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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Betts

No tattoos before you're 30

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

"We’re all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe" – Oliver Wendall Holmes, Sr., 1872

Do you or anyone you love have any tattoos? And do you / they have any regret? Are you for or against them? And have you ever used your fingertips or tongue as a needle so said or done something that's ended up like a permanent tattoo or scar on someone's heart? This story's about tattoos, regret rebellion, tattooing our own beliefs on each other, hot guys with tattoos and how whether you're for or against tattoos, it's a matter of perception.

I personally followed that ‘NO TATTOOS BEFORE YOU’RE 30’ rule way before it became a book title by the funny and cool Sam de Britto in 2006.

As much as I hankered a desire to ink myself from the moment I left home at 15, I knew in my heart it was so I could be a rebel to my mum.

Not that she could talk…she was a real rebel. Had it tattooed on her arm, even. Her 'Rebel' was inspired by her and dad's rebellious love as the pretty young things 'It' couple, my dad her very own James Dean from the classic movie, 'Rebel Without A Cause'. The Rebel tattoo belonged with a family of 6 other tattoos inked on her spindly arms including ‘Alley’ (my dad’s shortened name 'Ali' but spelt 'Alley' as in 'Alleycat') under a tattoo of Simon Templer as ‘The Saint’ stick figure (reference to my Dad being her hero) to sparkling dice (Dad called her ‘Lady Luck’), all by the time she and my dad had their shotgun wedding in 1968. They were 20. I was in utero.

Two years later, my baby brother arrived in to the world. Eight weeks after that, dad left mum. Not such a saint or lucky lady after all. But each still a Rebel.

I accidentally stumbled into modeling at 17, picking up my first job where I was paid well to laugh and dance around in my undies with props that didn't go together. I mean a hat, badminton racquet and a shuttlecock in hand? Badminton's an indoor sport.

Lucky I didn’t rebel and get those tattoos, then, aye?

In the meantime, my 37yr old mum was having her tatts removed. Apparently it’s more ugly getting them off. Like 'Rather sit FROW at NEW YORK FASHION WEEK wearing a fleecy, jeggings & crocs' ugly.

By the time I hit 21, I’d wracked up a stack of modelling work. I'd started moving into ‘commercial modelling’, looking a little more "aspirational" ordinary’ less ‘editorial extraordinary’. But the money was great for commercial work, always a big motivator for me.

Why not wait ‘til I was 30 and had something to be inspired by, then I’d review.

I gave birth in '97 just before my 30th birthday. I decided I’d get that tattoo, now.

“It hurts! Like being sewn on,” a friend warned me.

“Ha! I’ve been through tonnes of emotional pain, had stitches and given birth. I know pain. How painful can it be, really?”

The first outline as the needle buzzed on my right outer ankle was excrutiating. “Just do an outline, actually," I whimpered. "I’ll color it in every day.” My friend was right.

The tattooist ignored me going on to create what I thought was an ugly liquorice-black blob.

Tattoo experience: ticked. And it wasn’t worth it. So if I wanted anything else done, I’d wait ‘til I was 40.

I remember when I first met VINNIE WOOLSTON, a cute 17year old surfer from Raglan.

I was the head of fashion at 62 Models. He’d just started getting tattoos, I can’t remember exactly. Being responsible for building his modeling career, I kept warning him against them, using my personal stories as examples.

VINNIE did what was right for him. He increasingly became covered in tattoos. And he worked like crazy.

While still at 62, I met another tattooed surfer in JOHNNY O.

Again, it was my responsibility to build JOHNNY. You’d think I’d learnt, but off I rode again with my personal stories.

JOHNNY also did what he wanted, and smashed it in the work stakes, too. I'd got it so wrong. Again.

Two years later, it was 2005 when I left 62 and started Red11. There I met HAL.

Hal was 17, and already sported quite a few tattoos. Third-time lucky and I didn’t tell him what to do. It was still my job to build him, though (I know, lucky lady).

There were tonnes of models, boys and girls, who got tattoos. Some of the marks they still carry, some have been removed leaving permanent whitish scars while others have had their tattoos tattooed over. People lose jobs because of their tattoos and others win them because of them.

So while my mum (rest in peace), had Dad's name removed from her arm, the fact is you can never remove the time you invest in people and relationships, history or the tattoos carved deep into our hearts. History can't be removed or covered over with a needle.

Even though Dad left us all so young, he was still my Dad. He didn't try to see us ‘til he knew he was dying of leukemia (he died in '83 aged 35, I was 15). But who do you think had the most regret? And it was nothing to do with tattoos.

Yet here I was, tattooing people with my own beliefs.

Long story short, HAL went on to become a successful model and tattoo artist. Based in Melbourne, he works between GREEN LOTUS and TWO HANDS in Auckland.

After I turned 40, HAL was a saint and fixed up my liquorice-black blob. Together we decided to turn it into rosary beads held by a bird that wraps up my calf and down to a cross on my foot because my life is a blessing. Then I had a wing tattooed on my left arm to mark I was ready to fly. STEFAN@TWO HANDS designed and inked two beautiful roses either side of my wing to represent beauty, love and growth.

And I have no regrets. But then, I'm 'only' 46. I figure some old ladies wear ankle bandages. Chanel, Versace or Gucci will have come up with something fabulous if we feel like covering up by then.


THINK BEFORE YOU INK. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK (AND ACT), TOO. Tattoos are permanent on the outside, skin deep only to those of us looking at them. Our thoughtless words and actions, on the other hand, can leave way more permanent, ugly marks and scars on people. Who are we to strut around using our tongue and finger tips as a needle?

DON’T DO THINGS JUST TO BE A REBEL. Do it because it truly has meaning, it's your right of passage or because you believe in it.

WHAT IS GOOD OR BAD ART IS A MATTER OF OPINION. We know that already. So why are we still freely tattooing our opinions on eachother? Just because it’s your or the truth, doesn’t always make it right to voice it.



Or check out this trippy video by THE WHO, TATTOO.

Thanks for joining me! If you see something here that could be useful to someone, share it.

Until next time,

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