Ever since his early days as Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, we’ve been accustomed to Michael J. Fox having a straight-laced, boy-next-door vibe. But earlier this year, he decided to mix things up and get his first ever tattoo at the age of 57.
The actor shared an image of the fresh ink back with a mysterious caption: “First tattoo, sea turtle, long story.” Aside from appreciating the beautiful image of a sea turtle floating through delicate rings, we obviously wanted to know more about the story!
According to Fortune magazine, the rings represent each decade of Fox’s life so far. (We’ll have to keep an eye out for an extra ring after his 60th birthday in a couple years!) But what the heck could a sea turtle represent for the actor?
Interestingly enough, a week before posting the photo of his tattoo, Fox shared a snap of his son, Sam, “communing” with a tortoise. He described Sam as “very at home” with the animal.
Clearly, turtles mean a lot to the whole family. However, there’s an important detail about the one on Fox’s arm that you might have overlooked. The turtle has a portion missing from one of his fins. Despite that injury, it still appears strong and serene as it seems to glide through the rings. As most of us know, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 1991. Apart from a few breaks in his career to focus on healing, he hasn’t let that slow him down. It’s not hard to see a correlation between Fox’s journey and this image, but he didn’t just think of it randomly.
According to Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy, owner of the Bang Bang NYC tattoo shop where Fox got it done, the actor had real-life inspiration. “He was telling me that there was a transformation for him with his career decisions when he was swimming in Saint John [an area of the Virgin Islands known for its sea turtle population],” he told Inked magazine. “He spotted this turtle with a chunk missing from its fin and a scar on his face. And that turtle let him swim with him for about a half an hour. He made a transcending decision right after that. So that turtle was pretty significant to him.”
That certainly sounds significant to us, too! The tattoo shop also shared a photo of the artwork on their Instagram page with the caption, “Keep following that turtle.” (They also took the opportunity to get Fox’s signature on some sweet Back to the Future collector’s items.)
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@mr.k_tattoo For @realmikejfox thank you for the trust as well as letting us fan out a bit after! Thank you for sharing the story of your tattoo with me. Keep following that turtle? #martyfuckingmcfly # #mrktattoo #bangbangnyc #bangbangforever #nikeairmag #airmags2016 #michaeljfoxfoundation #michaeljfox #backtothefuture #legendary
Fox told Fortune that the placement of the tattoo on his right forearm was done as a reminder to not let his disease keep him down and to instead “flourish in areas that it doesn’t affect.” It also serves as a reminder to continue advocating for a cure for the disease through his foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
As far as first tattoos go, Fox definitely nailed it with this gorgeous and meaningful work of art.