Tattoosday: A look at MTSU’s ink

Brett Bloom shares the stories behind his inked arms.

Behind every tattoo is a story — a memory, a reason, a history or even a bad decision. With her blessing, Sidelines has decided to re-up Journalist in Residence Whitney Matheson’s weekly tattoo feature, Tattoosday.  The series ran on Pop Candy, a pop culture blog she ran for 15 years at USA Today.

“Honestly, I find people are usually pretty eager to talk tattoos,” says Matheson. She put out a call for tattoo pictures from her readers and got back so many interesting stories that she had enough to feature some each week, beginning around 2009.

“A Comcast guy was at my house and we had along conversation about the Gene Wilder tattoo on his arm. It’s another way to connect with people.”

Each week, we will find a handful of tatted MTSU students and share the stories behind their ink.  

This week four students share the unique stories that mark their bodies four our inaugural Tattoosday:


Brett Bloom shares the stories behind his inked arms.

“The panther is for my grandfather. He had the same tattoo done when he was in the Vietnam War, facing the other direction. So when I turned 18 and he had already passed away, I got that one done going up the arm — up means protection and down is aggression, explains Brett Bloom, 25, a Creative Writing major. “Then this one is a partial quote, (‘Every breath is a choice’), from a Chuck Palahniuk book called ‘Survivor.’ It’s my favorite book. I like to write so it all made sense to me.”


Mariah Mind got a tattoo of her favorite literary quote with her mom.

When 20-year-old Journalism major Mariah Mind’s mom promised to get a tattoo with her whenever she turned 18, she wanted to make sure it was a meaningful one. “Whenever I was a kid I had this favorite book called ‘Tuck Everlasting,’” she remembers. “(It) was a quote. We got the tree of life because that was another symbol from that story that we used to read together. She has hers on her arm, and I have mine on my back.”


Jesse Nethery wears a landscape on her left arm that reminds her of time spent with her dad.

English major Jesse Nethery, 20, grew up hiking with her dad. It was one of these trips that inspired her ink.

“One day I was sitting on a rock, and I deal with depression really bad. I was talking to my dad about it.

He was like, ‘If you look at the mountains and the trees, you can see God here, and you can see how he specifically carved them with His finger.’

I was like, ‘That’s true.’

He was like, ‘You know, the same God that made this that’s standing strong made you too.’

I was like, ‘That is pretty significant.’

And then I ended up actually getting saved in the mountains, and that’s where I started my religious journey. So when I was thinking about what I wanted to get as a half-sleeve, (it felt)  right just to make it the mountains. It has my dad, my religion and everything incorporated in it.”

Lamonteze Pannell wears an ‘M’ on his arm in remembrance of his late father.

“The ‘M’ represents my dad. He had the tattoo,” says

, 21, a Video and Film Production major who got the tattoo his freshman year of college in memory of his father. “The ‘M’ stood for Mont. That was his middle name. He went by ‘Ghetto Hero Mont’ because he was big in music.  He was killed in 2006 so I got the ‘M’ and the cross — the cross for our Savior and the ‘M’ for him.”

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1 Comment

  1. Alexa Neff
    May 27, 2017

    I found this article to be very interesting. For the longest time, I have grown into never really liking tattoo’s or understanding the meaning as to why people would put ink on their skin. I believed that it was always a way for people just to gain unnecessary attention or to make them look “intimidating.” Now, I have come to understand everyone’s reasoning behind it.
    Each person that chooses to put something on their body has a story to tell about it. Some stories difficult to tell, funny or even a praise of what may have changed the way they live now. After my dad was diagnosed with Stage Three Lung Cancer, my faith changed in more ways than one. I would say that I believed that there was a God, but I never had a relationship with Him. Through my dad’s journey, I learned to pray and look for God for answers. After seeing my dad overcome cancer and a brain tumor, I fully and whole-heartedly believed that He was answering my prayers. From being a part of a miracle, I wanted to get a tattoo of the cross to remind me that He is always with me and that anything can be possible. Now, every time I see my tattoo, I am reminded of that journey we, as a family have faced.
    My dad is now back with the cancer in his brain again, but I have full faith in the Lord that He will be okay and that I know God can turn this darkness into light. Another story told by a small tattoo to some, but a reason to keep moving forward.