You’ve thought it to yourself at least once: “I should get a tattoo.”
At some point in our lives, we’ve all thought about it, whether we were 16 years old and feeling rebellious, 21 and feeling like an adult for the first time, 40 and feeling the need for a mid-life adrenaline rush, 75 and thinking “why the hell not?”
Some people think about it and don’t follow through, for whatever reason. Maybe you have commitment issues. Maybe you faint at the thought of or sight of needles. Maybe you couldn’t afford it at the time, or couldn’t decide what to get or where.
Then there’s those who think it and immediately follow through with it, deciding on the spot what to get and where. (Some of them are, let’s be honest, high or drunk.) At the time they feel like it’s the best idea they’ve ever had. (Who knows what they’re thinking the next morning.)
I fall somewhere in between those two categories of people.
I thought, “I should get a tattoo” the first time when I was 16 or so. For about a year I planned to get one a soon as I turned 18 (because if I did it before then, my dad probably would have made sure I didn’t live to see 18).
I turned 18 while already in college and away from home, so I could have done it and hid it from my parents for a good while. I forget why I changed my mind back then, but I know nothing I thought of to get seemed right, so I probably moved on.
Then there was a time period that lasted for a few years when I said I was never going to get a tattoo. You know how college kids are -- always learning new things about the world and changing personal beliefs and philosophies about everything at least once a semester.
Then I didn’t think about it for a while. I was sort of indifferent to tattoos. I didn’t mind them on others and even admired some.
Things changed in my life, as things do, and for whatever reason I started thinking it again: “I should get a tattoo.”
After thinking it, I realized the idea really appealed to me. I value independence and uniqueness and personality and privacy and getting a tattoo would be a way of celebrating all those qualities.
So I decided to do it, and that I would design it myself, and that I wouldn’t tell anyone about it until after it was done. (Some people reading this now who know me might not know even now that I have one -- surprise!)
It took me months to decide a few things:
▪ What needs to be part of the design?
▪ Where on my body will it go?
▪ Where will I go to get it done?
First of all, yes, it took me months to decide because I’m a planner and because I don’t think lifelong decisions should be made with the snap of the fingers. I wanted to be sure that I wanted to really do it. I recommend everyone take some time for a decision like this, but at the end of the day, it’s your body. Do whatever you want.
To decide what I wanted to be part of the design I just had to think about what meant the most to me, and that answer came pretty easy. In short: my faith and my love. The design grew from there and evolved into something that has pretty intricate and personal meaning that I won’t bore you with here. (You’re welcome.)
Once I had the design done, deciding where it would go took some time. I knew I wanted to be able to see it every day; after all, I was getting it for me, not anyone else. I knew it needed to be easy to conceal for professional purposes.
That narrows down available real estate quite a bit.
I liked the idea of having it over my heart, but boobs kind of make that problematic, especially when you don’t quite know how they are going to handle old age. So I finally decided to put it on the middle of my chest in between my boobs -- close enough to my heart but on the flat part of the skin that (hopefully) won’t sag too much over time.
Choosing where to get it done turned out to be the easiest part. Elite Ink in Myrtle Beach has been voted Best of the Beach for at least the last eight years. Done.
I dropped by there one day during a lunch break for a consultation after checking out their website. I said I wanted to talk to someone about getting a tattoo and the receptionist called someone out right then.
Mike brought out a sketchbook and we sat down on the couch to chat. He didn’t end up needing his sketchbook because I had my design ready. (Planner, remember?) I showed it to him and told him where I wanted it and how big and how important it was to get the size and the letters just right. He listened, explained a few things, and gave me a quote (100 bucks). I felt comfortable and at ease with Mike, so I made an appointment and put down a deposit.
Mike emailed me a mockup a few days later and I asked him to tweak a few things, which he did.
On the day of, I get there and Mike takes me back to a computer where he has my design all sketched out. We tweak it a little more until we’re both satisfied, then he prints it out and we head to the room to get the deed done.
He talks about the procedure as he’s getting ready and making sure everything he needs is there and clean.
When he’s ready, he hesitates a bit because it’s clear he’s ready to start but doesn’t quite know how to politely tell me to take my shirt off. I see his hesitation and smile, telling him I’m not uncomfortable because I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of body parts in his line of work. Plus, I’ve planned ahead and am wearing a front-clasp bra and have already shaved the area on my chest where the tattoo will go. He relaxes.
I lie down flat on my back on the table and he makes sure I’m comfortable because we will be there for at least an hour. Then he gets started.
If you’re wondering now if it hurts, my answer is yes and no. Sure, you can feel some pain, but the adrenaline of it makes it feel not really like pain, if that makes sense. Regardless, it wasn’t so painful that it made me wince. I actually kind of enjoyed it for the most part.
I laid there and let Mike work and tried to ignore his shaky hands. I told myself to just trust the artist, and doing so was a thrilling experience.
He took a smoke break halfway through but I didn’t even glance at the progress. I wanted to fully experience the trust I was putting in him and his ability. I was also a little afraid that if I saw it and hated it that I wouldn’t go through with the rest of it.
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for me to look. When I did, I was ecstatic. It was perfect, exactly what I wanted, where I wanted it. And I still love it to this day and have no regrets whatsoever.
And that’s pretty much it. Mike walked me out, I settled with the receptionist and gave Mike a tip. At some point he talked to me about caring for the tattoo in the following days but I was so happy I wasn’t really paying attention.
The last think Mike said to me was, “Welcome to the club. Good luck getting just one.”
I’m already planning my second (and third.)