A First Tattoo
My First Tattoo
I'd been thinking about a tattoo for years, but not really seriously until recently. Of course I had to be sure since this would be a forever-type deal. On my skin.
I don't know anyone who's gone into the desert on a vision quest though I had done that in my own way several years ago on a three-day climb and hike into Joshua Tree (my next hub, I'm sure). The silence of that adventure was so all encompassing that I really could hear myself think out there. I had to go back.
So I trekked again, this time into a desert wolf sanctuary (below) since I so badly wanted a wolf to be my animal totem - for many reasons, all of which I won't go into here. But since I'm oh, so westernized, I had no patience for letting it "find me" so I went to find it, was validated by a Native American woman telling me I had wolf spirit in me (that should be enough, right?) and finally decided that since all the major things I've done in life, all my serious adventures anyway, were spur of the moment, why not this too?
I combed the internet, talked to a Red Cross worker (did you know Texas is one of the few states that requires tattoo shops to be health certified?) and tattooed friends.
First question - does it hurt? Yes, but not unbearably so, if you're getting it done in a fairly fleshy area (my right hip). It's like someone dragging a pinpoint across you or digging in fingernails. I'm not afraid of needles, I can take it, and sometimes you just need to feel intense experiences.
Second question - is it safe? Yes, if you make sure the place is reputable, clean and the people there will answer your questions honestly and listen to what you want the art to turn into.
Check and check.
I brought some friends with me, though my adventures are normally solo. Got over how naked I would get (not very, it's just on my hip) and let it all happen. One tip - don't wear white. My tattoo guy was calm, chill, funny and distracting, just what you want from someone who is going to make you bleed. Someone with years of experience, who knows how to talk to people and what all kinds of different skin is like (since every tattoo looks different depending on the individual epidermis).
He'll do the outline on you first (you've shown him what you want and he's shown you what it will look like before you even make the appointment). Then he'll make the first pass, give you a break, then do the shading. The bigger that tattoo, the more breaks you get and the more you will want to go home. If you want a lot of color, you may have to do a few sessions. Mine was just a black outline with some shading and covered the top part of my hip, so that was about two hours. Not bad for a work of art.
LISTEN to the after-care advice. Eat something beforehand, get a lot of sleep and do not drink alcohol beforehand. You want good circulation. You'll be sanitized frequently, during and get a bandage after. Don't take it off until they tell you to. Use whatever lotion and gentle soap they recommend. It will start peeling in a few days, which may last a week or two and itch like crazy. DO NOT TOUCH IT. You want a natural scab to form and fall off and leave you with the untouched lines underneath. Your body knows what it's doing - leave it alone.
In spite of my flippant remarks, this is not something to be taken lightly and any good tattoo worker will not take you seriously if you're not fully prepared. You have to prove you really want this. So look inside, discover what you want to express and then show it to the world.
Now I feel fierce and have that inner wolf howl personified in tribal/celtic outline. It's running across my hip, giving me energy and protecting me from bad spirits. It's amazing how strong and peaceful it seems to make me feel.