Matching tattoos

Fashion & Beauty / Featured Sliders / Stories / July 10, 2018

A special bond between family, friends and lovers

Story and photos by Sally Ince

 The tattoo trend is still on the rise with three in 10 Americans having at least one tattoo, according to a 2015 Harris Poll. Some chose not to do it alone.

Matching tattoos are not exactly new to the history of tattoos. In fact, matching tattoos have been said to go back as far as Roman soldiers getting matching tattoos of an official mark after being selected to join, according to Roman writer Publics Flavius Vegetius Rents in his Fifth Century treatise “Concerning Military Matters.” But Americans are getting tattoos more now than ever, and they’re more likely to get a matching tattoo with their best friends, family or significant other.

Kimberlee Barber is one of 10 women who chose to get a matching tattoo after one of the women in the group passed away unexpectedly a year ago at age 46.

“It was because of a loss of a friend we reevaluated our remaining friendships and our bonds and times together have meant so much more because we don’t know how much time we have left,” she said, “and it can all be gone in a blink of an eye, so we have a new outlook.”

Having been there for each other and forming close bonds throughout the years, the women thought to express that bond with permanent creativity. They decided upon a dragonfly tattoo, each designed to match their unique personalities and contain a single word that inspires them.

“We took a closer look at our group of unique selves and wanted to do something,” Kimberlee said. “Upon hours of looking, the meaning of the dragonfly seemed to describe all of us at one point or another. I am 50 and have had three years of their friendship and I literally don’t know how I would have gotten through some things without my fellow dragonfly beauties.

“We compliment each other and are only a phone call away. At my age, being divorced and a single parent, as most are in the group, I would have never thought of having such a close-knit family of friends who are there for each other in the good times and bad.”

“And not only that, it’s (also) the independence of the dragonfly,” Sherri Mendes, another member of the group, added. “It’s really neat that way too because we’re strong independent willed women, and the uniqueness is our uniqueness but then our lives all come together.”

Deanna Distler, an administrative assistant with the Missouri Department of Social Services, chose to share her most recent tattoo experience with her two daughters. Deanna has battled with breast cancer six times when her eldest daughter, Kandice, suggested Deanna get a tattoo with her and her younger sister.

“These tattoos are very meaningful to me,” Deanna said. “My oldest daughter Kandice called me and asked me if we could get these tattoos. At first I told her no because my youngest, Alyson, was only 17 and I didn’t want to sign for her to get one. Well, two weeks later my doctor told me that my cancer had come back for the sixth time. Kandice wanted to do this for me on my 40th birthday and that is when I agreed to do it.

“During my first round of breast cancer, ‘faith’, ‘hope’ and ‘courage’ were the three words to describe breast cancer and that is how those three words came into the design of these tattoos. My oldest, Kandice, spent a month picking out the perfect design. My two girls wanted the breast cancer ribbon incorporated somewhere in the tattoos as one of the letters.”

They decided that Kandice would get the word “faith,” as she is an active Christian and turned to prayer for her mother’s treatment. Deanna’s youngest daughter, Alyson, chose the word “hope” because her mother leaned on her the most and she always remained optimistic. Deanna’s word is “courage,” as she never gave up when experiencing the side effects of chemotherapy.

“My sister and I say this is one of their most meaningful tattoos because it represents something that was a very hard battle for all of us,” Kandice said. “It pushed us through everything, such as her being five and a half hours away from me and her grand-babies to sick and terrible nights. It is something we can always look back on and remember that it made our bond as mother and daughters that much stronger.”

A similar bond was also had by Rhonda Bullock, a state investigator. She got her very first tattoo by her husband, Dave Bullock, that matches the tattoo he got early in their relationship.

“It was kind of intimate because it was together, but it was a little bit scary because I didn’t know what to expect,” Rhonda said. “We’ve known each other since he was in the fourth grade and I was in the seventh grade – just a hair older – but I’m the happiest now than I’ve ever been in my life.”

The two rekindled after Rhonda brought one of her daughters to get a tattoo at his past shop. Shortly after, Dave moved to

Montana and the two began speaking on Facebook when they fell in love. Rhonda had decided she wanted to get her first tattoo by Dave and had mentioned getting a matching tattoo together. A month later, Dave flew back to Missouri and surprised Rhonda with an infinity sign that incorporates her name in the loop tattooed on his stomach.

“I loved her and I wanted to show her that I wasn’t messing around,” Dave said. “Believe me I get odd tattoos. … I got my ‘Breaking Bad’ (portrait), my Prince tattoo. You know I don’t get typical tattoos and her idea is not something I typically would have gotten, but I was all aboard,” he said. “It was easy for me to make the decision to do it but I wanted to get it in a spot that was saying something, and I don’t have a lot of spots left so I got it right there, which I knew was going to be painful.”

Three months after seeing Dave’s tattoo for her, Rhonda flew out to Dave’s shop in Montana and got her tattoo to match.

“My daughter and I are also planning on getting a matching tattoo in remembrance of my mom and her grandma, and it makes it even more special that my husband and her stepfather will be doing them,” Rhonda said. “So when you get a matching tattoo with somebody it’s like a bond for life,” Dave said.

Dave has since moved back to Jefferson City and the couple opened Dr. Dave’s Tattooed Lady shop this past November in Jefferson City.

“I’ve been doing this for 26 years and since I started there were always people getting matching tattoos, but since the internet and since Pinterest a lot of people are getting a lot of ideas online and on their phones so that has made it a little trendier,” he said. “It’s a bonding thing and it’s a good time thing and it’s a memory thing; something you’ll always remember.”

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Molly Morris

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