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Teenage rebellion -- at age 35 plus! My life with tattoos

s not so much a story about a specific tattoo experience (there are plenty of other good ones on here), but more an observation of how being tattooed has changed my life and how my ink collection has grown along with me. A bit of background: I'm a woman in my early 40's, and I don't come from any sort of 'tattoo' background. None of my family or friends had them. The idea of getting tattooed never even occurred to me when I was younger; if I had thought about it at all, I probably would have thought 'oh no, that's for low-lifes and freaks' and left it at that. And I grew up during a time before tattoos were as widely accepted as they have become. Time moves on, and my mid-thirties found me a very changed person. I was much happier with myself and with my life in general. It was time to take a chance and do something daring. So I got my first (and at the time, I thought only) tattoo; a small blue flower on the front of my right shoulder. I remember waiting my turn and getting more and more nervous, thinking about how this was permanent!!!! and I was doing something that bikers do!!! and how nice girls don't get tattooed!!!! and.....it was going to HURT!!!!! Well, I went ahead with it, and the pain wasn't bad at all (little did I know that most of the other body parts I've had done since would be a lot more painful). In less than 20 minutes, I was the proud and very excited wearer of a beautiful little tattoo, and quite pleased with myself for taking the plunge and doing something that I wanted which bucked a lot of the taboos that a nice, middle class girl grows up with. I was a fairly quiet, conservative person all through my teenage years and early adulthood, and not one to do anything daring at all, and it felt really empowering for me to do something 'naughty'. To fast forward a bit, I've gone from those humble beginning to now having both upper arms almost completely covered, and having extensive work on both legs. I've moved from the first few small pieces to increasingly larger work (latest piece, on my left thigh, covers the front and side of the entire thigh -- and I'm extending it soon!). And I've progressed beyond not ever wanting work that is visible if I am wearing short sleeves, to considering full sleeves. I've found that as I've gotten older and passed 40, I am putting more focus on what I want to do for me, and less emphasis on doing things to please other people. One example of this is almost 3 years ago, when I got my first leg piece (a goldfish above my right ankle). I work as a secretary in an office, and always thought I would be unable to get any leg pieces due to the impossibility of hiding it when I wear pantyhose; in addition, the job I had at the time was ultra-tight ass and they would have had a cow if I'd come in with a visible tattoo (in fact, they made me remove all my earrings but one in each ear). As I became more and more miserable at this job, I decided -- fuck 'em. I wasn't going to give up something that I really wanted (a leg tattoo) in order to please a job which was giving me knots in my stomach and constant headaches. I figured I'd find a way to hide the tat at work. But it was a positive experience in the long run, in that I decided to put myself first. As I've gotten more and more work, and slowly become more and more covered, I notice that I've crossed a line of sorts. It does seem that there is a noticable difference being a person with just 2 or 3 tattoos, and becoming a 'tattooed person'. If you have a small shoulder or ankle tat, it doesn't usually attract an enormous amount of attention when you go out in public. But with both upper arms covered, and several very large, colorful pieces on my legs, I frequently have strangers coming up to me to comment and ask questions. Of course, a lot of the questions from ink virgins are the usual 'did it hurt, are they real, do they come off, etc' but some people actually ask intelligent questions, and I look at the entire process as a way to educate and inform people about tattoos. Once I started to get extensive coverage, my family began to wonder if I was crazy. My sister, who has 3 small tattoos and was initially very interested, has begun to think I am overdoing it and going overboard. My mother will frequently call my sister and ask if she's had any luck talking some sense into me. I've been able to explain to my sister what being tattooed means to me and how much I enjoy it and while she doesn't agree with my views, she is good about not giving me any grief about them. But there is still that sense of putting myself further and further outside of what would be considered 'normal', i.e. getting one or two tats is not that big of a deal, but in the population at large, there still aren't that many people with heavy coverage, sleeves, etc. -- and even fewer women. Being tattooed, for me, has been a journey of self-decoration and expression, and a way of making sure that I'll never be 'ordinary'. I didn't start getting heavy coverage until several years after my first tattoo, and by doing it that way, gave myself a chance to live with tattoos for long enough to be sure that it is something that I love and won't regret doing. The permanence of it is one of the attractions for me; it is a lifetime commitment. Yes, they can be removed -- but I think that being tattooed is sort of like getting married. They can both be un-done, but there is a lot more time, pain and money involved in reversing the process! Each and every one of my tats has some sort of meaning to me, from a portrait of my dog, to the sleeping cat on my left arm, which was drawn up by my sister (she wears a version of the same design on her left ankle). I have nothing against picking a design based entirely on it's visual appeal, rather than it's significance or meaning, but that just wouldn't work for me. My ink is an expression and reflection of who I am and what is important to me. Of course, it must appeal to me visually as well as emotionally. To those of you who are considering taking the plunge and getting permanently inked, my advice -- think about it long and hard. It is one of the most permanent things you can do to yourself. If it is the right decision for you, and you are sure you can live with a mark on your body forever, then take the time to think about a good design for yourself and to find a good artist (one who is skilled at the craft AND who follows proper sterile procedure!). If you're not sure about either the design or the entire idea, then take your time. Remember, once you have it you'll have it for the rest of your life; it's better to take your time and be sure about what you are doing. Don't do it on an impulse. But once you decide that this is the right decision for you and get your first ink, there's no turning back!

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 19 Aug. 1999
in Tattoos

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