As many of you know by now, I got a tattoo on Friday. And contrary to what the photo above looks like, it’s NOT sparkly. I would post a new picture, but the tattoo is now in its weird flaky infancy, so new photos will have to wait.
Up until Friday, I firmly believed that I was not the “type of person” who would get a tattoo. My mom, my sister, and my brother all have multiple tattoos, and I have several friends who have them and enjoy them. So why not me? I believed I wasn’t the type of person who could get a tattoo because I follow the rules and I hate pain and I have quite a hard time making decisions. I mean, everyone hates pain, but I should say my pain threshold is lower than most.
When Joe and I got married (nearly a year ago!), we wanted to incorporate the Rhode Island state flag into our wedding, so we put it on tote bags and bookmarks and our wedding website. It was sort of like our wedding logo. I’ve always liked the flag, and thought the motto “hope” was particularly fitting for a wedding. It symbolized, to me, all of the hope I had held out for so long for the good things in life, many of which I have now, and am really grateful for.
It was around this time that I began to think seriously about getting a tattoo. It seemed like the perfect way to commemorate not only my wedding, but my home, my roots, my hope. But even though now any indecisiveness I had about WHAT I would get for a tattoo was gone, I still didn’t believe that I was the right type of person. How would I deal with the pain? The permanence? Where would it go on my body that I could deal with it every day for the rest of my life?
I thought about these questions mostly quietly. Sometimes I would say things like, “If I ever get a tattoo, it would be an anchor or the RI state flag.” I lived in the conditional. Until one day, over drinks on a Sunday afternoon (I think probably 80% of conversations about getting a tattoo occur in bars), my friend and I discovered our mutual serious thoughts about getting tattoos–and both nautical! She wanted to get a ship’s wheel, and I talked about my RI flag idea. We joked about going together to the tattoo parlor, wearing matching sailing outfits. And then we talked about where we would get them, and how big, and where we could go. We didn’t STOP talking for probably an hour. As our excitement grew, so did this feeling that I COULD do it. I could be that person to get a tattoo.
As my friend and I continued to talk, our conversations became less joking and more serious. We picked a date, and a place, and finally, a time. In the interim, we had both decided, independently, that we would get our tattoos on our inner wrists. For me, that decision was largely fueled by how cool they look on other people, but also because I’ve always been squeamish about that area of my body–it’s so sensitive, and I’m so pale that you can see my veins, and it just makes me uncomfortable. So, getting a tattoo there was another challenge to myself, in a way. If I could get one there, I could get one anywhere (almost).
So Friday evening came, and we met outside the tattoo parlor, both nervous and excited. Surprisingly, I felt calm and at peace with my decision. I hadn’t even had any anxiety dreams, which was huge. I did get a little nervous in the hours leading up to the appointment, but Joe and I went out for pizza and exploring in Bushwick, so that helped. Somewhat disappointingly, I was told that the RI state flag was too detailed to put on my wrist, and if I wanted it, I would need to have it bigger, somewhere else on my body. Since the anchor was the most central part of what I wanted anyway, I just went with that.
Once we signed all our paperwork and conferred with our tattoo artist (Ron, super friendly and talented), we were ready. My friend went first and made it through like a champ. Then it was my turn. After feeling like Goldilocks conferring with Ron about the size of the tattoo (no, that’s too small. still too small. too big!), I felt pretty ready to sit in the chair. Everyone asks if it hurts. The answer is yes. Of course, everyone’s pain threshold is different, but for me, it did hurt quite a bit. However, my tattoo only took about 15 minutes, and was done in short bursts, so the pain was only when the needle was actually in the skin. As soon as Ron stopped, the pain was gone. So it was easy enough to handle. My friend equated it with the feeling of someone snapping a hot rubber band repeatedly against your skin, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. Afterwards, they wrapped us up, and we went out for drinks (many drinks) to celebrate.
Over the next couple of days, the area around my tattoo was a little red, and it still hurt–it was tender to the touch and had the stinging soreness of a bad sunburn. But that was gone by Sunday night, leaving me with the flaky, somewhat itchy anchor I have today. I like having it there, it’s like a reminder that I’m stronger and more surprising than I give myself credit for. If you’re on the fence about getting one, and think you can’t do it, I would say go for it! Just be prepared for the permanence part.
(Check out some really awesome literary tattoos while you’re thinking about it!)