I got my first tattoo at the young age of 15. My cousin showed me her tattoo, and I just knew I wanted to be covered in art. She apparently, or at least by her account, had mastered the “prison technique”, which in retrospect is a clean sewing needle imbibed with pen ink. She would be the one to give me my first taste of ink, and it was excruciating. The tattoo was supposed to be a small black heart on my shoulder, and after an hour of a single needle dipped in ink piercing my skin over and over at least a billion times, all that was left was a scar and a lot of blood. For some reason, the ink did not penetrate my skin to make an actual tattoo, so we nixed that plan until the wound healed. I never tried to redo the heart; even now, I still have that scar to remind me of my first taste of ink.
The day I turned 18, I got my first piercing; it was quite a liberating moment for me. I chose to wait until I was 18 because my mother couldn’t rip it out if I was an adult, right? Well, either way, I wasn’t going to take that chance, so I got my tongue pierced in secret defiance. As most girls do, I went with a group of friends; we were all going to get a piercing together. Some of us were not yet 18, so we had to go to a place that we knew would not check IDs. We went to a place off Harry Hines in North Dallas; kind of a sketchy joint by the looks of the outside, but hey, they wouldn’t ask questions, so why not! A great huge bear of a man greeted us with his low growl. He looked like he could be part of the band ZZ Top with a long white grizzly beard. I was the first up to go, and the ZZ Top guy was so patient and sweet to us. I was scared out of my mind; the process of getting a piercing is quite scary. If you are scared of needles, this is not the thing for you! I had to hold my own tongue with a forceps tool with circles at the end to secure the needle as it pierced each side of my tongue. The actual needle was a 14 gauge in circumference (the bigger the number of gauge the smaller the barbell) and 3 inches in height; I nearly fainted at the sight of it. I was scared out of my mind! What if as he tore through my tongue with the needle, I would faint and let go of the forceps, messing up my piercing? He had me swish some antibacterial mouthwash for about 15 seconds, then he had me hold my own tongue with the forceps. “Breathe in and hold your breath” he growled – I did as he said. As I breathed in, I felt the needle pierce my skin and then he said, “breathe out”. He put in the actual jewelry and viola, I had my tongue pierced. The pain was half a second and wasn’t really that bad; my grip on the forceps was probably the most painful of the entire episode, but the rush was great! Since then, I have had numerous piercings and a few tattoos.
I plan to be full of tattoos and piercings one day, but since body art is still looked at as taboo in Corporate America, I have to make sure they are easily hidden. Piercings are harder to hide, as employers are less likely to hire you with jewelry all over your face, but there are some places on the body that are more inconspicuous, and that’s where my next piercings will go. A tattoo can be hidden easily with clothing or even make up. According to statisticbrain.com, 45 million people in the US alone have ink, and 32% of them claim to be addicted to tattoos. The questions I get asked most are: why do you do that to yourself and doesn’t it hurt? My answers are quite simple. Actually, I do this to myself because I think body art is a way of self-expression. I love that I can take an idea or something that I love and have it branded on me for my life time. I am not scared of what it will look like when I am old because even though my body will get old and wrinkled, I will still have some beautiful art that I chose all over me. As a lover of art, classic and modern, why wouldn’t I want my body to be a canvas to some of the most talented underground artists? I absolutely would! As for the second question, the pain is intense, but it’s a pain that I can control. I chose this pain, whereas other pain is not something you choose normally, like a broken heart, or when you fall and break a bone; those types of pains are uncontrollable. It is about being able to control what you feel because most of the time you cannot control your feelings. Two weeks ago, as I sat in a chair at American Main Tattoo in Irving, I told Mike, a gorgeous blue eyed, six-foot-tall, tattoo artist who is also covered from neck down in tattoos, “Don’t hurt me”. He replied with a crooked smile, “the pain is the best part” and he winked at me. That statement resonated with me because he was correct – the pain is the best part. The pain was excruciating, but it was an hour that you get lost in, and that is all you can think about. You let go of all the other pain that is in your heart, and in the end, you have something beautiful left on you forever, so the pain is worth every second of not feeling the pain of something that had already broken me.
If you plan on getting a tattoo or piercing I suggest, you do your homework. At 34, I am not covered in tattoos because I didn’t trust just anyone to give my art justice. I finally found someone I trust implicitly, and I know that he will do everything to make sure I am happy with his art. I know his work ethic and what his reputation means to him. When I was 18 my friends and I took a chance and went to a place that did not check IDs, which for me turned out good, but for my sister it did not. She had a horrible experience and her piercing got badly infected. Make sure you have seen the tattoo artists’ work and that the tattoo shop follows state standards. Do not go to someone that will “hook you up”, and don’t go looking for deals. You are paying for their artistry. Remember, this is their way of living, and they have to pay their way through life just like you. Happy ink everyone.