for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Lydia, the tattooed lady


My late father had a unique sense of humor, and he delighted in the ridiculous. Which is why he was a big fan of the Marx Brothers and the British comedians who did the Goon Show and “Beyond the Fringe.”

At one point in my childhood, we had a housekeeper whose first name was Lydia. My father, of course, thought it would be appropriate to sing “Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, the en-cy-clo-piddea” to her, assuming she’d get the reference.

She didn’t.

And thus ruffled feathers had to be smoothed, and explanations had to be given, and my father learned that not everyone is a fan of classic comedy.

a tattooed lady from the circusLydia, the tattooed lady of the song, was covered all over with miscellaneous designs. You could see “Kankakee, or Paree, or Washington crossing the Delaware.” From the pictures I’ve seen, heavily tattooed people in those days mostly did the same thing–just kept adding ink-work till there wasn’t much skin left to be covered. There was no overall design. And in those days, heavily tattooed people did make a living as circus performers, so if the average person were to see someone with a lot of ink, that’s what they would have seen.

If you’re only going to get a few tattoos, it doesn’t really matter if they “go along” with each other in any way. Inspiration strikes, ink is added. What feels right at one stage of the game might not be so appealing the next time around. My own three tattoos don’t coordinate with each other visually in any way (although I must admit I have considered commissioning a gifted artist of our acquaintance to design me a sleeve that would incorporate my seven stars). Given that no two of my tattoos are anywhere near each other, it doesn’t matter at all that they don’t coordinate.

However, it does seem to me that if one’s goal is to get pretty well covered, a grand plan makes the whole thing look a lot better. That’s why those Japanese bodysuits look so good. If we just keep adding stuff till there’s no skin left, it comes out looking like what it is: a mish-mosh. Better, I think, to have at least some plan to coordinate everything. But then again, I don’t plan to get completely covered, so what do I know?

What do you think? Grand plan, or individual inspirations?

By the way, if you want to see Groucho singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” in his prime, you can find his performance on YouTube here. I have had no luck embedding videos properly, so better you go see it at the source. 🙂

I hope you'll submit my posts to your favorite social media sites. Just don't "submit" them to your own site pretending to be yours. Thanks!

Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


  1. i would love to know the information of this photo, i am doing a paper for my schooling about the way women have been perceived by society for having tattoos, and i would love to use this picture as a mode for my culture presentation, if you have any information that would be really helpful.

  2. A grand plan would be the ideal, but I suspect a lot of people start off just wanting one, then another..and eventually they have that mish mash because they never intended to keep getting inked.

    My son has a plan…he has one tattoo on his chest, but he knows he wants it to be part of a themed sleeve. If he picks the right person to do it, the end result should be awesome.

    • That’s the problem with tattoos. They are addictive. So while a lot of us started out thinking we’d just want the one, like you said, we tend to end up with a lot more ink than we planned for. 🙂

      My daughter’s planning on getting some kind of humongous tattoo to celebrate when she finally gets her Ph.D. I think that’s a great idea, but she hasn’t really decided what’s going where yet. She does want it to coordinate with what she’s already got.

  3. Pingback: Pages tagged "dreams"

Leave a Reply