Beginning to figure out who I am ...
To understand who I am, one must understand how I was raised. I was born in the deep south, to parents with strong Southern Baptist parents. I was raised to believe that alcohol was the devil, only tramps got tattoos, and if you "shacked up", you would go straight to Hell. For the most part, I allowed myself to stay within the parameters of my upbringing.
I got married at the age of 20, becuase my mother and I had a HUGE fight over telling my grandparents I planned to "shack up". Fortunately, my 31st birthday is in 3 days, and yes, I'm still married (with the most fabulous almost 8 year old son EVER!). My upbringing did tend to slightly color my outlook on others, but it also kept me out of trouble. I have never in my life so much as SEEN an illegal drug, or smoked a cigarette. I've been drunk once, just so I could say I've done it, and people that know me would tell you I'm the LAST person to ever get a tattoo.
Before I got pregnant, my husband and I really got into the sport of riding ATV's. This, of course, brought me into the company of a type of person I'd never really been around before. Hardcore, tattooed, heavily pierced people that listen to screaming music. It intrigued me. Then my aunts got tattoos. It sparked somthing in me that began to grow into a flame. I would think about doing it, but then quickly dismiss the idea since I am NOT the kind of girl that gets turned on by pain. The idea of play piercing just makes me want to vomit.
So, when I turned 23 I had my son. I feel like I lost a little bit of myself. I turned into my son's mommy, and while that is the BEST feeling in the world, it's also hard on your psyche. I've always been a curvy girl, and the extra baby weight really took a toll on my self esteem. Once I managed to finally tone back up and lose a little weight, I began to play around with the idea of a "tramp stamp". I liked the idea that the location would be covered ALL the time, but little glimpses would be seen here and there. I got a henna one there to test it out, and fell in LOVE. It really made me feel sexy again, to be honest. I sat on this desire for 4 years, and decided that for my 28th birthday, I was going to do myself (and my husband) a service, and spark my sexuality again.
I stumbled across a post on a horsey bulletin board that went over what separates good tattoos from bad ones, because I really had NO idea. I figured it was 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. Umm, NO! She had included a list of excellent tattoo studios that were "for examples", and Psycho Tattoo was on that list. I found the website, checked out the artist portfolios, and was excited about what I saw. I had NO idea the sheer level of artistry tattoos could reach. My mother in law had 2, and neither one was very good or impressive, so I just thought that was a tattoo norm. Ummm, again, NO, ha ha. I'd read how expensive they were, and planned to spend close to $200 on my first tattoo. Went to the shop to look around and meet some artists, and was impressed with how cool everybody was, so I made an appointment, and went home to come up with a design!
I did struggle with the design. I wanted something tieing in the focus of my life; my family, and horses. I did NOT, however, want my son's name in huge letters for the whole world to read, because I didn't want him ever to be embarassed by it. So I researched different fonts, and went with "tengwar", which is what the "Elvish" language is loosely based off of. Being a LOTR fan, I felt this was an attractive enough script to make a neat tattoo. So, "Dakota" in tengwar font framed on either side by jumping horses, representing me and my husband is what I decided to go with. I came up with a rough, WORD document printout as the general guideline, and took it with me to the tattoo shop on appointment day.
The guy at the front desk set me up with Matt, who had been available. I'd looked at ALL the artist portfolios, and the level of work was good in all, I felt like, so I hadn't had a particular artist I wanted. Matt was very sweet, looked at my design, discussed what I wanted, and took it back to draw up something that would flow and work well on my lower back. What really struck me as I sat and waited was the fact that despite the funky shag carpeting and the bright colors, the shop was spotless. It smelled like a hospital, which surprised me. The sounds of the tattoo machines made my blood kick up, and my adrenaline was making my ears ring. It was a heady feeling! My husband was trying to keep me distracted, but I'm not sure it was working very well, ha ha! After about half an hour, Matt took me back to his area, sat me down on a table, and showed me the design. It took my breath away, it was so cool! I'd wanted something sort of tribal looking, and the letters were in solid black with strong looking, guardian style horses. What was awesome was it was BIG, yay! My motto for this whole tatto thing has been, "This will be my only tattoo, so I'd better go BIG, or go home". (little did I know)
Matt did the usual reputable tattoo artist things; gloved up, opened new needles and put them in the gun right there. Applied the stencil dead center and had me double check the placement. I looked in the mirror, and it was PERFECT. I could barely catch my breath, I was so excited. I sat back down, and expressed my anxiety. Matt again was very sweet, and described what he was going to do, and that I should breathe deeply, and let him know if it was too painful. He fired up the machine, and traced a single line. It was so weird. This firey, hot feeling, like a safety pin scraping over a sunburn. But oddly, not too horrible. I gave him the ok, and I sat like a rock for about 2 hours. I think it was a little less than that, but he didn't stop at all. What I remember most was how gentle he was. His hands felt warm through the gloves, and he would trace the stencil with this feathery light touch, then gently wipe away the excess ink. We talked a little bit, and it was a weird senation for me; I felt very close to him by the end, lol. It felt very intimate, which I guess it is. He was putting on the very first permanent marking on my body; it was a very ... hard to describe experience.
Parts of the tattoo were VERY painful. Close to my spine, and the farthest edges were rough. Several times I caught myself holding my breath, and my husband had to talk me through it. I did it, though, and when Matt sprayed the final squirts of Bacitracin on it, it actually felt REALLY good. I got up and checked the mirror, and almost squealed in delight. It was neat, and crisp, and had a few minor imperfections that showed this was a hand drawn tattoo, not a pre-fab piece of flash. The horses are just ever so slightly different, and the 2 "A's" are just a little different from each other, but that is what makes my tattoo MINE and not like everyone else's. He explained the aftercare very carefully, covered it with a big gauze pad, and sent me on my way. The tattoo was $225, plus I gave him a $10 tip.
Aftercare was a litte clumsy, since it was the first time I'd had a tattoo. I washed it 3 times a day with Dial, and kept it covered with Aquaphor. After about 3 days, it had some pretty hardcore scabs on it. It had really leaked a lot of ink and plasma the first 2 days ... I went through a lot of white T-shirts! The shirts really wanted to stick to the tattoo, due to the combination of Aquaphor and plasma, and it was hard to sleep for about a week. It was pretty sore and tender, and I was very careful not to let the waistband of my pants rub it. After about 2 weeks, the scabs had fallen off, and I was a little dismayed to see that it had lost a little ink. I scheduled an appointment for a touch up, and Matt saw me again after about 6 weeks. He spent about an hour and a half going over the WHOLE thing again, WOW. It was WAY more than what I'd expected. It DID hurt more, though! That area was almost hyper-sensitive. He didn't charge me, but I gave him a $20 tip anyway, repeated the aftercare procedures, endured the scabs again, and 2 weeks after THAT it looked much better than it had the first time.
3 years later, I look at it and am a little bit conflicted. As you'll read about in later stories from me, I've gotten 4 more tattoos since then. I've found a studio and an artist that I feel is VERY superior to Psycho (but I do still believe they're a great studio, just not the BEST). I realize now that yes, my tattoo is GOOD. But it isn't GREAT, and I want all my artwork to be GREAT. So I'm not sure what I'll do with it in the future. It healed up actually raised to the touch, so not sure why that was. Matt did a great job, but he was also pretty inexperienced, with only 2 years of tattooing under his belt. I am definitely happy and satisfied with my experience, but time has taught me that like many people, I have fallen victim to a first tattoo that I feel could be better. It has definitely made me feel me feel very sexy, and I make no effort to cover it up if I bend over and I know it's peeking out. That's why I love it ... I am the LAST person you'd expect to see a tattoo on. I think a part of me did it for the shock factor. Stay tuned, I have 4 more to write stories on!
submitted by: Tajen
on: 12 May 2010
in Lettering Tattoos