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the story of my first tattoo

s is the story of my first tattoo. I'm putting this onto "paper" in an effort to alleviate my nervousness and regain my appetite.

I've been fascinated by tattoos most of my life. I think it started when I was about 5 and was in the pizza place in the small town I grew up in. I remember seeing a man with a green arm. I'm sure it was a very detailed design, but from a distance of a few yards and the years he must have had it, it was pretty blurred. I think I rudely stared at it for a long time. Ever since then, I've had to examine every one that I saw. When I was in fourth grade, we all had dictionaries for our class work. I was very excited to have found the word "tattoo" in it, like it was something that shouldn't have been there.

Fast-forward about 12 years. We finally got the Internet while I was a senior in high school. So, when I could, I started looking up tattoo sights. Unfortunately, we had a no frills computer and so had a black and white screen. You can't see a whole lot on those. About a year ago September, I got my own computer and it had a color screen. I was hooked. My searching lead me to BME and I've been a faithful reader ever since.

Back up to Eighth grade. This is when I first decided I wanted tattoos eventually. The designs started out simple: an Oriental dragon on both arms, running from my elbow almost to my neck and encircling my arm. That evolved into a different design with also came to be my online handle. Now, I want that design on my left arm, with a dragon by M.C. Escher on my right. A back piece will be based on the tattoo on my left arm and a large tribal piece that is still evolving to cover the boxer shorts region.

Soon after those original dragon designs, I went to Kansas to visit my much older brother. I discovered that a few months earlier, just after he completed Airborne Ranger school in the Army, he had gotten a tattoo also. It was a pieced of flash, that was customized a bit. It was a dagger on his right forearm with a snake running around it and some text ribbons on top of the snake. The text says "Airborne/Ranger/By God" Each word is on a different ribbon. Even after 5 years, my eyes still go to that design and I have to work to not stare at it.

Welcome to the present. About a year ago, I had a dream in which I was at work (perhaps the place I'm working at now, I'm not sure) and I had a tattoo on my right wrist. It was a very simple design: a black band around the wrist with a sine wave type wave running though it. The wave was not colored. Soon after, I drew the tattoo on my computer and kept it stored there.

On Monday, 2/15/99, I got up my nerve and went to the local tattoo parlor. As I pulled into the parking space, my heart was pumping like I was running a marathon. At that time, I was planning on getting a cartilage piercing in my left ear. I walked in and was greeted by the owner's son. He was about 12 and had green Lucite plugs in his earlobes. I said I was just looking and proceeded to look at all the photos of work the artist had done, and the flash on the walls and in books on the counter. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the owner/artist finished working on one of the other clients and came out. He introduced himself as "Big G." I asked him about his sterilization procedures and he willingly showed me everything. Point one in his favor. For tattooing and piercing, all new needles and tubes and soaked in something called Purge. Then run though a sonic cleaner and finally autoclaved. It was a new autoclave and looked like a pressure cooker, but without handles or a vent in the top. He showed me the work areas, and later showed me awards he had won. The place was clean, but not hospital sterile. It should be more than adequate. Big G would like to put tile down everywhere, but he doesn't own the building, so can't. While I was looking though the books on the counter, some other people came in from the Air Force base. Since there is a parlor much closer to the base and the guys came here instead, I'd consider this point two in Big G's favor. That, and Big G made sure his son's homework was done. One of the guys that came in didn't appear to have an appointment; he just walked in, looked though the flash, and picked out a tribal armband. I think he had it done that night, and there was also someone in there that had an appointment to have his back finished.

I kept walking around, looking at everything thing and listening to what people talked about. Another guy came in with the walk-in tribal armband guy and asked Big G if he remembered him and showed Big G his tattoo, apparently done by Big G. This was point three for Big G. Repeat customers show me that this guy is not a scratcher and he cares for his customers.

Over the next few days, I had a hard time falling asleep because of what I was going to do. I kept thinking about what the consequences would be of getting the cartilage piercing and why I was doing it. A little voice kept insisting that I get the tattoo. The Tattoo being the aforementioned wrist band. The next day I had planned on calling Stone Heart Tattoo and making an appointment, but I overslept and didn't have time to do it before I had to leave for work. That night I e-mailed the tattoo image to my work address so I could print it, just in case. By yesterday, 2/19/99, I had decided to get the tattoo instead of the piercing and got up early enough that I could leave for work early and stop by the shop to make an appointment. My appointment is for tonight at 9:00 PM.

All last night and today, I haven't been able to eat much. I haven't decided if it's nervousness, excitement, or anxiety. Last night and this morning, when I tried to eat, I'd get some food down and then feel like I'd throw up if I ate any more. Last night, after work, I stopped by the 24-hour grocery store and got some 7-up to help control my stomach. I know my queasiness is all mental, but I'm having a hard time overriding the part that is causing the stomach problems.

It's now 7:30 PM and I plan on leaving in one hour for the shop. It'll only take me about 5 minutes to get there, but I want to have time after I get there to calm myself down. Once I got into the shop Monday night, I calmed down. I was still a little uneasy, but no more so then when I had to pay someone to fix my parking brake on my last car or when I bought my current one. Let's hope it works the same way this time.

The complete tattoo is now 15 minutes old. The pain was tolerable. Kind of like a bee sting or the insertion of a hypodermic needle inserted over and over again. The artist, Al Greene, (A.K.A. Big G) said I was one of the few that could hold as still as I did during the work.

I arrived at the studio about half an hour early. I wanted time to get control of my self before the work started. There was a guy being tattooed when I arrived. I didn't watch a lot of it, but he had several tattoos. The one he was getting tonight was on his shoulder blade. Then I think he got a small one on his forearm. His work ran about half an hour into my time slot, but I figured that any time taken from my time would be taken out of the next person and so forth. From what I had heard while I waited and while I was being worked on, this customer had most of his work done by the guy in his hometown. He didn't do a very good job. So the customer came up to this shop. After Al was done with that guy, he took a short break. I think his hands were still vibrating. Then it was my turn.

Al prepared the work area thus: Wash the table, placed a plastic bag on the inkpot holder and place a plastic pot in it. Fill the pot with black ink. Then Al put a bag on the spray bottle that held the cleansing solution. After that, he prepared the gun. He broke open a sterile paper bag that contained the single line needle and it's tube. Al also placed a paper towel on the table to use to collect debris. Then came my preparation. First came washing the site with the cleansing solution, followed by the shaving. After that, was the application of the stencil. The stencil had to be done twice, because it didn't make contact on the top of my forearm. Once that was done, Al started the outline. He had to free hand part of the design to make sure that it was continuous all the way around my arm. After that, the fill- in was done. Al replaced the needle and tube with another needle and tube that he broke out of another sterile paper bag. I could tell that this needle had more points than the last from looking at it. Al started the fill-in by running along the outlines and then filling in between. Al did the fill-in by moving in semi- circular motions; it didn't hurt as much. But the parts that were straight shots along the outline hurt as much as the outline did. I tried turning off the nerves in that part of my arm, but it didn't work. Once the tattoo was done, Al had me go wash it off so he could see if he missed anything and to check the straightness of the lines. The lines are perfect.

Al's wife Alicia bandaged my arm up and gave me a card with care instructions and a small tube of A&D ointment attached. I'll use that till it's gone, then use the ointment I bought Thursday in case I decided on the tattoo.

Right now, the tattoo either burns or feels very cold. I can't decide. There was a little bit of blood on the work area, but very little. Unfortunately, the bandage slid off the tattoo while I was cleaning off the car. When I got home, I realized the bandage had moved and I put it back. There was a little bit of blood around the edges as I moved the bandage back. I'll take some pictures of the tattoo after I take the bandage off in an hour.

Going to work with this thing ought to be fun. I'm certain that there won't be anything except talk and questions. After all, two of the girls I work with have eyebrow rings. At least mine can be covered up with a long sleeve shirt.

It's now been an hour and a half since I got the tattoo and I've just removed the bandage, washed the tattoo, and applied some A&D ointment. The tattooed skin has an odd texture. I'm not sure how I'd describe it. It is raised up from the surrounding skin, and feels a little bit courser. I have to be careful as I type so that I don't let the tattoo rest on the keyboard pad. I don't think that would be a good thing right now. Maybe it'll be OK in a week or so.

It's now the next day. I've taken two showers since I got the tattoo and I know that it does not like having water sprayed on it. It feels like when you put your hand in water that's too hot. The tattoo has become more sensitive over night. After I washed the tattoo and rinsed it, I noticed that there was some stuff still on it, an oily gel. I think it may be protein scum. There are also some black streamers coming off the tattoo, stretching back toward my elbow. They are very short, but they are still there.

I've chosen to wear a red turtleneck to work today. The sleeves should let me keep the tattoo covered no matter how I move. Luckily, I'm almost the only guy there, so no one will be walking in on my in the bathroom while I putting ointment on the tattoo. Everyone's going to know about it eventually, but I'd like to control who knows about it.

My appetite has also returned. It returned almost as soon as I got home from the tattoo shop. All the redness is gone, although there wasn't much to begin with. The area around the tattoo is a little tender, too. I'm wondering if that's part of the fact that I've never shaved my arm before, so the skin doesn't know what to do without that hair I've just come home from work. No one saw the tattoo. Twice, when I went to the bathroom, I washed it and applied ointment to it. The shirtsleeves didn't really irritate the tattoo, but there was the feeling of unpleasantness when the fabric moved. Other than that, everything went fine. The first time I washed it, there was some black pattern in the towels that I used to blot dry the tattoo. Also, the oily coating was back after I rinsed off the soap. The towel got rid of the coating and I put the ointment on. Then carefully pulled my sleeves back down. I have tomorrow off and I think Tuesday, so I should be able to leave the tattoo completely uncovered almost all day. I will have to go to the office for a few minutes, but that shouldn't be a big deal. I still haven't noticed any scabbing. At least nothing like what I'm used to. I thought the scab would be like the one you get when you cut or scrape your skin. The tattoo feels like an applique and is a little stiff. Other than that, I'm completely used to having the tattoo. It's like it's always been there. Perhaps it always has, like what Michaelangelo always said about sculpting his David.

I checked the tattoo a little bit ago. It had brown gunk drops on it. I washed it again and applied some of the A&D ointment that Stone Heart Tattoo gave me. The previous three ointment applications were done with the triple antibiotic ointment I had gotten from the store in case I decided to get the tattoo. I'm going to get some antibacterial hand soap and look harder for some A&D ointment at the store. I had been using Lever 2000 body soap before. I don't think that body soap is the best to use, but it is adequate.

It's now Tuesday, Day 3. The oily stuff has stopped coming out during the shower and the tattoo has become less sensitive. The brown gunk has reduced, too. I've decided that the appliqu‚ laminate like thing on the tattoo is actually the scab. I had expected a scab more like the scabs you get when you cut or scrap your skin. None of my research ever described what the scab was going to be like.

I'm going to go into to the office again today, but just to check the schedule like I did yesterday. Since I kept my jacket on the whole time, no one was able to see my tattoo. I think one of the girls that will be joining our work group got a tattoo, too. She showed it to two of the girls in my work group. I wasn't that interested in looking. I had my own stuff to do. I think I'll wear the same shirt tomorrow that I'm wearing today. The cuffs are loose enough to be comfortable and the sleeves are long enough that the tattoo is covered unless I stretch outside the sleeve.

It's very early Thursday morning and I got home from work about 45 minutes ago. The itching started tonight. It wasn't pleasant. The best I could do was pat the tattoo or use my finger to move the skin around to scratch it from the inside. The itching only lasted half an hour or so, but has been reoccurring, like it is now. The scab has also continued to flake off. It's only been 4 days. Isn't it supposed to take longer? After examining the areas that have flaked off, I think there are two layers to the scab, and it's just the top layer that's flaking off. I'm probably wrong, though.

I wasn't able to keep the wristband covered all night. I think one or two may have seen it, but they didn't say anything nor have any visible reaction. There is some part of me that cares what other people think. I haven't managed to turn it off. Tomorrow I'm not going to make such an effort to cover it. If they see it, they see it. They're going to see it eventually, anyway. I'm not going to wear long sleeved shirts the rest of my life. Summer is coming...

February 27, early Saturday morning. It's been one week since I got my tattoo. Or it will be in about 20 hours. The tattoo itches like mad. I want to scratch so badly; but I know if I do, I'll damage the tattoo before it's finished healing. I can scratch around the tattoo, but the best I can do for the tattooed skin is rub it or tap it. And believe me, neither one do a damn thing. I'm almost afraid of what will happen when I go to bed. Will I scratch the remaining scabs off and ruin the tattoo? I hope not. The tattooed skin that has had the scab flake off still doesn't seem like normal skin with pigment inserted. It's kind of like a scar, but not close enough to actually be a scar. More like another scab under the main scab. The color has lightened, also. Now it looks like a black design with some wax paper or something similar draped over it. That makes sense because something like wax paper is over the tattoo, mainly a layer or two of my skin. Other than the itching, everything is fine.

It's now been about 6 or 7 hours since the one-week anniversary of the completion of my tattoo. Almost all of the scab is gone. The skin of the tattooed area looks like the skin of an old person. It's very soft and fragile, yet dry and wrinkly at the same time.

The itching remains. It's worst when something is on the tattoo, like a shirtsleeve. But I think a lot of the itching is from the hair that is growing back.

I'm still putting ointment on it faithfully 5 or more times a day. Based on what I've read, I think my tattoo is healing quicker than average.

Welcome to the end of Week 2. The tattoo still isn't integrated into the skin as if it had always been there. The whole thing is still raised up. I'm still doing the ointment thing, usually 5 times a day. I think I might have slipped down to 4 once or twice. It's still quite black, except for a little blurb on the inside of my arm. I haven't decided if I want to have it redone or to just leave it. If I leave it, the tattoo is even more original than it was before. Should anyone cruelly copy the design, they will never have that little blurb. I'm pretty sure that most everyone at work has seen my tattoo, they just haven't said anything. I prefer it that way. Accept it and move on. Of the three people I've told other than my co- workers (OK, one person was a co-worker, but she knew before everyone else), one gave a favorable response, one gave a kind of "OK" response, and one hasn't responded at all. I hate it when people don't reply to their e-mail.

It's now Saturday, March 13. It's been three weeks, 1 hour, and 9 minutes since I got my tattoo. The itching has almost entirely stopped. I'm still putting triple antibiotic ointment on it. The tattoo is more integrated, but without the ointment, the skin feels really dry. It's also much easier to see the texture of the skin in the tattooed area than in the "virgin" areas. This reminds me. I'd better wash and ointment again. BRB. OK, that's better. Tonight I told another cousin about the tattoo. She one of the sisters of the afore mentioned cousin. She was surprised, but reacted favorably. Well, it was a qualified favorable reaction. She said that if I had gotten the tattoo for a girl, then she wouldn't be in favor of it.

March 23, 1999. It's been one month and three days. The tattoo seems to have fully integrated in the skin. I haven't used any ointment on it in a few days. It doesn't appear to need it anymore. I wore a short sleeved polo shirt to work Sunday. One of my co-workers that I'm sure had seen the tattoo before just noticed it and made a small deal about it. It actually led to an intelligent conversation about body modification. I don't think anything else will be said about it.

April 15, 1999. It's been almost 2 months since I got my tattoo. If a blind person where to feel my wrist, they wouldn't notice anything different between the tattooed area and the virgin area, except for the lack of hair. I had the documentary pictures developed, but they came out really bad: out of focus, washed out, rather pathetic.

I've been saving up my money to upgrade my computer, but every time I think about the money, a voice in the back of my mind tells me to get the next tattoo. It'll be a design by MC Escher. As a matter of fact, it's the same voice that told me to get the tattoo over the piercing. I won't give into the voice for a while. I need to upgrade my PC.

I'm going on a trip this weekend and will be near a piercing parlor that I just read a favorable account of on BME. Maybe I'll stop by...

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 May 1999
in Tattoos

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