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A Branding Story

I am a 24 year old female from a small town in Michigan. This is the story of my (first so far!) branding. A little background on my history with body mod: I got my first tattoo just after I turned 18 (my ankle); I got the second when I was 19 (my shoulder) and that one was a big mistake. I got my third tattoo when I was 20, and that one covered up the mistake on my shoulder. I had my tongue pierced when I was 21, but I took that out after about a month. I hadn't had any other work done until... Earlier this year, one of my friends from work (well call him Bob) showed me the brandings he had done on his knees. I had never heard of branding before this, at least not outside the context of marking ones cattle! At first, I will admit, although it was intriguing, I was also kind of put off by it. The pain! I asked him about a hundred questions about it, until I know he was sick to death of me! Every day I would ask to see his brandings, getting real close and examining them. I had met the guy (Tom) who had done it and that he knew what he was doing. I decided to go for it. I guess I should discuss the reasons that I wanted a branding. It wasn't to follow in Bob's footsteps, although of course that's what a lot of people believed. Part of the reason, I am ashamed to say, was cost. A tattoo, which I wanted, cost money. This branding would be free. Plus, it had a lot to do with the fact that I like scars. I have plenty of scars from various injuries (dog attack, chicken pox, cuts, you name it.) For most of my life, I hated those scars-I wanted perfect, flawless skin-wasn't that 'beautiful'? Thankfully one day I realized that my scars were just that-MY scars. They were a part of me for the rest of my life and I learned to accept and even appreciate that. Each scar told a story about me; now why shouldn't I not only rejoice in that, but emphasize it?! Back to the actual branding... I told Bob that I wanted it done, but Tom was working in another city. I decided to wait for Tom to come visit. I waited and waited. And each day that I had to wait, I grew more and more impatient. When I want something done, I want it right now, you know? Well, Bob said, 'Hey, it's easy enough for me to do it. Tom showed me and I know I can do it.' And I said, 'Lets go.' I trust Bob implicitly in matters concerning body mod-he would never have suggested doing this without total confidence. I was taking a vacation from work soon, so we decided to do it then. The only stipulation was that he wanted to videotape it, which was fine with me. (I figured, correctly, that if I was being recorded, it would make me be a lot braver about the pain.) The day finally came. I was excited, nervous, anxious-you think of the synonym, I was it. I straightened up my apartment, made sure I was wearing jeans that were baggy enough to go over my knees and tried to prepare myself for what I was about to do. I had decided what I wanted done before I had fully decided on the branding itself-the zodiac symbol for Sagittarius, an arrow with a crossbar. I wanted it on my calf. I already had a scar there from stitches when I was very young, and I wanted to incorporate it into the branding. Bob and I had gone over the design many times, plotting where exactly it was going, and how he was going to do it, what strikes, etc. etc. I was ready. Bob came walking into my apartment and lo and behold, our 'cameraman' was Tom! Instantly I felt better about everything. Bob was still going to do the actually burning, but with Toms guidance. We sat and chatted a bit, and then it was time to get down to business. We drew the design out on my leg with marker. This branding was to be done with a blowtorch and a pocketknife. (Sounds very crude, I know, but hey, it worked for us.) We got set up in position, with my half-laying on the easy chair, and Bob on the couch kind of sitting on my foot, said foot being safely away from his nether-regions in case of a convulsive kick. To be dramatic, the moment was upon us. The first strike! Oh my God, the exquisite pain! For all of the injuries I have had, none have I felt as clearly as that strike. Apparently Bob had not applied enough pressure and it would have to be gone over again. I wanted to cry, but wouldn't. Needless to say, Tom took over. I was told just to breathe deeply and it would be over soon. The pure emotion and energy in that room was overwhelming. I was scared, excited and in a lot of pain; Bob was almost gleeful, happily taping the whole thing; Tom was focused on the branding, but conscientious enough to try calming me. After five strikes, it was over. It really did not take that long, although it felt like an eternity. The arrow and crossbar were complete, save the small area where we had skipped over the old scar. Once it was done, I honestly didn't feel any pain. The area was a bit numb, and a little raised, but it turned out fine. I was still a little in shock-I felt very warm and kind of shaky. We had a beer, talked some more and that was that. They left, with my sincere gratitude and a permanent record (via camcorder) of what they had accomplished. I remained, with a permanent reminder of who I am, and what kind of pain I can handle, and what I will do in order to express myself. Whenever someone sees my branding, or it's brought up, I of course get a lot of the same questions: What is that? (a branding) Will it come off? (uh, no) Why? The 'why?s' are the hardest to answer. Usually I will just tell people I like scars. Ive learned that no matter what I say to them, they will not understand completely, nor do most people want to. I think some people feel that if they understand, it makes them as 'freaky' or 'disturbed' as I am. What I find amusing is that the same people who will look at my tattoos and say, 'Cool!' will look at my branding and show utter disgust. You can literally see their faces just fall, or crinkle up, and they kind of involuntarily draw back. I try telling them that a branding is basically a permanent mark on your body, much the same as a tattoo. Naturally that is met with disbelief and then I just go about my business as usual. Where I come from, acceptance of any kind of body mod (unless it's a 'cute little butterfly tattoo' or a 'pretty little belly-button ring') will be long in coming. The older generations out here just wont accept it. But that's okay. Because you know what, the day will come when the 'damned kids' are the ones who will decide what is socially acceptable or not, and I have a feeling we will all be a lot more tolerant. Anyway, that's the story of my branding. Oh, a little addendum: Not long after the main part of the branding had healed, Bob went over the old scar for me, to blend it. It hurt about ten times worse then the original branding. I don't know if it was because of it being an old scar or what, but if youre thinking about doing this, Id recommend NOT going over an old scar. Thanks y'all for reading. Hopefully Ill have another one done soon, and maybe Ill write about that one, too. In the meantime, take care of yourselves.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 22 Oct. 2001
in Scarification

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Artist: a+friend
Studio: my+apartment
Location: Michigan%2C+US

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