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Why Julia Roberts's Tat Has Cultural Significance

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Teresa Strasser: I do whatever Julia Roberts does. Except, you know, succeed and stuff.

julia roberts back tattoo

Here is a photo of her latest tattoo featuring the names of her three kids, which just made the cover of the New York Post. The cover. Slow news day or important new cultural trend?

I don't have any tattoos, mainly because I naturally look a bit trashy and I don't have the skank wiggle room unless I want to give up short dresses and black eyeliner, which I don't. Still, just because I can't really pull it off, I'm not mad at the idea of maternal ink.

When Angelina Jolie did it (you've probably seen the tattoo on her bicep with the coordinates of the birthplaces of her children), it seemed like she was giving motherhood something it desperately needed: an image overhaul. I know moms are rock stars and superheroes, but they really needed the positive PR. With one tat, Angie made motherhood less Ziploc baggies of animal crackers, slow-moving minivans, and stain-resistant slacks and more ... badass.

When she's the f&% "snack mom," those juice boxes might just be filled with frosty cold plasma. I know, scary, but not as scary as the prospect of losing one's right to be, or at least to look, subversive. When I think "mom," I don't want to think haggard, beleaguered "mom bloggers" telling Oprah about their crappy, sitcom sex lives and zany diaper mishaps, I want to think of women being exactly who they were before kids, only better. Is that just magical thinking, and totally unrealistic without movie star money? I don't know. Real-world moms probably want to punch Angelina and Julia in the face sometimes.

That being said, sitting here 18 weeks pregnant, it heartens me to see that loyalty to your kids can be communicated in many ways, some of them downright butch. I met poker player Annie Duke last week, and when she showed me the tattoo on her inner forearm of the names of her four kids, I went from thinking she was an insufferable braggart ("I'm superwoman. I raise my kids, I cook, and I give a good b***j**," she announced last week on "Celebrity Apprentice") to thinking maybe she's alright. Maybe she's even the shit.

Pamela Anderson turned her "Tommy" tattoo into a "Mommy" tattoo, and that seems to say it all, or say nothing, I can't figure out which, because when you're pregnant, everything seems both painfully poignant and confoundedly meaningless at the same time.

Don't get me wrong. I know tattoos aren't just for Marines and rebels anymore. I get it.

Paris Hilton has ink and she isn't exactly in a motorcycle gang, though if you watch the sex tape she does qualify as an "Easy Rider." Paris isn't cool anymore, and maybe tats aren't either. After all, Octomom recently got an angel tattoo with fourteen hearts and an infinity symbol to signify her meal-tickets brood, so that might ruin mom ink for everyone.

It all comes back to Julia and her backside. As Erin Brockovich says, "I don't know s*** about s***," and I tend to agree, but I know I would trade the frightful notion of Ann Taylor knits covered in crumbs for even the illusion of ass-kicking motherhood in the form of skin and ink.

next: The Recession is Driving Moms to Drink
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
AM (from AK) May 13, 2009, 12:05 PM

you do not look trashy…you’re hot and hot is not trashy …. and you could totally pull off a tattoo if you wanted to… if you’re worried about who sees what then have it put in a discrete spot. But of course if you worry too much about how others view you then you should not get a tattoo because there are people who will judge you harshly and some might be people who you never would’ve thought would do that.

Sister May 13, 2009, 12:42 PM

My sister has a tattoo of her daughter’s name/birthdate on her arm…but you know what? That’s as far as it goes. What good is a tat if the child doesn’t even know if you love her or care for her? What good is ink on your arm when you scream and call her names? What self esteem did that tat give to my niece when she dropped out of high school because she doesn’t care about her life?

Forget the tattoos ladies, back it up with being there, loving and caring for your kids and making a difference in their lives and not on your own skin.

Thanks for letting me speak my piece.

Deborah May 13, 2009, 1:04 PM

My husband and I have been wanting to get our son’s name tattooed also. I am just waiting until I am done nursing- and figure out where I want to put it!

Rachel May 13, 2009, 3:33 PM

I want my son’s handprint and birthdate on my shoulder blade. I’ll put my next baby’s handprint on my other shoulder blade!

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