Lately, I seem to encounter people who have decided to get their first tattoos. They are weighing the choices in design with the idea of a lifetime commitment. I try to tell these folks that ink is widely accepted now. It isn’t uncommon to see soccer moms with cute flower tattoos peeking out from underneath their flip-flops. The standard of beauty has even progressed to such a point that women sporting body art are considered desirable and websites promoting this new image, such as Suicide Girls, become more popular every day.
Deciding to permanently add to your body is not a decision to be taken lightly. It should not be done on a whim because spur of the moment decisions are often regretted later.
- So first, think very hard about whether or not you would willingly alter your physical appearance. Tattoos are made by injecting ink underneath the skin with a needle. Once this is done, it is irreversible. There are painful procedures that can be done to erase these modifications, but these have side effects and limited results.
Tattoos hurt. Let me be clear. Tattoos hurt a lot. It isn’t like being pricked with a needle on your fingertip. We are talking about a gun looking apparatus that vibrates and inserts ink deep into your epidermis to forever alter the pigmentation with a needle. It doesn’t feel good. In the fatty areas, the sensation is annoying but in the most sensitive areas, it can be excruciating. While the bicep of your arm might sting a bit, the pain caused by choosing your sternum as the location is enough to induce tears and cuss words galore. In some cases, people respond so negatively that they faint or vomit. I have always looked at it as pain with a purpose. There are those who love having tattoos but hate getting them, and there are those who actually enjoy the hurt as a cleansing part of the act.
Choosing a design can be the most laborious part of this decision making process. Figuring out what you would put on your body now that you won’t regret in later in life is incredibly difficult. Many a person gets something that they considered cute or funny as a teenager, only to hate it with a passion when they reach middle age. I prefer to think of it this way: life is a book with each year adding another chapter. Tattoos are a way to mark the pages you want to remember. If you are having a hard time getting ideas, you can search the internet or stop by the local parlor. There will be pictures on the wall known as “flash art”. These are generic designs or those that are the most popular. It isn’t uncommon to take one of these and alter it to make it your own
Location, location, location. Keep in mind that your career may limit the visibility of your ink. This is a serious consideration! It might be in your best interest to be more discreet and have something that your clothes will cover.
Find an artist. That is right, I didn’t say find someone “to do” your tattoo, I said find an artist. Tattooing is an art form and each person who chooses this profession has strengths and weaknesses. Asking for proof of past work or a portfolio is totally acceptable conduct. Many artists display their best work to show potential clients their skill. One person may be great at copying portraits while another can do Asian themed with finesse, or someone else can draw freehand. It is about finding the person whose talents fit your tastes and personal style. Sometimes this person is the one who has designed your tattoo but it doesn’t have to be. Your best bet is to set up an appointment to discuss the ideas your have or the design ahead of time. Be picky with who you find, it’s your body!! You can even ask around for the shop with the best reputation.
Finally, ink isn’t cheap. Every tattoo shop has a minimum charge. That means that no matter how small the picture or how fast it is completed, there is a bottom price. Your appointment will be scheduled in based on the detail and size of the design. This will affect how much you are going to be charged. Getting a quote ahead of time is totally normal. For big, incremental pieces, some artists will work on a “pay as you go” arrangement. While getting a small butterfly on your ankle may only take twenty minutes and cost you fifty dollars, adding a half sleeve to your arm can take multiple sessions with hours and hours of work costing hundreds. So be prepared. Also, bring cash to tip. It is polite to do so because this is where your artist gets to take home money and not have to pay overhead. It’s a sign of appreciation on your part.
Since I turned 18 and was legally able to get tattoos, I’ve steadily added to my collection. Each piece has documented a segment of my life. I’ve ensured that my choices weren’t trendy or offensive. I’m not using my body as a joke or to be clever. Every single design is something original because I wanted a more personal touch. This shell has morphed into a roadmap of what has been, and will continue to be, important to me throughout my adult life. I believe that the artwork decorating my skin is beautiful. For me, I took things of private importance and moved forward to change my appearance. These markings may be meaningless to others but I know that there hasn’t been a single day that I’ve regretted painting my canvas with a more unique palette because that is where my memories are etched, forever.