I’ve wanted to do it for years. Ever since, aged 21, I was in Poland with a group of other people my age, most of whom had beautiful tattoos.
I hadn’t realised that they could be beautiful.
With the upbringing I had, tattoos were not something encouraged. Not tattoos, not tarot, nothing alternative, nothing new age. No, no, no. Not OK. Red! Do. Not. Enter. The people with unusual hair colours and ink and piercings were weird. They were dangerous. They wore leather. Probably they were going to attack. I remember my heart would flutter in terror when I saw them, how I would retreat into myself, try not to draw attention (as with so very many other people.)
It took me a long time to realise that I wanted to be one of them. That the ink, the colours, are who I am, too.
My first step into this world involved a magic symbol. Magnet magic, to attract the best things for our dreams. A bunch of us realised we wanted it in our skin, each tattoo with our own unique spin on it.
I talked to a friend who has gone under the needle several times. He recommended someone. I found the studio- not too hard to get to, it turned out. Went in, consulted about the design.
On Tuesday, the day of the New Moon (in NZ anyway, a good day to start something new and magical), I sat on the steps of the parlour, talking myself into and out of going through with it many times while my tattooist rushed back from Waiheke Island having missed the ferry. I nearly left when it was 10 minutes after we were supposed to start and he still wasn’t there.
“Hang around the area” said my Best Beloved, who was going to be in the town centre and who I had planned to meet with for mid-shift kisses. “Give him a chance to show up.”
He did. I sat watching him get everything ready, the ink, the carefully sealed fresh needles, the clingfilm, the machine. Talking myself into and out of it again, and back into it. We fussed over placement- I spoke my mind. It was good for me.
Let me tell you, outlining hurts like a motherf***er. Not as bad as the time I had to have local anaesthetic injected into my arm, but still- such pain. Very ouch. “The outline always hurts more than the shading”, my artist told me as I took deep breaths occasionally punctuated with “ow, ow, ow!”. Strange, since outlining uses a single needle where shading uses three. But it was true. The shading was less painful.
Soon there it was in my skin, the magnet magic, the purple swirls (Cadbury purple, my favourite). Then clingwrap over it, and a paper towel, and making sure I got home before the hour was up so I could clean off the blood with lukewarm water and soapless cleanser (he said it didn’t have to be soapfree, but I was glad it was- less stinging).
Now I’m pinning ideas for two half-sleeves, lots of them. I was warned that it’s addictive. They were right. I’m glad, though, that I started small. And magical.