Navy, he didn't have any. My brother was Navy, he doesn't have any either. Maybe its a family thing? Nieces, nephews, and great's of both, they have them. I agree with Ellis, different times.

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

My son has a tattoo on his left (right, don't remember) arm. He covered it up for months before he sat me down and said, "There's something I need to tell you..."
When good friends and family start off like that,the muscles and sinews tighten and the air congeals in your lungs. He said, "I have a tattoo." The air melted, my muscles relaxed and I grinned. "You devil." He said, "Speaking of which..."
Thanks for your comments.
I think a rose on my ankle would look nice. But the needle.. uh-uh.

Lillian Stewart Carl said...

I have a small tattoo on my upper arm of the White Tree of Gondor, from The Lord of the Rings. It was done by the best tattoo artist in Wellington, New Zealand, who tattooed cast members of the LotR movies.

I have very delicate, fair skin, but barely bruised, and didn't scab at all.

Don't tell my mom, though!

Julie D said...

I'm in my late 40s and am just considering a tat. I was actually on the table a couple of years ago with the needle poised when I backed out. Poor tat artist. Can't imagine what he thought. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. It's a commitment, and not one to be taken lightly. LJ, what are your tattoos, if you don't mind sharing?

Thanks, Gerrie! Fun article.


Jill said...

Interesting! I have thought about a tattoo, but I keep talking myself out of it. There are some fantastic artists out there.

Vicki Lane said...

Very interesting. That rose is beautiful!

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Thanks again, Kaye, for inviting me to be your guest. It was fun.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi Gerrie! Hey Everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Sorry it has taken me so long to get here!!

Gerrie - this was fascinating and I loved it!

I agree with those of you who mentioned it might be a generation thing (LJ and Lillian - You ARE both still young'ens!).

I've considered it. Then comes making the decision - what should it be that I wouldn't get tired of later? Next - WHERE should it be? Next - those needles . . . .

so I remain tattooless. But who knows - it could still happen.

maybe . . .