For her 75th birthday, Helen Lambin, a retired secretary, celebrated in a most unusual way… she got a tattoo. Now six years and more than 50 tattoos later, the 81-year-old Chicagoan (born in Iowa) credits that decision with changing her life “expansively.”
“It radically changed growing older,” Helen remarked. “Because when I talk to these people of all different ages, they find it very entertaining that yeah, there’s this white-haired lady with tattoos but the way they’re talking to me is different. It’s like, ‘Oh it’s okay we can talk to each other.’ ”
She added, “What I discovered, [tattoos] became a bridge. It makes you sort of a band of brothers and sisters. When someone will say, ‘Nice ink,’ you know they have tattoos. And then you say, ‘Oh what do you have?’ And you just start talking.”
Helen reading about Ghandi as she’s tattooed by David McNair of Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co.
In addition to the vibrant lizard on her left forearm that “symbolizes shedding a new skin,” the octogenarian’s growing collection of ink includes a penguin, Celtic symbols, the names of her children, and a pink rabbit as a tribute to her husband’s nickname for her, “Bunny.”
Following his sudden passing in 1996, Helen says her tattoos have allowed her to “‘go on’ and embrace each day in the face of hardship.” They’ve made her life “much more interesting and positive,” and as she very candidly puts it, getting a tattoo is “cheaper than mental health” therapy.