A few weeks ago, I received an email informing me that April 1st was “National Tatting Day”. Having just made an appointment to get a tattoo, you can imagine that I was pretty excited for the holiday tie in. And then, when a little light Googling revealed that National Tatting Day is actually about making doilies, you can also imagine that I was pretty disappointed.
Disappointed, but not deterred! Despite the misunderstanding, I decided that it would be infinitely more fun to pretend that International Tatting Day really was about getting tattooed, instead of having to learn the tedious art of lace making. Plus, I already had the appointment.
Now, I am by no means a tattoo pro. I have one tiny bit of ink on my wrist that took about a half an hour to complete over 5 years ago. And apparently, 5 years is exactly the amount of time that it takes to forget how much something hurts. I had a vague recollection of discomfort, but no real grasp of what it actually felt like. Maybe it was like pulling off a Band Aid, maybe it was like getting stabbed in the eye with a fork. We will never know. This time, I needed to be prepared for ANYTHING.
Pack for survival. The key here is to pack light, but pack smart. Only the necessities! For me, necessary was a big wad of those tissues that have the lotion in them to mop up the ever flowing stream of mucous from that cold we’ve all had for months (Related side tip: TELL YOUR TATTOO ARTIST IF YOU ARE ABOUT TO HAVE A COUGHING FIT). I also grabbed a tasty iced beverage with a straw (to limit unnecessary movement), a chapstick, and something pleasant to squeeze and to stuff in my mouth when the “urge to spew expletives phase” rolled around.
Hire a nurse. And by nurse, I mean beg an friend without a day job to come hold your hand during the hurty bits. The nurse will be integral in terms of handing you beverages and tissues, properly Instagramming all stages of the process, and Googling things like “butt slut tattoo” when the inevitable conversation point of “worst tattoos ever” comes up.
By the end of the 2+/- hours of the tattooing process, your arm (or ankle, or ass, or whatever) will feel roughly like raw hamburger. The shading and outlining that you so calmly sat through for the first 1.5 hours will now be unbearable, and you will start shouting obscenities at your nurse whenever he or she is too busy looking at Facebook to distract you from your excruciating pain. If appropriately trained, your nurse will then seduce you away from your suffering with the promise of imminent bourbon.
Easy on the bourbon. Once you’ve had your new art mummified in plastic wrap and deliriously flung a wad of $20s at your tattoo artist (don’t forget to tip!), it is now time to stagger out onto the street in search of post-traumatic booze. At first, the cool blast of freedom and outside air will seem exhilarating, but if you are more than 2 blocks away from your liquor dispensing location, the adrenaline/endorphin high from being punctured repeatedly by tiny needles will wear off before you get there.
At this point, you may give your nurse the following instructions:
“I’m just gonna drop, and you drag my lifeless body to the bar.”
“Just roll me into a snow bank and pick me up on your way home.”
If your nurse isn’t completely useless, he or she will make sure that you reach your destination unscathed, and that you are installed somewhere comfy and away from the elements with a big glass of whiskey in your hand. GO SLOW! For a while, I just sat there blankly looking at the whiskey. But, once I started hoovering it down, it occurred to me almost immediately that I should have probably have eaten something first.
EAT SOMETHING FIRST. I found that the LFK cheese plate paired exceptionally well with my semi-conscious post-tattooing booze. But really, just eat something first.
Look away. This rule applies to all phases of the tattoo process. I don’t recommend watching the needles go in (note: this obviously does not apply to ass tattoos), it just makes things get flinchy. But even once the painful part is over, things are going to be a little bloody and swollen. Your tattoo artist will instruct you to gently clean away the “blood and lymph” (barf) with some antibacterial soap before bed, and it will be slimy, and sweaty, and chunky.
And then, a few days later, things will crust up like crazy. Not only will you want to pick at it SO BAD (don’t succumb!), it will also look terrible. Every time someone is like “ooh let me see your new tattoo”, you will roll up your sleeve (or roll down your pants, if you got that ass tattoo we keep talking about), and watch people recoil in horror at the scabby mess that is shedding black skin flakes all over the floor.
Practice saying “it’ll look better when it’s healed”, and learn to be patient. (And stop picking at it.)
But seriously, ass tattoo jokes aside, if you do decide to celebrate International Tatting Day with me, there are some actual useful things that you should remember:
1. You’re about to put something permanent on your body. Choose a tattoo shop like you would choose a plastic surgeon. Ask around, look at pictures of their work, and visit a bunch of shops and see which ones feel most like you. It’s seems like a silly litmus test, but if you don’t like their taste in furniture, then maybe they’re not the best choice to permanently alter your flesh.
2. You are about to put something permanent on your body. As much as that grumpy cat tattoo might seem like a hilarious idea right now (and maybe it will be forever), consider breathing on it for a minute. If I had gotten the tattoo that I wanted when I was 18, I would have a giant dragon on my upper thigh- or worse yet, A TRIBAL ARM BAND. I’ve been in love with Nancy Drew since I was 10, so at 35, I figured I was probably cleared for takeoff.
3. You’re about to put something permanent on your body. Forever is expensive; save your pennies and prepare to pay for it. There is no better illustration of this point, than this. If you can’t afford forever quality, then maybe it’s best just to wait.
4. You are about to put something permanent on your body. Lucky for you, you’re the only one who has to love it. Most people will be nice, but not everyone will like your new ink as much as you do. Don’t let them you talk you out of being happy with it. It’s International Tatting Day, and it’s time to CELEBRATE.