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One Man's Journey: No Pain No Gain

ne Man's Journey: No Pain No Gain

Why did I get tattooed?

Why does anyone do anything? Hopefully, because of their own personal choice after a fair amount of thought and deliberation. If you've been to the "Why" section of my site, you've see my short answer: To write in stone. In a world that is always changing, I take a small amount of comfort in knowing that I can make something permanent. Something that is my choice and by my design. There are far too many things that happen to people these days that create permanent markings (be it physical or emotional) over which those being marked have no control. Maybe this is my way of marking myself in a positive way.

Am I a masochist?

No way! Given the choice, I'll take the road of least pain. I'm not saying I'm a wimp, because I've discovered that I really am not. I don't enjoy pain. I don't know too many people who do (although I've had my doubts). For me, getting tattooed was a sort of rite, a form of passage. But it wasn't like getting beaten into a gang. I didn't go under the gun to prove how tough I am to everybody. While I can say that I do feel sort of "in" in a way (amongst other painted people), it is the same feeling as being an athlete, or a skydiver, or any other grouping that is based around an uncommon experience. I know what it feels like to have that needle applied to my skin and what its like to have a new tat. The only other people who know what that is like are people who have been through the same thing. I don't look at that as particularly special, though, because it isn't a very exclusive group; the experience is becomming more common by the day.

So I'm not a masochist, but it still hurt right?

Hell yes. I wouldn't undergo the sensation of being tattooed just for the hell of it. It definitely isn't for everyone. The pain is part of why mine are special to me. I can't imagine willingly going through that for something that I wasn't totally important to me. I mean, I see the people with their "Winnie the Pooh" and "Calvin and Hobbes" and barbed wire tattooes and I like to imagine that those images are really very important and have significant personal meanings to them. That stuff doesn't come off folks! If you aren't comfortable with the permanence of it, you should really re-think just how important "cool" is. Maybe it wasn't the tattoo itself that was important to these people so much as the act of getting a tattoo. Why else would the lobbies of most tattoo shops be covered with a couple hundred stock art pieces for the customers to choose from? It is pretty much body-clip-art. I can't imagine ever getting a tattoo done that I picked off of a sheet, but that's just me. If i were the type of person who just wanted the experience of getting tattooed, then yeah, maybe I would just get that little heart that says "Mom". Not a lot of thought went into it, but I'm sure a lot of energy and thought goes into making the decision to go through with personalizing yourself with something generic. It seems kind of poetic...or maybe just ironic...er...oxymoronic.

But aren't tattoos so trendy these days?

The kind of tattooes I was just talking about can be incredibly trendy. But what's wrong with that? The only people that will be burned by the tattoo trend are the people who are following the tattoo trend. I feel confident that regardless of current trends, I still would have had my tattoos done. People don't put a lot of thought into trends or trendy things. They just look at something, decide they like it, and copy it. When more than one person does that, a trend is born. I think that may even be a very loose definition of "trend." I can't imagine that anyone who put any serious amount of thought into getting a tattoo was following a trend. I know a girl who has a very elaborate and beautiful tattoo on her lower back that she said took five an a half hours to be done. While there is a long history of trends that involve discomfort and bodily mutilation (corsettes, foot-binding), I don't think that having your back carved on for five hours would fall under the category of "Things done for the whimsy of other folks." So, in conclusion to this little bit, if you have a tattoo that came off a wall...you might be a trend follower.

So, mister high and mighty, what makes your tattoos so special?

Well, they aren't special to anyone but me, but that is all that is important. Ever since the notion of getting a tattoo entered into my little head, one of the most important things to me was to get a unique tattoo. It had to be something of my own devising. I'm not much of an artist, so I had come to the conclusion that I would have to just come up with the concept and then work with a real artist (most likely the tattoo artist) to fully realize it on the page. While I am not much of an artist, I do possess some limited ability when aided by a computer drawing program. So, after some time hacking and slaving over the mouse, I eventually created my first tattoo. I had the tattoo on paper. I had created it all by myself. That just made it better, in my mind. It may not have been the most elaborate design or as fancy as a real artist might have depicted it, but it was one hundred percent mine. After I had the design completed, it took me a little over a year to finally go out and get it done.

Tattoo #1: 2 years from start to finish. I was so pleased with it though. I know that I will never meet anyone who has this tattoo. There may be tattoos that are LIKE it, but nobody has THIS one. I know because I made it.

Tattoo #2: 4 months from start to finish. In truth, as soon as my first tattoo was healed up I started thinking about #2. I actually started designing it about 2 months after I got my first one, and that is where I started counting for the 4 months it took to make tat #2 a reality. Once again, I sat down with a drawing program and got creative. As creativity often does, my second tattoo seemed to appear out of the chaos. I instantly fell in love with the design. 4 months later (and about an hour under the needle) I had my second work or art inscribed on my body.

How did I design my tattoos?

I think a lot of people pick something they like, like Winnie the Pooh, the peace symbol, dragons, or their astrological sign, and then they decide where they want it on their body. I went in the other direction. While I always had a vague idea of what the tattoo was going to be, the primary concern was where I was going to put whatever it was. For my first tattoo I wanted a wrap (or arm-band). With that decided, I just had to come up with a design that I liked that would fit into that criteria. I have always had a fascination with dragons, and while searching for ideas, I came across a dragon that I had drawn some years before. It was perfect! Soon the entire design concept became clear to me: Two dragons wrapped around each other. I did some work on the dragon (it was a profile, showing the head and wing) which mostly involved getting rid of the wing and creating the body. The hardest part was figuring out how to make the dragon bodies wrap around each other (hey, I said I'm not an artist). Well, with the most important part of the tattoo done (the heads) I proceeded to go shopping around for a place to get the work done. Oddly enough, almost an entire relationship with one of my ex-girlfriends revolved around these trips to various tattoo shops. But that's another story. After I had the design completed, it was another year until went in and had the work done. What took me so long? Well, I mostly was waiting for the time when I would have the money, and also the motivation. Sure, I was motivated to get it done, but I wasn't really really motivated. I didn't want to go by myself because I had no idea what to expect. What prompted me to finally get the work done? I feel silly admitting that it was largely due to the fact that my recently (at the time) ex-girlfriend and some of my other friends had decided one day, while I was off at work, to go and get their tattoos done. I came home and everyone was all showing off their tattoos (including my ex's ex...it's a complicated story). It had been a pretty good month at work with some very high sales, so I finally did have the money, and suddenly I realized that I had no reason NOT to get it done. I had been waiting for just this kind of moment. So I said "Well fine, then I'm getting mine tomorrow!" and my roommate/good friend Ben and my ex-girlfriend went back to the tattoo shop and I got my first tattoo done.

Did you do it to "get the chicks"?

I'm a big enough person to admit that one of the most motivating factors for getting my first tattoo when I did was to get the attention of my ex-girlfriend. She had broken up with me a week before and our lease wasn't up for another month and a half, so I was still very much trying to reconcile our relationship. Sometime before I was in the (her) picture she had promised one of her ex-boyfriends that they would go and get their tattoos done together. So, they went and did it, along with one of my friends. I admit that it pissed me off that this guy had this new tattoo bond with her, and I had just been waiting for the right time anyway, so why not let it serve me in more than one way? Don't get me wrong, while my most driving motivation was pretty silly and mostly emotional, I still would have done it. Even though the ball was rolling on my first tattoo long before I ever met her, every once in a while I wonder how much longer it would have taken me to get that tattoo without her influence. So, yes, I did get it because of a woman, and no, I didn't get it just because of a woman. But it seems that so little can actually happen without the influence of women these days, so why fight it.

Well, after a long and ugly break-up process, I still have to say that she influenced my getting my second tattoo. "What?" you say, "get over her!" Ah, but of course.

See, no matter how much of my own time I put into my first tattoo, I will still always associate it with her because of her role in the final step. Maybe i was trying to prove something to myself, or maybe I was trying to give something to myself with this second tattoo. This one is, from start to finish, my own. I decided that I wanted a tattoo on my back, just below the collar line and spreading across my shoulders. So, with the place in mind, I went to work on the design. As I mentioned above, the design just appeared out of the chaos. I went to the shop by myself (all my friends were busy). The design is a bit more personal and it is in a place that is much less visible to the public eye. In all ways, this tattoo is more private and personal. It is a statement to myself that says "I did this for me, this is mine."

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 March 1999
in Tattoos

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