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Looking for tattoos that tell a life's story

Some of us pay tribute to our favorite places, our loved ones, our most meaningful things in traditional ways: photographs, scrapbooks, home movies and the like. Others take a more physical, permanent (and slightly painful) route, adorning their bodies with inked portrayals of what matters most to them.


Daniel Dean's tattoo tells an essential story of his life. (Holly Thomas--The Washington Post.)

Artist Daniel Dean has "MCMXXXVI" tattooed on his right forearm, signifying 1936, the year his grandfather was born. On his left forearm, a generic housekey. "When I was six," he says, "my grandma gave me a set of old keys -- they didn't go to anything, but it was magical to me, because as a kid, you don't get keys. It's the only gift I can remember her giving me." Dean's grandmother died shortly after, sparking in him an obsession to collect keys. He'd amassed 60 to 70 keys by the time he was 12.

Eventually, Dean's parents divorced. His mother raised her three children alone, and Dean was given a key to the house, making him an official latchkey kid. And that symbolic, magical token that had held so much mystery quickly changed into a burden of adolescence.

For both of his tattoos, Dean waited until he was 30, until he was sure that these symbols could stand as a history of his life. "Even if one day I won't want them, I won't regret them," Dean says. "It will be a decision that I made with confidence at a certain point in my life, a metaphor for a memory."

For an upcoming story in the Washington Post Magazine, I'm looking for people with highly sentimental, emotional tribute tattoos. If you have one, or know someone who does, I'd like to hear from you:

Daniel Dean's tattoo. (Holly Thomas--The Washington Post.)

By Marc Fisher  | February 18, 2010; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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