I got my first tattoo when I was 25, and I still love it.
25 was a very different place and time, which meant an ex-boyfriend designed it and I got it in a small shop outside of Dayton, Ohio, from a very large man named Jimbo. I chose the design because, while not a firm believer in horoscopes, I've always identified with Capricorn symbolism, including a ruling planet of Saturn and the sun for my Leo rising sign. I knew this was something about me that would never change, and as tempting as it was to get an Eric Cartman bobblehead on my bicep, I figured I'd go with some stability and earth planet symbolism. Good call.
Me: "It's not going to hurt, right?"
Jimbo: "The hell it won't."
And that was accentuated by literal screaming from a girl getting pierced a few chairs over, so that was nice. I also asked him to make my planet "iridescent colors" and he translated that into seven shades of Juicy Fruit (c) gum, which for me works out fine just fine.
Here it is. And yes that is skin. No it is not obscene. You could see this in a bathing suit, but you won't. LUCKY.
I knew I wanted another tattoo soon, but I didn't really know when it would happen and my plans to mark 35 with one got lost in a shuffle of life stuff and it's just as well because I like it better on the other side. I'm not calculated about much, apparently not even permanent body art. But when Shannon aka Mr. Lady put a plan together for people to get inked this year in Chicago during the BlogHer Conference, I knew immediately that this is where it would happen. And it did, on the last day.
There are a lot of reasons for why I wanted to make this happen here and most of them are aggravatingly mushy. First of all, I can go on and on about how much this conference and overall BlogHer experience mean to me, which made the time and place perfect. Second of all, I knew I had some memorializing to do with this piece, which ended up including a claddagh symbol (Irish crown, heart and hands for loyalty, love and friendship) and the initials of the greatest woman to ever touch my life, who had the nerve to go and die on me this winter.
And there was also the 20 percent discount and the free t-shirt. I'm not a total idiot.
My BlogHer roommate Genie Alisa tells the story of how this came to pass from a different angle than I do, and includes photo and video as well. The final design came about as haphazardly as she describes, or as I like to call it "organically" because that makes me feel better. And to this I say, "Do not do as I do!" And that especially true if you're a first-timer. I had these ideas floating around in my head for months, and I knew I would be happy with them. I always sort of knew I'd do the one I ended up with, just because, and I knew it would turn out ok. But if you're a more nervous sort about this kind of thing - i.e., if you're sane and don't believe your intuition should always be driving the car - take the time. Get the drawing done ahead of time.
Here are a few other hints, tip and trick kinds of things. They are solely my own opinion, so feel free to completely ignore me (but don't, especially for 1, 3 and 4. Those are important.):
1. Know what you're doing, and why. Do not get a tattoo because you think it'll look cool or your friend is getting one. Yes, I might be in my late 30s, but I can still be impressionable. Get one because, after mulling it over for a period of weeks or maybe even months, you really, really want one. I get mine to mark time. Some people, like Mr. Lady, create family portraits. We all have our reasons, it's just good if they're solid.
2. Go with something original. The flash art on the walls is fine for some situations, but mostly for idea jogging. If you're going to get a design drilled into your skin, it's nice to know it has a personal touch, and yeah, that it won't be the same design a million other people have.
3. Do not be afraid to work collaboratively with the artist. Dave Dillon at Tattoo Factory was excellent. I loved him immediately because when I came in I said I'd heard that Beth, one of the female artists was great, hoping he'd pass me to her. "We're all good," he said, and that was that. The first drawing he showed me, I wasn't crazy about the placement of the initials. I am also a people-pleaser and it's hard for me to tell someone to try again, but in this case this is going on my body so it is my - and your - right to be appropriately assertive. He drew it again, this time was the charm, and I think he got what I was after in the first place. So speak up. You might be able to adjust these designs, but not without effort and expense, and a lot of times it will never work right if it didn't the first time. It's your body, your money. And when all was said and done, we had a great, relaxing time watching Spike TV. And also, and this might be my pain threshold, it really minimally hurt.
4. Take care of it. About.com has a nice guide, but it's really simple. Keep it clean, put some basic antibiotic or petroleum jelly on it, don't break your neck contorting yourself to see it in the mirror, the basics. I don't bleed a lot but I've seen some people do. Just use common sense and a basic care kit your artist will probably give you and that's that.
5. Enjoy it. You got it. Show it off. I was a naysayer who didn't understand the allure of tattooing for a long time but now I really enjoy my body art just like I would any other thing that's a part of me - albeit a permanent part.
I haven't been prepared for some of the reactions I've gotten, and in fact don't understand the investment of others in the body modification of other people. How you decorate yourself is none of my business. I may never understand elf ears, but I do not have to get them. And I learned long ago from my number of pierced and tattooed friends that it says absolutely nothing about lifestyle habits or personality. The softest heart I know is inside the body of a 300-pound man who has full sleeves and leg work, who rarely drinks and doesn't touch drugs, which is the opposite of what I've seen people assume about him based on his body mod choices. It's a personal choice and a cosmetic commitment, but again, the reasons vary widely. The thing is, I rather enjoy the concept of being an 80 year old woman with a tattoo. There will be a lot of us running around.
Other BlogHer tattoo sorts of things
Brittany at the Perks of Being Me got the Little Prince on her foot during the conference. Contrariwise - Literary Tattoos is one of my favorite sites, with all kinds of fun and interesting images. Were I a serious Harry Potter head I'm sure I'd go for the stars. SO MANY Harry Potter tattoos. Amazing.
Kelli at South City Confidential went with her friends Stef and Kelly to get tattoos at Tattoo Factory between sessions. I can't tell whose is whose but they're all in her Flickr stream, and I'm hoping one or all will jump in here and claim them.
Melissa has a plan to collect the tattoos of BlogHer in a photo essay. If you've got one and want to play, send it her way.
Here's Mr. Lady getting her work done at the Tattoo Factory, with Nick.
Anyone else get one? Got one you love? Here's your chance to share it here. I know I will.
Now. (And please please please check out Genie's shot of the best temporary tattoo on a pregnant woman's stomach, ever. I have so hit the jackpot with friends from the computer.)
Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites, where the story will soon be told of how her mother indicated that this, while quite attractive, should really be her last tattoo. To which she replied, "Right. This year. And also I'm 38."
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