Lorraine Lukach explains why she's got a fabulous dragon tattoo on her right hip.
"As you get older," says the retired middle school guidance department secretary, 64, "there are things you do that you never would have done in the past."
Pete, her husband of 41 years, nods from across their Deptford living room. He also has postretirement tattoos, including a spectacular "Turkish eye" on the inside of his right forearm.
"After she got hers, it forced me to get something I wanted," says Pete, 66, who followed up his debut tattoo (the legendary "Dead Man's Hand" of aces and eights) with the eye, and two more designs.
Ink work adorns more bodies than ever - and not only those belonging to sports celebrities, pop stars, and other young people. Retirees are getting their first (and second, and third) tats, too.
"It's not an everyday thing, but we see it more than we did 10 or 15 years ago," says "Sailor" Bill Johnson, vice president of the 1,000-member National Tattoo Association.
While men and women 18 to 35 continue to be prime customers for body art, "the number of people of all ages getting tattoos is increasing," Johnson, 65, says from his Tattoo Time shop in Orlando.
"At one time, there might have been a stigma to it," notes Johnson, a tattoo artist for 36 years. "But tattoos are becoming more popular across all demographics."
Like Pete and Lorraine, I grew up in the era when tattoos were for sailors and bikers. Or movie villains, like the psycho killer Robert Mitchum played in Night of the Hunter, with "love" and "hate" inked below his right and left knuckles, respectively.
"I would never put anything ugly or horrible on me," says Lorraine, who moved from Bergen County to South Jersey with her husband in 2011 to be closer to their two grown sons and their families.
"I want a tattoo that means something to me," Lorraine says. "I want a tattoo that's beautiful."
At Spanky's Tattoo Studio on Mount Ephraim Avenue in Camden, "we've definitely seen more [senior citizens], especially in the last couple of years," says Christine LoRusso, a body piercer.
"Tattoos are becoming more acceptable," LoRusso, 22, says. "I think social networking has a lot to do with it.
"Older people see photographs [of tattoos] on Facebook, and the more they see them, the more it becomes a possibility," she adds. "They decide, 'I want to look awesome.' "
When his parents got their tattoos, "I can't say I was shocked," says Christopher Lukach, 32, a public relations professional who lives in Woodbury with his wife and two children.
Pete and Lorraine talked about the idea on and off for some time before they took the plunge, he recalls.
"I really don't feel strongly about tattoos one way or the other, but their tattoos make them very happy," Lukach says. "Which makes me very happy."
Pete and Lorraine seem as compatible a couple as I've met. Both are congenial and down-to-earth. And they sure do cherish the freedom of expression body art provides.
"The dragon is a symbol of benevolence in traditional Chinese culture," Lorraine says. "It's a protector, and I like the feeling of having a protective symbol with me."
Lorraine got her dragon tattoo in 2006, at a shop in Wayne, N.J. Later, she added a phoenix on her left hip - "I felt lopsided," she says - and a bleeding heart flower on a stem along her left calf.
The phoenix symbolizes harmony, strength, and serenity, while the flower pays tribute to "people I've loved and lost," Lorraine says. She wants to add a bracelet-style piece, featuring the birth flowers of their three granddaughters.
Pete's tats also have sentimental significance; he's got the granddaughters' names on his left arm "so that even if I get old and Alzheimer-ish, they'll always be with me."
The veteran coach, who still officiates boys' and girls' varsity volleyball at Eastern, Clearview, and other South Jersey high schools, has a sports-oriented self-portrait on his left calf. "That's me and a whistle," says Pete, who doesn't have immediate plans to add to his portfolio.
Lorraine asks me whether all this tattoo talk has "inspired you to go get one?"
Um, no . . . unless there's a way to tattoo additional and, perhaps, darker hair on my head.
But does she see more tattoos in her future?
"The bracelet will probably be my last," Lorraine says. "Unless something really cool comes along."