The most common meaning of "smile now, cry later tattoos" is to live life to the fullest now and worry about the consequences later. The most popular styles of the tattoo feature skulls, bells or theater masks with the words "smile now, cry later" written in cursive underneath the image.
"Smile now, cry later" tattoos are popular in prisons, implying that prisoners should stay strong while in prison and may cry later, after they get out. A rarer meaning of the tattoo is to commemorate the loss of a loved one. This implies that the wearer should smile now over good memories of the person and cry later over the pain of losing them.