So, you many not know this about me, but I am a bad ass.
A genuine rock star.
A certified hard-ass, disguised in a preppy smiley shell.
And now I have the ink to prove it.
GETTING MY FIRST TATTOO
So, just this past week, I took the plunge and got my first tattoo.
I don’t really want to go too deeply into the whole lead up to this thing…
This is not really intended as a “how to get your first tattoo” blog. (And trust me, after 5 minutes of perusing a Google search of that very thing you will get some very helpful, if hopefully obvious advice.) I am just going to tell you all the little story of my experience.
I will be frank. If you want to get a tattoo, especially your first tattoo, you better think long and long and long and hard about it. Like seriously. In college, for about a month, I thought I wanted stars tattooed on my wrist. I don’t know why, but it was the style at the time and thank goodness I didn’t follow through.
So, this tattoo sitch wasn’t something I just jumped into on a whim. It wasn’t something I did lightly. After many years of consideration and weeks of revising the design, I finally had it perfected, booked an appointment with a highly recommended artist, and went and got inked.
BREAKING THE PARENTAL ACCEPTANCE BOUNDARY
So I seriously started this journey, in a tangible way, this past October. I had been mulling over a tattoo idea for a couple years, and had been missing something in it. Without really knowing what, I knew there was a sense of incompleteness to my concept.
Then I chatted with a friend who had just gotten her first tattoo… script done in her mom’s handwriting, and the final piece fell into place. The missing link, the lacking importance and significance and nostalgia. For I knew (and had known) what I wanted on my body for a long time. And finally I knew how I wanted it written.
So when I did my “oh my goodness I am sorta an old person!” birthday trip to Disneyland with my parents in October, I broached the subject. We were at I-Hop for breakfast, which we were all admittedly not so satisfied with, before our first day running around the happiest place on earth like kids. Totally idealistic place to…
A: Broach the subject with my parental’s that I was indeed very set and decided on getting at tattoo for realsies. (I am not asking your permission, but pul-leassse don’t be disappointed with my life choices!!!)
and B: Ask my mom to be the one to write out my tattoo for me.
Since I wanted it close to my heart, and in the lettering of someone who meant so much to me.
For the record: My parents are inherently good sports. They accepted my bellybutton piercing freshman year in college in stride, smiled at my ever changing hair colors, managed to tease me about my nose piercing at the age of 26 (with the kidding-not kidding caveat of preferring no more facial piercings) and through it all have loved and accepted the punk-rock soul which lives underneath this Stepford Wife exterior. They are really good sports thought it all, and took this impending tattoo in unbelievable supportive strides.
Have I mentioned that I am the baby in the fam and the only girl and therefore am not supposed to be the rebel in theory?
A CARDIGAN IN A ROOM FULL OF HIPSTER
Anyways, back to the present and my impending tattoo. After my mom graciously tagged along to my tattoo consultation, I made an appointment a couple weeks out for the actual thing. I really didn’t worry too much about it until an hour or two before hand… then started to get nervous. Was I tough enough to handle this? After all, I was getting a tattoo on my ribs, one of the most notoriously painful spots consisting of negligible skin/fat over bone.
This was going to hurt. And I am a wuss.
So I rolled into the shop directly from the office… bedecked in my little sweater cardigan and dress pants. Talk about visually being a fish out of water in a room full of inked up hipsters, with your Kat Von Dee look alikes and bright colored hair Williamsburg transplants. I looked like a JCrew ad that had gotten lost in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.
Visual contrast or no, everyone was ridiculously nice. I never felt one second of judgement or fish out of water syndrome. Everyone was there for their art and their own thing. They would take me as I was, preppy self and all.
My lovely artist Alisha greeted me, took my sketch and ushered me over to her station.
It was time to do this thing.
YOU ARE FEARLESS, YOU ARE TOUGH, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CRY
The process is pretty simple, but I will break it down for you other noobs out there. (In my totally non-technical terms.)
– So she took my sketch, and after verifying the size was correct, transferred it on to basically temporary tattoo paper.
– They clean your skin and make sure you are happy with how it looks.
– This transfer paper is then applied to your skin in the correct location so the artist has a stencil to go over. (They don’t just freehand that crap, ya’ll)
– Then you sit your butt down, and they tattoo you!
So since I may have mentioned, I was getting my very simple script tattoo on the side of my ribs. Having just recently witnessed a good friend get one in a similar location, I was prepared in my sports bra. So when she said I could take off my layers, I stripped down to my sports bra like it was no big deal.
Maybe now is a good time to mention that I was in an open room, surrounded by three dudes getting ink done by three other dudes and pretty large storefront windows. I am generally a shy girl, and let us be reminded that it is winter and all of this (indicates up and down body) is not exactly in prime bikini shape. But somehow I lost any self consciousness. My body was the canvas. There was no reason to feel ashamed of a little bit of french fry bloating, that honestly only I would notice.
I think I threw her off. I think my artist was used to shy girls or thought as a noob I would be a wilting little wallflower. Instead I was all like “Bam! Here’s my skin!” (Calm yourselves, I was in a very conservative sports bra which covers WAY more than a swimsuit anywho)
Her comment “Oh, you are totally ready for this, huh?”
“I sure hope so,” was my response.
A PEN SCRATCHING A SUNBURN
So transfer complete and awkward positioning on the tattoo bed settled, she asked the most important question.
“Are you ready?”
In what I would imagine a confession box to feel like or the reassuring couch of a psychiatrist, I suddenly felt liberated in truth… open to sharing the deepest darkest parts of me. And so I did… admitting an undercurrent of fear that had been making my stomach slightly upset since earlier that afternoon.
“I am most nervous about not knowing what it will feel like“, I admitted (underlying fear of the unknown, anyone?). “I am afraid of what the pain will be and worried that I will not be able to handle it.”
“Ah, no,” she laughed, so fundamentally reassuring in her ambivalence. “It simply will feel like a pen scratching a sunburn. You might start to get a little hot and sweaty as the adrenaline kicks in. And then your body will start to mellow out and send endorphins and the pain will go away after about ten minutes.”
“Although, honestly, you will be done in less than ten minutes, so that won’t really be a factor for you.” she added.
Haha, great… so somehow I manage to get a tattoo and just take in all the pain without any of the bliss. Very typical me.
And that is what it felt like. It was a grit your teeth and bear it couple of minutes, trying to remember to breathe (though shallowly) and zone out if possible. There was a moment when it felt like I couldn’t take the pain, and somehow then she would pause and then it wouldn’t seem so bad again.
I would breathe, the scratching would begin, and I would focus on being a tougher individual than all the big biker dudes surrounding me. I am nothing if not stubborn.
And before I knew it, I was done. Tattooed. Bandaged up. And good to go, care instructions in hand and a hug from my lovely artist.
SECRETLY A BAD-ASS
I ran to the grocery store afterwords to pick up some milk and scent-free lotion for my tattoo and was struck with a strange surrealism walking around. (The milk had nothing to do with the tattoo… I was just running low, guys)
No one there knew, I realized! No one knew that I had just gotten a tattoo! They had no idea of what an unbelievable bad-ass I was under my preppy exterior!
I felt like a punk-rock ninja… basking in my little secret (and let’s be frank, most likely some residual adrenaline coursing through my system)
And then, just like that, the feeling went away.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ME
I was struck by an extreme desire NOT to brag about my new ink.
There was no Facebook bragging, no blatant tweets, no Instagraming of my recently acquired tattoo. Yes, I face-timed my parental units, but only because they are my parents and were integral in the creation of the tattoo and that is what any good child would do, I am sure.
Strangely enough, I was grounded through the minimal pain and limited bleeding of my body art. I was humbled my how much my body seemed to simply say “okay, put some art on me.‘ without a complaint. I was blown away by the relative simplicity of acquiring a tattoo and a strange lack of desire to show it off. (Maybe this isn’t normal?)
I was overwhelmed by how much it seemed a part of me, and therefore simply part of the whole. My tattoo wasn’t important to point out. It would be like focusing only on my eyes or my chest or my height.
Afterall, the reason I got the tattoo in the first place, especially its location and meaning, was always for me.
That was the story I told.
And that was what it manifested into.
My tattoo was, and is, personal. It’s a reminder for me. It’s a simple little piece of work near my heart, visually not much more than a ball point pen scribbled note on my side, of what matters and drives me as a person.
It isn’t about my body being a canvas. It isn’t about being some version of the bad-ass drummer chick that I secretly pretend to be in alternate versions of myself.
It’s about putting what is near and dear to me front and center for myself. And about remembering I have a supportive family who will always support my desire to live life, always, with unending hope.
(Plus it also makes me more intriguing on my OKCupid profile, right?!?)