Tattoo / first
Our story begins, as these stories often do, with a young boy dreaming of becoming a pirate. Pirates have wooden legs, scurvy, eye-patches and monstrous tattoos filling their big, hairy, Caribbean-sun burnt arms. I guess you know where this story is heading already. Honestly I have no exact memory of when I encountered tattoos for the first time but I'm pretty sure it was through comic books rather than actual events from real life. I grew up in a pretty secluded village where the only ones with tattoos were the ones considered to be feared. Or maybe they just seemed scary when I was that age - I'm not really decided.
To keep things interesting let's just go with the idea that my first inspiration to get tattooed derives from the world of cartoons and move on further towards the present. As far as I can remember decorations in general always felt natural to me and since my body always has been my only home of course it felt just as natural to decorate it. I still have pictures of me at the age of five sitting in my parent's bedroom reading a book about dinosaurs with my arms covered up by rub-ons resembling the beasts I was beholding in my book. Indeed my fascination for body modification seems to have started far earlier than any person would imagine if they saw me today. For most people this is just a trend. A phase we outgrow. Necessary but unimportant. Well, we'll see about that.
It was through the song "Dig" by nu-metal band Mudvayne that I first saw heavy tattoos on legs. The music video for "Dig" was released in 2000 when I was eleven years old but it must've taken me a couple more years to find the behind-the-scene footage of the video. In it the drummer Matthew McDonough shows off his beautiful legs to the camera unveiling colorful tattoos that went all the way covering over both his legs. I was awestruck by the sight and couldn't really let go of the memory. Ever.
The next I step I took was fairly natural in the development of my perspectives: The first visit in the world of BMEzine. I read every FAQ I could get my hands on and went through the entire encyclopedia with the same eager I had read about Tyrannosaurus Rex just a few years earlier. I was mesmerized by the depth of body modification and finally started to understand the significant link between decoration of the body and its impact on ones soul. All of a sudden there was a deeper meaning behind the modification than just the aesthetic appeal. Featured experiences told me stories of men transforming themselves spiritually through their bodies physically and again my interest reached a new peak. Indefatigably I continued the search for more knowledge and the further I walked on my journey the deeper I sank into the culture. For good and for bad.
Like many others IAM and bme.com gave me a sort of false contentment about myself and who I was or wanted to be. Online I was normal, a freak even compared to the other heavily modified forum users, but in the real world my ideas and wishes seemed unorthodox to others (of course this has changed a lot by the years but I think many of you can recognize the feeling of alienation at young age and how it has affected you as adults). IAM, bme.com and the like were treacherous this way but of course it continued to feed me with information I kept hunger for, and for that I am thankful. In the encyclopedia I read about one of the most influential men in my life; Fakir Musafar. He taught and showed me things about myself and others that truly helped me clear out the path for my future. Somehow his teachings aided me to put my feelings into thoughts and words and really made things easier in pursuing my dreams. It was also through bme and Modblog that I came in contact with Little Swa stika, whom I to this day state to be my absolute favorite artist in the world of body modification.
I never decided on tattooing my legs. It never came to me like a struck of lightning one day. I never thought "this is what I really want and need". Somehow I just knew. To me it felt like I had had my mind set on it since day one. I kept looking at Little Swastika's designs and there was no argue that his work was the only art I craved. And that was that.
My best friend in the whole wide world (imagine Christopher Robin and Winnie the Poo and you're getting remotely close) bought a painting from me that I had made in 2008 - a self-portrait. The painting was based on the bme calm-logo (which I found fitting since I really loved that logo and thought it was a good reference for a self portrait) but looks nothing like me , although at the time it represented my emotional side very well. On the sides of the painting are some words written in Swedish. To the right is "självrespekt" (self-respect) written in an Arabic-like font and on the left you can see "ingen skam" (no shame). The friend who bought the painting actually went to Little Swastika in Germany and got half of it - självrespekt - tattooed as a full sleeve. Like anyone would be I was very humbled by her gesture and happy that my art could inspire and make her more satisfied in life.
Our relationship possibly grew even stronger after that. Who could have though a tattoo could make a difference? On a superficial level it never did but emotionally it actually gave me a good shake. It affected to me to such an extent that I decided to honor her the same way she had. Getting the same tattoo as someone else is usually a pretty bad idea from many points of view but so far I haven't found a single reason why I shouldn't have. Apparently the tattoo she chose was highly personal for her and something she was proud of doing, and how much more personal do you get than when you make a self-portrait?
The word self-respect means a lot to me. No matter where I turn in life I always wish to look back at my achievements and think that all efforts were worth it because in the end I succeeded. I don't want to live a mediocre life. I don't want to end up without achievements. I don't want to die forgotten by the world. And to make that happen I need to respect myself and my strengths and my limits more than anything.
When I finally reached Little Swastika in November 2009 after several years of wait I was really happy with life. This was my time. He was going to help me further down the line to completion.
Once at his working place he drew the designs directly on my leg. We talked about a few ideas and discussed my vision back and forth. The major layout was finished since long in my head but the details were very vague. I said 'flower', 'självrespekt', 'sketchy', 'black' and 'pink'. He stopped to think for ten minutes and then drew the brilliant design. This was my very first tattoo so I didn't know what to expect of it. Retrospectively, I'm not one of those who enjoy the pain of tattoos.
Time flew by and to be honest I'm not sure how many hours I was under the needle. Little Swastika is incredibly fast both with designs and fillings and I didn't think time had any relevance for my experience. We split the whole tattoo into two sittings. Day one we did the flower together with its shading, the text and the few outlines for the black parts. Day two we went on filling all the black spaces. I'm not sure which I preferred. The black didn't hurt as much (partly, but we'll come to that) as the outlines and text but on the other hand was more focused on one spot at the time. As you can see on the photos the black parts were pretty large so it took a lot of my energy to endure it. He started to fill the front of my leg first moving down the thigh, knee, shin and foot and then I turned around to do the back part done. The worst covering was on my knee caps, which felt really awkward since the vibration of the needle got all the way to my tail bone and continued up my s pine. Also the hock was pretty horrible with it being so sensitive. The sweat was flowing out of my body and all my muscles were tired from flexing all the time. There wasn't much left and I had gotten incredibly tired. However he did save the worst for last...
Little Swastika told me (in his cute German accent) that tattooing the butt cheeks was less like tattooing and more like "a knife stabbing you in the ass". Sure, that was intimidating to hear but I still remembered how I had endured every ordeal so far in my life and this couldn't be the worst yet.
I was wrong.
Terribly fucking wrong.
The pain caused by a mere needle going up and down the skin in the buttocks was beyond words. It wasn't like a knife stabbing. It was like a saber plowing rapidly in and out through my complete torso via the rectum. If I was to pile up all the pain I have gone through so far in my life and throw myself in it I would thrive in that pile compared to tattooing the ass. When he went over me with his machine I was screaming my lungs out, and not the fuck-that-hurts-so-bad kind of way. Rather the stupid-American-character-in-X-horror-film-gets-tortured-for-fun kind of way. No air could reach my lungs if there was the slightest pressure on my stomach so that I had to support my upper body with my elbows. If I relaxed my arms and let the torso down I felt like I was gonna vomit any second. My focus was pointed directly towards my breathing to keep a constant rhythm of breaths and make sure they were deep enough. In my hand I held a plastic bottle that was completely shredded by the time we were done from the squeezing and biting. During those minutes I experienced a proper wish for death. Had I had the choice of a bullet or five more minutes in hell the bullet had seem like a golden relief. Honestly. True fucking story. Not even trying to be funny.
So how did I feel afterwards? The moment he said the beautiful word "Done" and I could get down from the bunk I felt something really awesome. The torture I had just abided made me feel incredibly alive afterwards. The fantastic restfulness in my body was stronger than anything I had felt before. It was... I don't know. Empowering. Yes, that's the word.
I looked at myself in the mirror and stood before it both in awe and disgust. With a stare on both my legs I felt so unnatural. This was just so very wrong. What had I done? It seemed so weird and alien that leg I was looking at. How did this happen? Why do I feel like this? And then I realized. My reaction was not directed to my beautiful left leg, it was the empty white page that still was left untouched that felt so unfamiliar. I kept looking at it and wondered how I could ever have lived without a black leg. The right leg seemed so strange to me and yet I should be very much used to the look of it after 20 years attached to it. A very peculiar discovery. Peculiar indeed.
submitted by: pittsburgh321
on: 01 June 2010
in Lettering Tattoos