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Nice Girls Do Get Tattoos

All those stereotypes about women with tats? Forget 'em. These readers—who are busy moms, do-good professionals, and everything in between—share their very personal reasons for getting inked.
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Bonnie Lefkowitz, Executive Assistant
Jesse Oldham, ASPCA Community Outreach Director
Kristy Cates, Actress and Teacher
Erin O'Neill, Construction Manager
Niccole Bordino, Nurse
Francesca Messina, Creative Director
Laura LaDesso, Legal Secretary
Rebecca Miller-Webster, Software Developer
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DELLA BASS

Bonnie Lefkowitz, Executive Assistant

"I work in a corporate environment, so it's a challenge to cover up my ink. I don't have to hide my tattoos but I do think some people look down on me because I have them. The story behind this one is that I'm a huge comic book fan—I've loved Wonder Woman since I was a kid. I always said I wanted to be her when I grew up. Even though I got my first tattoo at 18 (I have eight total—so far!), I didn't get this one until last year because I had to find an artist who was really good at portraits. I think it's perfect. It helps remind me to be like Wonder Woman every day: intelligent, strong, honest, compassionate, beautiful, and badass!"

Jesse Oldham, ASPCA Community Outreach Director

"Even as a little girl I liked tattoos. I clearly remember the first one I ever saw: I was 5 and noticed a guy with a lot of tattoos. Someone told me not to be afraid and I thought, 'Why would I be afraid, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen!' So my mermaid tattoo, inspired by illustrations from classic children's books like Peter Pan, was probably destined to happen. I've always loved that mermaids represent a whimsical connection between animals and humans, so this is my way of capturing some of that magic and having it with me every day."

Kristy Cates, Actress and Teacher

"I never thought I'd get a tattoo. But in 2008 I had an experience that changed my life. I was on a trip to Sedona and sitting in a church when suddenly—I know this sounds crazy—I felt the presence of my late grandmother Opal, who was part Cherokee. She was telling me, "Open your heart." The next day we were on a tour with a local shaman woman who looked at me and said, 'I have several women here from your lineage. They want you to open your heart.' I nearly fell over. There was no way this woman knew about my experience in the church the day before. When I got back to New York, I kept thinking about getting a tattoo to remind me of this message, but I didn't really want to get the whole phrase written out. Then I found a drawing of the Cherokee peace flag. It was perfect and I've never regretted my decision once."

Erin O'Neill, Construction Manager

"I'd wanted a tattoo since I was in my 20s, but over the years I kept talking myself out of it. Who can I trust? Is it safe? Will I love it forever? But a few years ago I found myself in the middle of a midlife tsunami: an emotional divorce, the first layoff of my career, and the dreaded onset of menopause. I was numb. But somehow, as the clouds were dispersing, I found that for the first time in a long time I liked myself. A lot. It's that newfound confidence that led me to finally get my tattoo. I found an artist I felt comfortable with and decided that I wanted to honor my late father, who taught me to be strong. I researched symbols and when I found out that cherry blossoms and Celtic spirals represented feminine strength, I was sold. I sent my ideas to the artist and set the date. Seven painful hours later, I had my first tattoo. After three days of itching and two weeks of peeling, it was all worth it. I love my tattoo. I'm not in my best shape ever, but I sure do feel beautiful."

Niccole Bordino, Nurse

"I have several tattoos—they tell the story of what I do for a living, who I am as a person and as a mother, and the things that I love. But this little tattoo on my finger is probably the most meaningful. I got it in 2008, which was honestly a pretty awful year. I was going through a lot of personal stuff and I had to go on medication for panic attacks. I hated having to take those pills. But slowly I learned to control my anxiety through breathing techniques that helped me calm down. I'm fine now. But I got this tattoo as a reminder that almost anything will be better if you just take a deep breath."

Francesca Messina, Creative Director

"My Aunt Vita lived a simple life, but she was the kind of person who touched everyone she met. I felt a special connection to her because she always believed in me and loved me unconditionally. So after she passed away at 95, I knew I had to find a way to honor her extraordinary spirit. One day the phrase 'Bella Vita' popped into my head. I loved the double meaning (vita also means 'life' in Italian) immediately and thought it would make a great tattoo—my first. I work with talented artists so I asked a friend to do the custom lettering. I had originally planned to get the tattoo on the back of my neck but I decided I wanted to see it instead. Vita lived her life to its fullest and it reminds me to find the beauty in my life every single day."

Laura LaDesso, Legal Secretary

"My 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, and I got matching tattoos last year. We decided to do it before she left for college, and we both wanted it to be a tribute to my 15-year-old son, Jonathan. He has Down syndrome, so the tattoo represents the 21st chromosome (people with Down syndrome have an extra 21st) and it also has his initials. He's just such a huge and wonderful part of our lives. He doesn't think he has a disability—he's just Jonathan. When we got them, he thought it was pretty cool that his initials are part of it. I love that it's in a place that's so visible. That was on purpose. I want people to see it and ask me about it, because I love telling our story."

Rebecca Miller-Webster, Software Developer

"I have 10 tattoos, which I've gotten all over the world: New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, Australia, and Argentina. They all have stories, but this one is a tribute to my uncle, who passed away a few years ago. My family has a house in the mountains in North Carolina where we get together every year, and the tattoo was drawn from a picture of the house. It's sort of our special place as a family—it's up on the side of a mountain outside of a really small town in the middle of nowhere. There's no cable or Internet. We just enjoy one another's company, and my uncle (who's represented by the owl at the top because he was such a wonderful, wise man) was a big part of what made those trips so memorable."

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