I got my first tattoo done back in March. It’s something that I considered doing for a very long time before actually taking the plunge. I’ve admired tattoo art for years and years, but I’ve always been a bit put off getting my own for a few reasons: a. it’s permanent and I am a fickle beast, b. the pain/being slightly freaked out by needles, and c. justifying the cost.
So what changed my mind?
Well, it started with a Valentine’s day treat (or an Anti-Valentine’s treat I should say). My husband and I don’t usually ‘do’ Valentine’s; we’ve been together a long time and both of us hate the commercialism that has taken over Feb the 14th. So, when I saw a Bands and Burlesque ‘anti-valentine’s’ night advertised at one of our local venues I thought it sounded like a great idea. And so we went.
It was a brilliant evening: the band were Cannibal and the Corpse (full-on high-energy psyco-billy), the burlesque acts were highly entertaining – and then came the raffle. I had bought some tickets more because it was for charity than for the sake of winning anything, so imagine my surprise when the very last ticket drawn was mine – and the prize… a voucher for two hours of tattoo time with a local artist.
I am not one to let such good fortune go to waste, but nor am I one to jump in willy-nilly – so I duly checked out the website/Facebook page of said tattoo artist and, following some advice from the good old interwebs, looked carefully at his past work to make sure it was of good quality, seemed to be to my taste stylistically, and that the tattoo parlour itself was legit. All seemed fine, so after popping in to discuss what I wanted, I booked the appointment.
Tattoo first sketch
Above is the sketch I gave to James, the tattoo artist – the green dragon represents Earth and the red dragon, Fire; together they represent balance or harmony. If you want, it’s also like the two opposing sides of my personality (sensible me and reckless me), which co-exist together as part of my whole. Or, it’s just two dragons – but dragons are awesome, so that’s ok.
When I returned to the tattoo parlour for the appointment, I was shown the design as it would be done on my skin – James had embellished it with clouds and lightning and it looked amazing. He transferred it on to my skin before starting with the outline. The tattooing did hurt, but it was never too painful to deal with – kind of like a cat scratch but over a longer period – and we took a few breaks when it started getting sore. One little tip though: if you’re getting a tat done make sure you eat properly first (in hindsight a small bowl of cereal was not enough breakfast – felt a bit weird afterwards!).
Aftercare wise, it was pretty simple – keep it clean, don’t soak it in water, keep it moisturised (James recommended Bepanthen), and don’t scratch while it’s healing. It was sore for a couple of days, itchy/peeling for a week or two after that, but it healed up well and I’m so happy with it.
Tadaa! Finished tattoo (pic by David Hobson)
Reactions have been mostly positive, though the most common ones are ‘wow, that’s quite a big piece for your first one’, or, when I explain that my husband doesn’t like tattoos, a slightly confused ‘but you got one anyway?’. Yes, I did. Hubby would never dream of dictating what I do with my own skin.
The thing I didn’t expect though, was the strange side-effect – my tattoo has changed how I feel about myself. When I catch sight of it looking down or in a mirror, I feel kind of proud. Proud to have endured the pain of getting it in the first place, yes, but mostly of how it represents who I am, where I am now, and how far I have come to get here. The last couple of years have made me re-consider a lot of things, make changes in my life and attitude towards it, so this is a visual marker of my progress.
As I said – the two dragons represent balance and harmony, and sometimes, just sometimes, I’m starting to feel like I’m finding it.