Professor’s tattoo symbolizes coming of age, Celtic heritage

Most of Christopher Flynn’s students and peers know him as a fun-loving, film-making, trombone-playing English professor, but not all know about his tattoo, which is usually covered by the long sleeved button-up shirts and jackets he typically sports around campus.

At age 39, after completing his Ph.D. in English, and after some deliberation, Flynn decided on a simple tattoo, a thin band of Celtic symbols wrapped around his upper left arm in honor of his Irish heritage.

“I was officially an adult,” Flynn said. “There was no more school to go to anymore … (the tattoo) was kind of a response to that.”

At the time he got his tattoo, Flynn had just started teaching at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, marking a couple of significant changes in his life: a drastically different setting and a new role as professor after having been a student for much of his life.

“It was a time of transition from graduate school in Los Angeles to teaching in Nebraska,” Flynn said. “All of a sudden I was on the other side of the desk.”

In accordance with this transition, Flynn joined a good friend of his, who was also getting a tattoo, and committed the small permanent band to his arm.

“I was going to get one then or I was never going to get one,” Flynn said.

Although Flynn waited until he was done with his studies, he had considered getting a tattoo for a while and had few reservations, citing the fact that they were not as taboo then as they were when his parents were young.

“(My mom) grew up during a time when the only people who had tattoos were sailors and prisoners.”

Flynn explained that he got his tattoo at a time when “‘normal’ people were getting tattoos, but not everyone had one,” Flynn said. “Now everyone has twenty.”

Ultimately, the professor’s tattoo seemed to represent a shift in his life toward yet more rules and responsibilities.

“(My tattoo) was always a rebellion against becoming an adult, (or trying) to slow that process down,” Flynn said.

He added, laughing, “It didn’t work.”