tattoo on shoulderThree months ago, I was in downtown Chicago (I'm a suburbanite) and a lady who knows me better than any hairdresser ever will was engaging in a three-way conversation between the two of us and the guy next to her. While needles dug into my back, creating a bigger picture below the tattoo currently there, he explained that he was opening his own shop in a fairly affluent town a couple miles away.

We were discussing how a shop in aforementioned rich town would stay in business when he dropped a bombshell: the people he performs most tattoos on are not the biker guy next door or the sailor in town for a drunken debaucherous evening.

No.

The people who get the most tattoos have slipped into the demographic that I, myself, fall into.

Soccer moms.

Now my own mother, bless her soul, saw my most recent design etched in black and white and awaiting color on my back and commented, "You look like the circus lady." Knowing her, I wasn't sure if that was intended as a compliment or an insult. Likely it was somewhere in between.

My tattoo is a phoenix rising above some clouds and air, not a chainsaw-wielding clown or a badly misspelled name, but it does take up half of my back. I began working on it several years ago, a cliched homage to the bullshit I've been through. Every time I add to the scene, it grows more beautiful. My tattoo artist is just that: an artist, and I'd call what I wear on my back "art" rather than "ink."

This isn't my only tattoo, either, but it's the most visible (the other two are on my feet). Most people will never see it and if they do, well, they generally compliment it, not turn their nose up in disgust or call me "the circus freak." Hell, with the exception of my mother, even tiny old grandmas compliment my tattoo.

Finding out that the greatest demographic receiving tattoos today is no longer the emo hipster but mini-van drivin' soccer moms (like me) has kinda thrown me through a loop. The tattoo industry has grown from being a rebellious sort of Eff-You to society to something we soccer moms just do as a reminder that we're more than the Legos we pick up and the butts we wipe. Tattooing is now the sixth fastest growing industry and successfully appealing toward the mainstream.

We're featured moms with tattoos here on The Stir, and the ink is beautifully etched in the skin of the staff and readers.

The new tattoo studios are created to appeal to us soccer moms: fine art on the walls, tattooing by appointment only, the ambiance of a health spa, rather than the "pick yer flash from the wall and get your damn ass over here" growling from the tattooers themselves as they angrily tattoo yet another flower on some teenager's ass, while smoking a cigarette and drinking out of a bottle of bourbon.

I hope that with tattoos going mainstream like this, they begin to be considered what they are: body art.

Except if you got a Tweety-Bird tattoo on your ankle one drunken night in Tijuana ... because that probably looks more like a donkey than anything else. The tattoo, I mean, not you. Luckily I know JUST the guy who can fix that up for you.

This makes me curious: how many of you out there have gotten tattoos recently? What made you do it? What do you have? Would YOUR mother call you a Circus Freak? If not, can she adopt me?