Getting a tattoo, it turns out, is a lot like buying a house or a used sectional couch.
When I first saw our blue sectional couch in the corner of the townhouse where it was living with college girls, I thought it was in near-perfect condition. But when we got it home, I noticed that there were more tears and areas of wear than I had seen upon first look. Oh, it’s not as good as I thought. Have I made a terrible mistake? In that case, actually, I didn’t mind the wear and tear, because I knew it was just a matter of time before Leo ate the couch. No point starting out with something mint.
Had a similar experience with my house. With every house I took a second look at. There’s so much excitement at having found, perhaps, The One, that the mind overlooks all those little things, like mismatched window sills and frames, and cigarette smoke stains on the ceiling. Once the commitment is made and there is no going back, all the imperfections leap out and leave doubt. The stakes were higher with the house, of course, since it cost 1,000 times more than the couch. We repainted the ceilings before we moved in, but left the mismatched windows. I don’t mind them so much.
While the monetary cost of my tattoo was less than both the couch and the house, the commitment was more serious.
I shopped around for a tattoo parlor where I felt comfortable. The two places that were recommended to me by big dudes with big tattoos intimidated me. I went with the place that catered to first-time tattoos for young women. Private rooms. Maybe a little more expensive than the others, but this wasn’t the time to skimp.
In hindsight … I might have done it differently. Which is not what one wants to feel about a permanent life decision that she does not plan to make again.
Because my tattoo was so simple, I may have been assigned to the least experienced guy. Even though I purposely went to the kinder, gentler place, the dude wasn’t at all concerned about my comfort. Not that my nerves were overly wracked or anything, but I asked if I could lie down and he said, Sure, as long as my foot was still right in front of his face, two feet from the end of the bed. Which actually meant no, because in that case, there wasn’t enough room for my head on the bed. Rob offered to sit on the edge of the bed to prop up my leg, but the guy said he found that kind of distracting.
Was that a point when I should have said, “You know, maybe I’ll do this some other time. I don’t want to be permanently painted by a guy who is so easily distracted.”
The process was quick, but oh. my. god. It hurt. I had heard that the foot was a painful place. I have nothing to compare it to, but I can’t imagine it hurting any less on a fleshier part of the body. I was thinking: acupuncture, blood draw, along those lines. No, it felt like a chainsaw was carving into my foot.
I didn’t scream or cry or writhe or anything. What would the point of that have been? I merely gritted my teeth and turned my head away. Rob said later he couldn’t tell from my reaction how painful it was. I am such a champ.
Afterward, I was happy. It looked just the way I had envisioned. It hurt that evening like a bad sunburn, and it might itch more later, but the healing hasn’t been uncomfortable so far.
However, the next day, I experienced the second look phenomenon.
I had been under the erroneous impression that the artist would design the lettering himself. Several weeks ago, I decided on the style of writing I wanted — a lowercase calligraphy. I found it online and traced the letters from my monitor, carrying around the slip of paper in my wallet to show as an example.
My tattooist merely traced what I had traced, imprinted it on my foot and followed those lines.
Here’s where I had just the slightest tinge of … regret. Had I known my tracing was going to be followed precisely, I would have taken more care to make sure each i and s matched the other one. Instead, they’re not exactly the same. I was bothered by that the second day. Rob says it’s kind of cool, because it’s like real writing, not computer generated. And it’s cool that it’s “my” writing.
By the end of the third day, the buyer’s remorse was gone. Like my house, and my couch, I love my tattoo. It’s perfect.