Baruch Ata Adonai...
This is my very first tattoo, and it's a chai, the Jewish symbol for life and health, on my inner left arm in solid black ink. The Chai indicates the number 18 in Jewish Numerology, which is one of the holiest, if not THE holiest number in Judaism, because it indicates the most precious gift G-d has given you: your existence.
I am actually not Jewish (although I may have some Sephardic blood in me somewhere), but I'd always been into studying all kinds of religions and had decided that the only marks that would go on my body would be ones relating to religion, be they text or symbols or whatever. It suited me as a writer and a spiritual being because I love languages. My best friend is Jewish, and when I told him I wanted to get the chai on my inner left arm (where the holocaust survivors were tattooed), he said it was a mitzvah because 1. I'd survived a very abusive relationship experience, which affects me even six years later, and this was an affirmation of my strength and will to live, and 2. It reflected my love of the language and the religion, and my respect for it, despite being a gentile. So with his blessing, I went back to New York and found NYC Adorned, which is this beautiful tattoo parlor on 2nd Avenue...it's almost like a temple unto itself; there's plush sofas and beautiful paintings and lush colors everywhere. It's gorgeous.
As for the experience itself... I got there and really had no idea what I was doing. I asked the usual questions about cleanliness and payment, etc. New York City is not really the type of place I envisioned getting my first tat in: it's riddled with filthy parlors looking to make a quick buck. I made a down payment of $50 at this one place before reading on a forum that one customer had gotten AIDS from an unclean needle. I never went back and I couldn't get a refund, because they had a no refund policy, but better to lose $50 than my life...
The people behind the counter at NYC Adorned were horrified to hear that story, and I got the sense from their reaction and their loveliness and kindness towards me, a kid in for her first tat, and the energy of the place...that this was right; that I was doing the right thing. I got a walk-in with Bryan Randolph and a pack of Smarties to keep my blood sugar up, which was very nice of them. But there was one small problem: no one there knew what a chai was, save for one artist, whom, coincidentally was from Israel. It was hilarious. Bryan had to go back behind the curtain and ask "What the hell is a chai?" and I'm sitting there shaking my head and laughing, thinking "Oh My God why didn't I get something nice and easy?" Eventually he returned with a book of Hebrew letters and pulls out this gorgeous rendering of a chai and said "Is this it?" and I nodded and off we went. It did NOT hurt. I have a damaged nerve system due to an accident at birth, so my skin is VERY sensitive to touch. I was expecting blood and anguish and what all...I got absolutely nothing. Basically it felt like a rapid bee sting over and again, and considering that I've got a stinger permanently lodged in my kneecap from last fall (dunno how I managed that one), I just shrugged it off. I was laughing, because all my relatives had told me "Your nerve system is too sensitive, you'll never manage the pain, you'll have a half-done job" etc and here was a bee sting sensation. I'd warned Bryan before the needle got in my arm that I might swear a blue streak, and he was very nice about it, but it was fine. I got my period a week later, and let me tell you, compared to cramps, a tattoo is a cakewalk. I'm sure many other girls would agree with me.
I may have got my best friend's blessing, but I knew my mom would NOT be down with it. So I sat her down over Spring Break and explained to her, Look, I know that you have this belief that the body should not be tampered with and that tattoos and piercings are ugly and all that, but this isn't your body. It's mine. I'm 22, and I have about 15 hideous keloid scars from surgeries...it's not the perfect creation you believe it to be. So I want to adorn it with a marking of my choice, and this is my choice and this is why I chose it, etc. She had to hand it to me that I had a point. I didn't tell her when I got my tat...my brother spilled the beans after an AIM conversation. The first thing my mom asked was if I got it on my face (I think she forgot I told her where I was going to get it). After that, she just kind of accepted that it was done and over with...and to wait a while before getting my next one. And then she asked what I did when it hurt...I told her the truth: I talked the whole time, cracking jokes, talking about cultural differences, etc. I'm looking forward to my next one. (hopefully larger)..and I'm curious to see if I'll scream this time! laughs
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 10 May 2006
in Hebrew Tattoos
Originally written by Simona
Artist: Bryan Randolph
Studio: NYC Adorned
Location: New York City, NY