P e r s o n a l B l o g/T w i t t e r . : : . W r i t i n g B l o g/T w i t t e r

My Experiences with Tattooing

This was originally published in 2009.  I'm posting it here because I've always liked this holistic view of my tattoos and want to continue sharing it.

I think everyone knows what a tattoo is now; no longer are they relegated to those big, scary bikers with 1% tattoo'd on them proudly. (If you don't get that altaltreference scooch over to google and plug in biker tattoo 1%.) Now anyone can have a colorful or artistic splash of color on their ankle or arm and it's okay - even in the work place. While they still seem to ride the waves of fads and counter-culture movements, I think it's safe enough to say that tattoo's don't mean what they did once upon a time. Tattoos mean different things to different people; they're no longer black work designs or hallmarks of the sailor world, they're badges of honor for a Marine, a stab at cool for a young hipster, or an expression of something more. People get tattoo'd nowadays for so many reasons it's pointless to make a list; think of a reason, there's probably a tattoo for it, and everyone has their own opinions as to the why's and how's.

Hello, I'm Cid and I have my own opinions as well.

I planed out my first tattoo when I was sixteen; I think I always knew I wanted them. Something about the bold, bright artwork just drew me in. None of my friends ever had tattoos except for small things here and there so when I finally got the nerve when I was 21 to do it - everyone cheered me on! Now in preparation for the first part of a journey I'm still on - I did a lot and I mean a LOT of research. I think that's one thing people don't do enough of; tattoos are permanent. You should know not only what you're going to do but what you're going to put on your body.

Now I fully understand that tattoo parlors can be scary places; in a lot of areas they support the idea of looking thuggish or whatever. However, I've found that most people who tattoo once you get past the initial inquiries are more than willing to talk things out with people. This is no longer the world where tattoo artists - yes, they are artists - hide their secrets and horde their small business for themselves; with tattoos so popular now parlors don't always have to fight each other for business. I've even been in one where an artist suggested a customer take his drawing down the street where someone specialized in a style that would work far better than his current talent.
Different states have various laws on how a tattoo parlor can operate; Oklahoma for instance just recently allowed tattooists to operate within the state. Texas gives licenses. Some states don't require a person to be over 18 to get a tattoo while others do with parental consent and others it's a big fat no until you're 18 parental consent or no. There are no Federal laws governing tattoos in the US last I checked - I could be wrong, but tattoo laws aren't the point of this. What is the point is to know what the rules are.

I always support people going in and checking out several shops before they make their decisions; for my first I really wanted a woman to do it since it would require me to be scantily clothed later on in the process and I'm a more modest person. I searched our area until I found - we'll call her Jen; she'd done tattoos for about eleven years and after I made it clear that I sort of knew the basics we talked a lot about what I wanted and where and my long-term plan. Not everyone plans stuff out like I do and that's okay - I just tend to plan stuff. Jen had also given me a few piercings so I already had a good reputation with her and the appointment was set and made and I was thrilled.alt

People might not plan like I do - but I do suggest putting some thought into what you're getting where and in what colors. People with fair, pale skin who don't go out in sunlight will - typically - hold the bright colors amazingly well. It's all up to your body chemistry as far as I can tell. I don't tend to hold black ink well; it fades to gray and looks alright after a few months. My color, however, I think continues to look pretty well over time. I hold blues really well, as well as yellows and oranges - the latter of which are hard colors for most people. Also think about placement, over time skin will sag, or you'll get wrinkles. Think about what it will look in several years and if you're sure you want it there. I made the decision a long time ago that I was just fine with crazy colored, wrinkly, saggy skin - you just got to make that decision.

Whatever people decide to do about their ink, their bodies - it's a personal choice each one needs to make on their own. When people, young and old alike, approach me at the grocery store, mall or theater and ask about my tattoos I always encourage them to make the choice on their own, altapart from what they think is 'cool' or what others are doing because it's permanent. Long ago I reconciled myself to the fact that I would choose a design or imagery and wait four years before I get it inked on me; thus I have a list of what I want to get that won't be put into action for roughly another decade just because I take it slowly. I choose to get tattoos that mean something to me, but just because that's why I want them doesn't mean that should be the same reason for someone else.

Because my tattoos in the beginning were all a new experience I made friends go with me; if your tattoo won't take more than an hour from when you step in the door I suggest bringing people. Yes, they might be a bit bored but you can talk to each other and if you're the one getting it they can help take your mind of the inevitable pain. Yes, tattoos hurt to some degree; a big factor in pain is where you're getting it and how long it will take. Typically a tattoo on the outer arm, upper back, shoulders, outer leg and lower leg don't hurt that bad. Tattoos on the inner arm, ribs, inner leg and other normally sensitive areas hurt a lot; the half sleeve I got in 2009 hurt so bad I've now instigated a personal rule that I only sit for two hours at a time for a tattoo. Before that I’d sat for up to six hours on my back twice and each time I felt like I’d been run through a meat grinder. One saving factor can be that there are different types of needles; for several portions on my back the surface area to be covered was so huge the artist used a needle that had something like 30 tiny needles or pins inside the actual needle; I believe a standard tattoo needle is something like a seven - but I am not a tattooist, I just ask a lot of questions.alt

If you know nothing about the tattoo process I’ll pause here and tell you how it goes. Generally there’s about fifteen minutes of paperwork and set-up. I generally sign some sort of agreement, saying I know what I’m doing and whatnot and as the tattooist sets up their gear and pulls out the colors this is generally when I change. When doing my back piece I had a special shirt that was cut up the back and then into strips so Jen could untie the portion over what she needed to work on. I had a bra that was left to these times since often I’d need to have my back completely uncovered; I’d take eyelash glue and slather the cups and stick my bra on - like I said, I’m modest. Then with my cut up shirt if you saw me from the front I looked like I was wearing a baggy tank top; boy were a lot of people fooled!

Jen would have friends come over to the shop and hang out with her at times and these would regularly walk around over behind me and say some expletive very loudly. I found it hilarious. Once, I ran out to my car to get some Excedrin and this group of about four or five men all getting small tattoos actually got to see what Jen was working on - I thought their eyes were going to pop out of their heads! In the time it took all five of them to get one tattoo a piece I’d sat in the chair and only gotten up once.
Right - pre-tattoo prep. Once the tattooist and you are both ready they usually have the image you want tattoo’d on some sort of paper and will clean your skin and shave you and once that’s done place the transfer image on your skin. Always, always, always double check this and nitpick what you don’t like. I have mirror images on my shoulders and one is a hair higher than the other because I didn’t check them before I let the guy ink me.

Right before my first tattoo I called up my old roommate from Chicago and told her all excitedly about my first tattoo and that I needed some pointers on how to handle the pain. She told me I needed to take some deep breaths, continue to breathe and focus on something else - recite something. I don't think I'll ever forget the day I first sat in Jen's tattoo chair, my feet propped up on a stool and my hands tucked under my thighs. I stared at a flash picture of a green dragon I to this day can remember distinctly and recited the Lord's Prayer. I think I breezed through it two or three times before discovering the amazing fact that tattoos on my back don't really hurt all that much. In fact, I'm a strange case - most of it tickled. It got worse as she would go over my spine, ribs and other bony areas along the middle of my back. Now more to my sides and fatty "problem areas" it wasn't so funny but for the most part I got off really luck with my back.

After the first fifteen minutes it didn't really hurt so much; I think it has something to do with the body going into some state of shock or something; don't ask me the particulars but for me it was like I hit a wall and after that there just wasn't a lot of pain. Lots of noise, the sterile smell of a tattoo shop and loud music but not so much pain. That first time was just some outlines but just considering the size of the tattoo it still took about two hours and two of my friends faithfully stood by my side.

Now I don’t take people with me; I tend to be comfortable enough I can manage the entire visit on my own and they’re generally more than two hours long with breaks and prep and post clean up. It’s about down to a well oiled machine on my end. I know what I’m comfortable wearing, I know that after a while I will get cold so a zipup jacket or small blanket is a great idea. I like to take some light pain killers before the tattoo starts and I know that having a Dr Pepper and some chocolate on hand for my blood sugar is a good idea. Some people can’t eat before or during a tattoo - I’ve realized I can do just about anything. I’ve slept during a tattoo, watched multiple movies, played video games, done homework, read, text’d, talked on the phone, listened to music and bantered with other people in the shop. A few times I’ve even answered the shop phones.alt

The things people don't usually tell you about a tattoo is what happens after you've gotten it. The artist will usually clean you up a bit, put some ointment on you and bandage you up for a bit and give you some instructions. Now different people take care of them different ways. I've always favored simple, unscented, uncolored lotion; some people use special salves like the H2O stuff or Emu Oil but Lubriderm is cost efficient. They tell you the tattoo will scab over - that's logical; you've just had a few needles injecting your dermas a few million times. You might bleed a bit, defiantly scab over, and then you just think you're home free! Right? Nope! The one thing no one ever warned me about was the itching. When that tattoo altscabs over for me, which it generally does in a day - I tend to heal quickly, that's when hell is unleashed in my life. The itching is terrible and I solve it by more lotion. That can only do so much good and your skin can only absorb so much. Eventually the flaking will start and you want to pick at the scabs but can't. It's a very frustrating process. I tend to get large chunks done at a time and will peel large flakes of colorful skin. It's sort of gross; you shed skin everywhere and leave bits of yourself anywhere you happen to pause.

Once, I went to a concert about a week after I'd gotten a the color done on my back for the first time. I saw a friend of mind I no longer hung out with and he was about to leave to go overseas with the military. After I scratched my back like I wasn't supposed to do since I was covered with sweat like I also wasn't supposed to be a large flake of blue skin came off and I mockingly tried to hand it to him. He took it, wrapped it in a gun wrapper and every time I see him now he pulls it out of his wallet and shows me this little piece of rotting skin he carries around with him that belongs to me. Yes, you will meet weird people because of your tattoos and people will do weird things to you - because of your tattoo(s).alt

To date I've had people I know or know of me through someone else or don't even know me attempt to look down my clothing or take my clothing off of me to get a peek at what my tattoos look like. I've had to politely ask people exactly why they're trying to look down the back of my dress. I think in that regard pregnant women and tattoo'd people share the same violated rights; people don't ask to touch you anymore - they just do. From kids in the supermarket that walk up to me and trace the lines of the stained glass window on my arm to people tapping me on the shoulder and wanting to know what's on my back or some random stranger moving my purse strap so they can see what exactly it is nestled there just out of sight. It's also like an instant famous card; if you have cool enough tattoos people want to be seen with you; I've had some of the altstrangest people walk up and ask to take a picture with me because I just had the coolest ink! The weirdest instance happened in a Halfpriced Books store by where I live; I was looking for our latest book club book and an older Hispanic man began following me around.

I'm a little paranoid sometimes, especially at the time because I was watching seasons of Alias back to back, and I started wandering. Well he kept following. Eventually, while checking out some Christopher Moore books the guy literally reaches his arm out with his cell phone and starts snapping pictures of me; he claimed that he was going for my arm when I walked over and asked him about it but well - they looked suspiciously aimed.

Mostly I enjoy having my tattoos; sure people stare and some will even touch you, but mine just make me feel like a piece of artwork. I'm not very artistic, my stick figures are terrible - so I take great pride in the art others have drawn and put on me. I do take care of them; they're like anything else - they'll stay nice in time if you take care of them. I don't go out into the sun without sunscreen and often times I avoid wearing something that will expose them to direct sunlight for long periods of time. This means I like umbrellas, the occasional long sleeved shirt and lots of sunscreen. I've spent quite a lot of money on my tattoos and I want them to continue looking good. About once every other year I will see about going back into the shop for touchups; a lot of shops offer this as a free service - it's like preventative maintenance on a car.
I’m no where near finished on my tattoo journey; my back is far from done and I haven’t even started my left arm. I’m still undecided what I want to get on altmy shoulders or the lower part of my right arm or if I want to do anything on my legs at all. It’s a process and I’m sure the designs will grow over time - but I’m okay with being patient and planning it all out - because that’s how I operate.

Tattooing is about personalizing the body, making it a true home and fit temple for the spirit that dwells inside it.... Tattooing therefore, is a way of keeping the spiritual and material needs of my body in balance. ~Michelle Delio

About Me

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Grew up traveling to rodeos with my parents. I've gone across the world thanks to my gypsie feet. I feel sometimes like I've done everything & nothing. I've played roller derby, traveled parts of the world, have four degrees. I've done some things most people will never do in their lives & still I want to do more. I want to work with orphans & teenagers again. I'm a Christian. I have a lot of tattoos. I like art therefore I want to be art. I love people. I started writing years ago when I was a kid. I think at the time it was an outlet for me; I found escape in my word & the worlds I created. Eventually I just started to like creating stuff & that's when I started sharing it with other people. Now I think I write every day. I want to do NaNoWrMo this year. I'm also learning how to knit. I think I'm on my way to being an eccentric old woman who runs around the world doing silly cazy things and knitting while she does them. Be on your guard I have knitting needles!

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