As my imaginary wife took my imaginary newborn son to the doctor’s, I took his imaginary newborn sister to the tattoo parlour.
‘I’d like a little daisy, please,’ I said, producing a drawing, ‘just above the buttock, on the left.’
‘OK, put the baby down this won’t take a minute.’
I smiled and placed my sleeping daughter down on the tattooist’s chair.
The heavily-inked tattooist looked at me heavily.
‘I can’t do that,’ he said.
‘I know she’s a baby,’ I said, ‘but look, you can just do it here above the nappy.’ I patted his arm reassuringly. ‘So she won’t poo on you!’
‘Why do you want this baby to get a tattoo?’ said the tattooist.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘many reasons. Her mother has a tattoo of a daisy in the same place, and I like it. I mean I REALLY like it. I dated other girls before I met my wife, of course, but if they didn’t have a little tattoo…ugh!’ I shuddered. ‘Total turn off!’
‘Bit niche, isn’t it?’ said the tattooist.
‘Lots of girls have tattoos. All the girls and women in my wife’s family have tattoos of daisies. We don’t want her to be different. And I AM her father,’ I chuckled, ‘I mean, she’s not YOUR baby. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do with her?’
‘Listen, most kids don’t have tattoos… they’re supposed to wait until they’re 18.’
‘Ah, I met a lot of dads in the pre-natal classes. They are all getting their babies tattooed too. So, you see, I don’t want her to stand out. You know – feel embarrassed when she’s getting changed for games, just because she’s the only one without a tattoo. It’s a sort of fashion thing.’
My daughter, detecting tension in my voice, stirred in her sleep.
‘It’s a tiny daisy,’ I said, ‘won’t take you a minute, and it’s not as if she’ll still feel it in an hour’s time.’
‘We have a policy – no under 18s.’
‘OK,’ I said, ‘I’ll do a deal with you. If you give her the tattoo now, and she gets to 18 and she really doesn’t like it, then I give you my word I won’t be against her having it removed in some way.’
The tattooist crossed his arms.
‘Sorry,’ said the tattooist, ‘it ain’t ethical.’
‘Not ethical?’ I spluttered. ‘My wife’s mother is a vicar, you can’t get more ethical. She had her own daughter tattooed as a baby… it’s been this way in her family for generations. My mother in law says she could put me in touch with an amateur who goes to her church, but I thought it was probably better to come to a licensed professional with the latest equipment and a hygiene certificate.’
‘What’s your name?’ said the tattooist. ‘My girlfriend works in social services. I think she should hear about this.’
Meanwhile, across town, in the doctor’s surgery, my wife arrived ten minutes early for our newborn son’s circumcision.