I didn’t expect my first tattoo to be as grounding as it was.
I’d wanted to get some kind of tattoo for years before I actually did. And by “years” I mean over a decade. I tend to overthink things a bit, although as I saw it, any ink I had put on me was going to have to be treated as if it couldn’t be removed. Back then, tattoos were less removed than covered up. So I’d gone through quite a few designs before I came up with the one I eventually got. Some were discarded because they came from a different time and place in my life, or reminded me of someone I didn’t necessarily want given such a permanent place in my day to day life.
Getting the tattoo hurt quite a bit. Well, getting the outline and black ink of the kanji symbol hurt. It felt like someone had loaded an exact-o blade into a dremel tool and was dragging it over my skin. Once he was coloring it in, it wasn’t nearly so bad. Relaxing even. Later, a friend mentioned that some people did experience a lot more pain on their lower back, but others didn’t, so she didn’t say anything so that I wouldn’t be too tensed up. The artist speculated that a) black ink always hurts more and b) he was hitting a lot of bone. I loved it, once it was on, and it healed well, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever get another.
I designed the first one more than I designed my second. It was thought about, sketched, put together, and colors chosen. Of course, the prep time for the tattoo artist was MUCH shorter. The tattoo itself took less time – perhaps 45 minutes total. I forget it’s there, in the way I forget freckles, but it lives there, and when I do see pictures they don’t surprise me. It feels like part of me.
My other tattoo is also a part of me, but from a different place. I forget that it’s there and actually am sometimes startled when I see it, although I of course I recognize it and there’s no true dysphoria. I knew what I wanted, explained it to the artist and he did more of the actual work in drawing it up and figuring out the design. I like it a lot, even love it. But I don’t love it like the other. I sometimes feel ever so slightly off-balance, as if it’s taken on the weight of its symbolism, and then at other times it’s simply a pretty picture to remind me of my mom.
Sometimes I wonder if that’s why they’re different. The first tattoo was for me. The second tattoo was to remember my mom. I’d like to get more… one to remember my dad, another to remember my cat. I just have a hard time decided exactly what those images would be.
There are also times that I just want to cover my body in vines that connect all the images. Sometimes when I dream I have tattoos that I once considered getting, but ultimately decided against. They are faded and flicker. Sometimes I will see tattoos on my skin that I never particularly thought of but look lovely and make me wonder if I should get those. A stylized sun centered between my shoulder-blades in rich dark yellows, burnt oranges and warm wine colors. A flurry of autumn leaves blowing over one hip and another gust of cherry blossoms and petals drifting over the other. A trail of paw prints crawling over my belly and up over my heart to end at a small silhouette of a black and white cat. I wake up and they’re gone of course, but it’s interesting how they feel as though they should be there in the dream. I suspect this is not an uncommon dream, as it pops up in so much fiction.
Overall, I love my tattoos. Because of the way they’re located, they haven’t interfered with work. I can’t say they don’t surprise people. I’m pretty sure a few people have been surprised, although perhaps not as many as might be were I to live somewhere with a lower ratio of tattoo shops. I do think the fact that I consider them so long before actually going through with them helps as well.