Are You Ever Too Old For A Tattoo?

29 December 2013

David Dimbleby said getting a tattoo at the age of 75 was a ‘dream come true’ – but, are they preserve of the young? After thinking about getting one for years, beauty and health writer Anna Magee debates the merits of late onset ink...

Inking at any age: David Dimbleby’s scorpion tattoo

'Every now and again something will come up: Cheryl Cole’s big rosy bum cheeks, Cara Delvingne’s lion-on-the-finger and I’m reminded of that niggling voice: ‘Do it, do it, you know you want to.’ But Cole and co are varying degrees of 12, so I always thought I was too old to go for it. And yet this week, BBC presenter and general national treasure David Dimbleby was photographed getting a tattoo of a scorpion on his right shoulder. He is 75. ‘You’re only old once,’ he said, claiming that for him finally getting one was a dream come true.

It brought back all my own dreams of late onset ink. Being the wrong side of 35, it’s not so easy. At 24 the pattern is simple: get drunk, decide it’s a moment that needs marking, head to local tattoo parlour, make friends with biker owner, choose random Maori symbol and it’s finished – all in one night. Then, however bad the result, you’ve a permanent homage to your mis-spent youth or at least that special night. But, what am I going to mark?  My second mortgage? Finding a high-interest pension fund?

Are You Ever Too Old For A Tattoo?

Cheryl Cole has a youthful, rose-tinted rear [Rex]

Last year, I attacked Project Tatt with the same control freakery I did when researching the most eco-friendly washer dryers on I Googled ‘The UK’s best tattoo artists’ then did a ring around quizzing each one about which regulatory bodies they belonged to and what precautions they had in place should I have an allergic reaction. I also asked a young person in the office:  ‘Among your friends who have tattoos, is there someone they might recommend I go to with good qualifications?’ She looked at me like I had three heads before showing me her super-inked friend on Twitter who, on a recent night out, had her boyfriend draw a picture that, later on the same night, she had tattooed all the way from her knee to her ankle. 

I’ve been trying to decide on the right design for the last seven years. Dimbleby said he chose a Scorpion because he liked the idea it was sitting on his shoulder ‘ready to attack his enemies’. Right now a big eagle, wings flared on my bicep would do nicely thank you very much. In my head, it would say to the world: ‘this is my moment to fly’. When I told my husband the eagle idea he asked ‘Is it some kind of American thing?’ Maybe a word would be better. But what font? Helvetica? Or is Arial more modern?

Are You Ever Too Old For A Tattoo?

Helen Mirren, 68, with the tatt she had done years ago when she was ‘very drunk’ [Xposure]

I mooted my getting a tattoo with a 40-something friend. ‘Tattoos on the middle-aged are tragic,’ he said. ‘At 75 Dimbleby’s got nothing to lose, you have plenty to lose, like respect.’ Ouch. For me, a tattoo now would be a symbol of my progression into middle age. For everyone else though the overriding reaction has been one thing: pathetic.'

So what's your verdict? See our gallery of celebrity tattoos in the gallery below...


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