Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind their ink


Editor's note: Tat-Tuesday is a weekly series that features students around campus and their tattoos.

Paulette McDurfee

The tattoo of the letters “PMA” on the shoulder of economics senior Paulette McDurfee comes from a dark time in her life. They serve as a reminder for her to look on the bright side of life.

“It stands for ‘positive mental attitude.’ I first heard it from my favorite band, Alesana,” McDurfee said. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a nice message,’ and then I went through depression myself and realized it really is a nice message. It encourages me as a sign of strength.”

After coming to college and leaving her family in South Carolina, McDurfee struggled with depression. Though it was a stark change, she persevered through the dark feelings of loneliness and despondency. 

“I felt kind of alone for a long time in this huge city. I always had a lot of support growing up, and now it’s just me,” she said. “I had to kind of find myself and realized I don’t like who I am right now. I started wondering what it would be like if I didn’t exist at all.”

Self-help books full of positivity helped, but it wasn’t until she met a little miracle of life her that she felt a renewed sense of hope.

“My niece was born the fall of my sophomore year,” she said. “All positivity came with that, and that little light brought me back from the edge. And so the tattoo shows me, ‘Hey, you made it.’”


Steph McConnell

While looking through the remaining possessions of her roommate after his sudden passing, a sketch of a heart that graduate student Steph McConnell found inspired her to honor her best friend with a tattoo.

“It’s half a heart,” McConnell said. “It reminded me of those friendship necklaces that have the little heart. It was my take on that.”

Though the design of her tattoo is not originally her friend’s,  her roommate’s art inspired McConnell.


Danae Notgrass

Stylistic elements of tribal designs fascinate interior design senior Danae Notgrass. She decided to combine her fascination with her lifelong love of elephants to create a visually striking tattoo. 

“In a tribe, you’re part of something bigger than you, as a cohesive entity,” Notgrass said. “That’s kinda what elephants are, all about them but also belonging to something.”

The familial nature of tribal life and elephants appeal to Notgrass, who said she finds her “tribe” in her friends.  

Though she loves the design, Notgrass acknowledges some could potentially see it as controversial.

“I can see how it would be misconstrued as (cultural appropriation), but that wasn’t my intention at all,” Notgrass said. “I just wanted to represent the elephant.” 


Sim Singh

The message at the heart of author Jeanette Winterson’s novel “Weight,” about the Greek Titan Atlas, resonated with math sophomore Sim Singh. Immediately after finishing the book, she decided to get a tattoo inspired by it.

“It’s the idea of burdens and weights you carry around,” she said. “I believe everyone has burdens they carry around, and this always reminds me to remember who I am.”

Singh intentionally left out continents and colors, opting instead for a design resembling a tabletop globe. The tattoo is not quite finished yet, and Singh plans to add a stem to it in the coming days.

“I didn’t want a continental globe; I just wanted a general idea of the world,” Singh said. “As soon as we were finished, we knew we should add a stem later.”

“He was studying to be a doctor, and (he) had drawings of hearts,” she said. “I was looking through some of his stuff, and the tattoo came from the same kind of idea.”