Dear Starshine,

While not a big fan of indiscriminate inking, I admire tattoo artistry. I've made it to age 45 without a tattoo. But my evolving life (the loss of both parents, professional success, the launching of two of my three kids from the nest) has made me think more about bearing a symbol that would tell my story. I'd like a triskele — small, discreet, and elegant —and I'd get it where no one would see it unless I showed them. I've thought about this for over a year, and I really want to make the appointment to do it. But when I told my husband, he was extremely discouraging. After saying why he thought it was a bad idea (reasons I had considered and addressed to my own satisfaction), he said he recognized that he had no right to tell me what to do with my body. I love this man and respect his opinion, so the next day I told him I was not going to pursue my tattoo. I could tell he was pleased. The trouble is... now I'm not pleased. I understand why he feels the way he does; he's been explaining his own poorly executed tattoo since we met ("No, that's not a duck, it's a..."). I appreciate that he likes my body the way it is. It's just that I have thought so long and hard about this, I can't let it go. I really want my tattoo. Help!

If your husband bails over this tattoo, can I marry you? I find your whole headstrong-bad-girl-meets-cautious-career-woman-slash-Pagan symbol-cravin'-mama thing disarmingly, even disorientingly, adorable.

So let's not pretend there's a real choice to be made here: You're getting that tattoo. You know it, I know it, and your husband knows it. You don't do things impulsively, but when you've analyzed an urge from all angles, I don't see you chucking the idea. So at this point, it's just a matter of how to do it without feeling bad about it.

Your spouse is sweet to try to protect you from his own mistake. He's smart to give you his honest opinion. And he's right that it's not his decision.

Bodies change, as any mother-of-three is all too aware; a flourish of pigment won't be the greatest physical alteration that you experience (or that your husband must learn to appreciate) during your marriage. People change, too; parents die, kids leave, and the wife who really wasn't the tattoo type gets an inkling for ink. It happens. It's life.

Your mister will get over it. He may even come to admire your stamp, depending on which "no one would see it" spot it winds up in. But he needs to know how carefully you considered his input — and how confident you are that his love for you is more than dermis deep.


Dear Starshine,

I'm dating someone who comes from a wealthy family and makes quite a lot more money than I do. I like nice things and am well educated and well traveled, but can't afford to indulge the way he can. He is looking to buy a condo in his early 20s. I sublet. He buys me extravagant gifts, and I can't reciprocate. He likes to go out to trendy restaurants and we can't split the check. He buys designer clothes and I stick to trendy Brooklyn thrift shops. I always feel conflicted: If I let him pay for things, I feel guilty and dependent on him; if I don't, I feel like I'm not fully participating in his life because these are things he really enjoys and I want to share them with him. How do I talk about this with him without making him feel self-conscious?

Man, I love a problem that, at its heart, is about everyone being too damned generous to one another.

How do you talk to your boyfriend about this? Exactly the same way you talked to me: honestly and without accusation or defensiveness. I mean it, you did a lovely job here.

I've no doubt that your Rockefella enjoys pricey pastimes. But anyone who's not wearing guilt goggles can see that what he enjoys even more is you — and treating you to things that he can easily treat you to. Things that you should do him the honor of fully, shamelessly, gratefully enjoying.

Check this out: If your guy is truly rich — that is, flush with generosity and rolling in respect — then he doesn't buy you stuff because you can't; he does it because he can. Can you appreciate the difference?

To that end, you must also treat him to things. Things that you can afford. And he must let you. Nothing says "I'm in charge of tonight's indulgence" like a thrift shop tour and a slice in the park.

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