I just got my third tattoo last weekend by Jaime at Black and Blue . Like my previous ones, it’s just a plain black Chinese character. Nothing fancy.
Even so, I mulled over all of them for a long time. I pondered potential tattoos for months before making an appointment at a shop. I know that tattoos are permanent, and laser treatment to remove them is more painful than actually having the tattoos done. I also change my style “like a girl changes clothes” AKA really damn often, so I know that I want something that does not ever go out of fashion and will always remain meaningful to me throughout my entire life.
I also know what looks good on my body and what doesn’t. I would never get anything tattooed on my legs because it will cut off the visual lines of my limbs, and I am already short enough. As a female, I also hesitate to get anything on the central part of my body just in case I get pregnant later in life.
I don’t pretend to not cry easily (Unless you cried while watching Monsters, Inc. too), and I am such a baby when it comes to physical discomfort. I’ve gotten my earlobes re-pierced four times, and I’ve shed a tear or two each time. Yet for some unknown reason, I have never cried once while having tattoo work done on me. I think it’s because of the adrenaline rush masking the sensation, and the fact that the level of pain I expect always turned out to be much higher than what it actually was.
Don’t get me wrong: IT HURTS. My finger one was the worst because it felt like my bone was being cut by a sharp needle. What really helps though is thinking about the reason that you’re doing this for during the process. For instance, I got a tattoo of part of my grandma’s name, so I had flashbacks of how she took care of my brother and me in our childhood during those ten minutes. You can also bring a loved one with you to remind you that you have plenty of support.
There are a lot of materials on tattoo aftercare on the internet, but in my opinion, one often overlooked factor is that you can’t be in the sun or the water a lot for 2-3 weeks afterwards. Sunscreen is full of strong chemical ingredients, so you can only wear protective clothing like hats, but this would put quite a damper on your summer if you like the outdoors or the waters. I can’t even go to my boxing class for two weeks because I got my finger one re-inked, and soaking the tattoo in sweaty wraps for 50 minutes is just not good.
Overall I think the three most issues to think about are the questions my father asked me when I showed him my first tattoos a few years ago:
- Do you regret it?
- Did you get it done at a safe, sanitary place?
- Is this gang-related?
Only just half-kidding about that last one! Really do be prepared for people’s judgment. Thankfully I work in advertising and live in San Francisco, but in more conservative areas and industries, tattoos could be read as troublesome signs of one’s bad character. When I was back in Taiwan with purple and blue hair, AND tattoos one year, an old lady on the metro straight up just glared at me for 10 minutes. Finally I stared back with an expression that said “May I help you?” and she made this “HMPH!” sound and look away meanly. She probably thought I dropped out of school early to be a promiscuous punk rocker or something like that, and that’s okay.
On the bright side, tattoos are great conversation topics. You’re putting a part of your identity on visual display, and strangers are often curious to find out why you did it. It’s also kind of hot because you start wondering where else they might have tattoos.
I don’t know the exact science behind tattooing, but to the best of my knowledge they are basically colored scars, and that’s why fresh ink is raised a bit higher than the surrounding area. The skin is cut open to allow ink to be inserted, and it takes time to heal. I think there’s something poetic about volunteering to endure brief pain in order to have something permanently engraved on you. It’s like making mistakes and bad judgment calls: the suffering from your actions and choices does stop eventually, but you have the rest of your life to face the consequences and remember the lessons you learn from them.
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, please understand that there’s no rush. Take all the time you need to contemplate. It’s your body, and you can do whatever you want with it, but I also think your soul vessel deserves to be treated well. Or does “spirit container” sound better?
Also please do not try to skimp on the costs. Understand that a good tattoo artist is hard to find just like in any other fields of craftsmanship, and you get what you pay for. Very often customers need the artists’ help creating the artwork out of just vague ideas or visuals. And to adapt an irreversible version of a picture/painting/drawing onto a canvass of human skin stretched over bones, muscles, and organs? That is difficult and precise handiwork. Lastly, do you really want to be a cheapskate about something that is going to last pretty much forever? I don’t think so.
Happy inking! Or not, it’s totally up to you.