THE CALLA LILY DIALOGUES

Great-Granny Gets Tattoos

Calla Lily ProfileArleen Solomon Rotchin3 Comments

It took Mimi Rosenthal 99 years to muster up the courage to get her first tattoo.  She had been toying with the idea since she was 95 and everyone told her that she wasn’t getting any younger so if she really wanted a tattoo, the time to get it was now.  

Tattoo artist Michelle Gallo-Kohlas had the honour of inking Mimi’s arm with a third tattoo when she was 101 years old.  

‘I gave her a first tattoo which was an itty bitty blue butterfly but Mimi said it was too small and when she turned 100 years old, she had me tattoo a silver-dollar size flower on her ankle, but required her to lift her pant leg to show it off which Mimi found troublesome. When Mimi turned 101, she had me ink a yellow sunflower on her arm for easier viewing.’ 

The day Mimi pushed her Winnie Walker into the Requiem Body Art shop to get that last tattoo, several teen-age girls’ voices travelled down the hall from the waiting room. They were in awe.

‘Is she getting a tattoo?’  

‘Are you serious?’

‘That is sooo cool!’

Rosenthal studied journalism in Nebraska and advertising in New York. She married a man she outlived by nearly 50 years.  She has two daughters, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  At 85, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She conquered that and now lives in South Carolina with her daughter.  She enjoys her days reading, communicating on Facebook and participating in group book clubs. Rosenthal says her family loves to say she is 101 and has tattoos.

‘Next time I’m getting one on my butt.’

Women’s motivations for getting inked in life vary.  For some it’s a way of asserting independence or an act of self-expression.

Tattoos have a tumultuous history and weren’t always the sign of being young and fashionable.  Sailors, bikers and prisoners wore them and they were horrifying reminders of Jews imprisoned during the Holocaust.

Getting a tattoo later in life has its advantages:  those who make the choice are not likely to be told they’ll regret it when they’re older and their tats are less likely to fade.         

The Croatia Tattooed Grandma Cult

Christian tattooing in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a widespread custom during the Ottoman rule and up until the 20th century.    

Ethnic Croatian Catholic communities in Bosnia suffered hell under the Turks during the Ottoman reign, with the majority of them forced to convert to Islam.  Girls were raped and children were taken to Turkey as slaves.  In response to such violation women began tattooing themselves on their hands, fingers, chests and foreheads with crosses and other ancient ornaments.  

The tattooing process involved using a crude needle and a special solution made of charcoal, grime, honey and milk extracted from the bosom of a lactating woman who already has a male child.

Tattooing was necessary during the Turkish occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that the children could be protected from kidnapping.  Many had their names or initials tattooed into the skin to prevent their identity being taken from them.

Granny with a sense of humour says, Do Not Resuscitate!