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Its Your Body - Got Any Ink Slinging Done Lately?

have you? Or do you even know what "ink slinging" is? There are three types of people in this world: 1. hardcore ink lovers, 2. okay, I got one and that's enough, and 3. no way in hell are you getting near my body with that shit!! And how in the heck can you do that to yourself??? I am a #1 to the max and would be covered with tattoos if possible...why? Well let me see if I can explain it to you... The year was 1984 and I was just 15. My first tattoo was a homemade job done with a simple needle, some thread, a jar of india ink and my friend Maxine. We were at my house waiting for my mom to go to bed. As soon as we heard her door click shut we turned on my Billy Idol Rebel Yell tape that I was forbidden to listen to, lit cigarettes by the window, blowing smoke into the cool spring breeze and plotted our rebellion. She would give me a cross on my upper left arm while I would give her a peace sign on her right ankle. We had absolutely no experience doing this and had not even seen a tattoo being done so needless to say we did crappy jobs on each other...but we had tattoos!! This was punk to us!! The next morning plumbing problems forced me to see my mom in one of her horrid moods and that sufficiently scared me into trying to remove my tattoo. Using a razor blade, I cut open the fresh tat and poured alcohol into the wound however since Maxine had put some "dots" deeper than others I was unable to get them all out and it was still obvious that I had some sort of body modification there. Later that day I had to accompany my mom to the laundromat and I wore a sleeveless shirt (I was out of regular T-shirts) so I wore a band-aid over my "baby" but she suspected something and tore the band-aid off... the shit hit the fan. She was not happy and neither was I though for completely different reasons. I was definitely not satisfied with this less than 1"x1" tattoo...I'd been bitten by the ink bug and I wanted more! I ran away from home just several weeks later and somewhere in my mind I knew I would eventually have more tattoos. Now here is where the difference lies between a #1 and a #3-type personality...for me it was such a rush, a feeling of control over my own destiny perhaps that I knew I was going to do it again. I was not raised around ink covered bikers and I had only know one person my whole life that had a tattoo...so where did this compulsion come from? That I cannot answer. Yes I was into punk rock and maybe that in itself showed that I didn't follow the status quo. Whatever the internal drivings were I had opened up a lifelong obsession that would only be quieted for short periods of time. I got my second tattoo at 16 when I lived on the streets. This guy, Bonz, had a homemade single needle gun and he needed guinea pigs so he could work up a portfolio. I was petite and tattoos were "bad" so I went for it. Let's clear up that ever present question "did it hurt?" Well yes, anytime you stick your body with a needle it's going to hurt but pain is relative. My first "real" tattoo was a yin-yang sign on my right forearm - nice and obvious - eliciting the reactions I wanted of course. It made me feel tough and it showed the world that I didn't believe in "your God" and if you fucked with me it would come back around on you. I truly believed that at the time and of course at 16 I couldn't look far enough ahead to think I might actually change my mind. I begged Bonz for another as soon as possible and he obliged. My third tattoo was an original piece of art created by Bonz just for my right calf...she is sort of a combination female joker and flame...and she is mine all mine. She looks to me to be the embodiment of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" a song that I had loved. The calf even though it is all meat did not hardly hurt at all, I was surprised. Maybe just a little disappointed. Okay Bonz I am ready for some more! Tattoo number 4 was a long intricate piece of work on my upper left arm, a little more than halfway up to my shoulder...just low enough to peek out of my T-shirts. This was an evil looking horned devil skull with a gnarly bullet hole in it's forehead and a long waving tongue beckoning to you as fumes spewed around it's face. About two inches above this graphic was my little dot cross...he made sure people knew that wasn't part of his work! This tat took him over 3 hours to do and it was his pride and joy...every time we were hanging out he'd show it off to people. I had guys coming up to me just to see Bonz's work. Yeah, it was cool and I felt like a badass having it adorning my formerly feminine upper arm. Again, I didn't think I'd get older and grow tired of this symbol of rebellion and anger. When I moved back home at 17 I was the only kid in high school with tattoos. I had to wear band-aids to cover where they showed out from underneath my Taco Bell uniform. That sucked. People thought I was nice until they saw my tattoos which pissed me off and I began to see them as a hindrance to friendships. I was still very emotionally immature so I decided one night, while out with some skinhead friends, to cover that damn evil skull with something more, well, patriotic. So we went to a tattoo parlor I'll leave unnamed and after convincing the artist I was 18 (I promised him a date which I kept though nothing more than beer went down my throat) I got myself a huge (and I mean huge) bald eagle swooping down my arm, it's body deftly covering Mr. Skull, carrying a gorgeous American flag in it's talons, wrapping around to the back of my arm. Not exactly the tattoo to enhance my femininity! Wow, I felt, well for lack of a better word, macho. I was patriotic! At that time America was bickering heavily with Mohmar Quaddafi and war looked eminent...I thought about how if I was taken a POW I'd probably be killed or at least lose my arm for this declaration I had adorned myself with. My eagle stops only about 1" above my elbow so needless to say if the skull showed in short sleeves, my eagle REALLY shows and is much darker with all of it's colors so you can forget about wearing light colored blouses. Funnily my first little dot-to-dot cross is still standing on it's own above my eagle. My life was starting to change at this point, I got clean and sober and met my soon-to-be husband and my tattoos were about ready to be the cause of a lot of embarrassment and self-consciousness as I began down the long road of self-acceptance. I was pretty much out of the punk scene and when I quickly became pregnant with my first child I tried to mold myself into what I thought a mother was supposed to look like and since I'd never seen a mom with tats before I didn't feel particularly comfortable showing mine off. I never wore tank tops regardless of how hot it got in Southern California and if I wore a bathing suit I always wore a T-shirt over it. I didn't mind my leg and forearm tats so much but that huge eagle was more than I could take. So why didn't I get it removed? Remember this was the late mid-80's and the laser removal process was not only expensive but generally left worse scars than the tat itself. So I continued covering it when possible but I'll never forget being in the hospital getting ready to give birth to my oldest daughter and listening to the nursing staff talking (as if I couldn't hear them!!) about my outrageous ink. It's bad enough to be naked and huge in front of strangers but that was downright humiliating. I had my second child a mere 18 months later and I maintained a what I considered to be a socially-acceptable mommy-persona until after my first husband and I divorced. At 23 I finally really began to discover myself. Thanks to counseling I peeled back layers of the "Jennifer" that I had created based on what I thought other people thought of me...such as my mother, my father, and society in general. I had to reach the core of myself which was very scary because I feared there would be nothing there...that there was no "me" left to rebuild on. I began to accept myself, my life, my choices, and my mistakes-past and present. This meant accepting myself completely, internal and external. For the first time since I was 17 or so I began wearing tank tops in the summer and bathing suits without T-shirts. I still felt self-conscious around new people because I didn't want them to judge me on my tats (a lot of people had gotten the idea I had been a "biker bitch" at some point) but it felt good to shop at the same grocery store I'd been going to for years and have no one bat an eyelash at my revelations. I realized people would either accept me for me or not and they were losing out if they judged me based on my ink. This may be elementary to some of you but lets just say that my childhood was less than conventional. Part of me is my love for tattoos and I finally was secure enough to begin expressing that feeling again. By this point I was remarried (to a man who may or may not eventually get one tattoo but it's not on his list of priorities) and we had a child together. Since he had two kids from a previous marriage as did I, I was really in the mom role, carting around 5 kids from here to there. My next tattoo was created, not out of anger or rebellion but from love and loss and is still my overall favorite. I reconnected with an old friend that I hadn't seen in almost 10 years after finding out she was HIV positive. For my 28th birthday I had my 6th tattoo placed on my left breast, over my heart. It is a white dove carrying a red ribbon in her beak with the words, "faith, hope, love" written semi-circular above her wings. I think of this as my Tamara tattoo. This woman saved my life when I was younger and it is only through the grace of God that I am not HIV positive like she is, we did the same things with the same crowds of people. It is just a small tribute to a beautiful person. When my husband and I were visiting Tamara's home in Oakhurst, California she took me to visit her tattooist, Tom Harley of Sierra Tattoos, and I got to talking with him about covering my yin-yang. I had been contemplating it for awhile but I didn't know what to cover it with...I was considering some sort of bracelet tat but they were so trendy! He drew some designs before I settled on a superb looking tat of a piercing with feathers hanging down, around my arm. He used the yin-yang as a shadow and gave the tat a realistic 3-d look with bright colored bead attached to the feathers. I get tons of compliments on this tat and it is my most obvious being on my right forearm. I highly highly recommend this shop especially if you are looking for cover-up work, Tom is one of the best in the business. My tattoo fantasies have gotten even more extravagant now that Kenny Nealy has opened a shop several blocks from my house. Kenny and his fiancé Barbara run "Pandora's Box" in Atascadero, California, and Kenny has had several pieces published. I've also seen him do a fantastic cover-up on my best friend. Both Kenny and Tom's shops are immaculate as any reputable tattoo parlor should be. You can eat off their floor at any time of the day or night. There are differences as within any industry but both shops use new needles, new gloves, and autoclave their guns. Both proprietors also believe that people should know what they are getting themselves into when purchasing a tattoo. It should be considered a life-long commitment and people need to know that even with all the safety precautions there is always the slight risk of catching an infectious disease, Hepatitis C being the most common. My next piece will be taken from a statue at Mission San Miguel of the Archangel Michael as he is defeating Satan during Armegedeon...since this is a very intricate piece it will be fairly expensive (over $200 at least) though I am planning on keeping it confined to the area of my back around my shoulder blade to help defray costs (I had originally planned on having this piece covering my entire back!!!) I personally went from one extreme to the other with showing off my tats at first, then hiding them until my late 20's and then for about a year I showed them off whenever possible. I enjoyed the shock value I must admit. I am now just a hair past 30 and in my older, wiser state (ha ha!) I wear what clothes are comfortable and if my tats show then so be it. I do not go out of my way to hide or show them. I myself see ink-slinging as a form of personal expression and gratification...it has matured from a rebellion to a statement of my beliefs and feelings. I do have limitations such as a corporate functions for my bill-paying job I will wear long sleeves but that is out of personal and professional respect I have for my boss and the work we do. I understand how the corporate world works and while my tattoos do not indicate what type of worker I am they can be construed negatively against our function. Again, this comes from maturity and is certainly not the working of a 19 year old mind. I've done what I set out to do which is give some insight as to why someone would indulge in tattooing their body and the ramifications of that choice. Now it is up to you...if you're remotely curious I suggest you go to a reputable tattoo shop and hang out for awhile. Talk to the owner. Ask lots of questions (though don't be surprised if you get a laugh when you ask if it hurts! Remember - the answer is yes!) Look at the artist's work...talk to other customers. You might be surprised to find an itch building on some spot of your body...an itch that can only be scratched by fingers wielding a tattoo gun. Post script: Since I wrote this story I haven't been able to keep away from Kenny's shop...well hell it is only around the block from my house! I've gotten two tats done there and am planning the next one. First he gave my and my best friend matching anklets (ok so I broke down and got a "girlie" tat) each with half a broken heart and when we hug they line up to say "Best Friends"...then a few weeks ago I decided to get "bit." I had Kenny put a vampire bite on my neck and even though he thought that was a "stupid" tat because so many people have them I countered that I only know of one other person who happens to be the other artist in his shop. He isn't one to tell someone what to do with their body so he inked me and I love it. My 5 year old daughter laid on the tattooing table as I sat in a chair and she got to see it before I did. I love my little bite!! And my urge for inking will be somewhat satiated by a trade that Kenny and I worked out the other day - he needs a web page and I am a webmistress...so a tit for a tat you might say...


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 20 Jan. 2000
in Tattoos

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