Thursday, March 7, 2013

let's talk about my tattoos.

In my life so far, I’ve tried not to be too much of a cliché. I’m a blonde, but I’m not dumb (well, not ALL the time). I have super-thick glasses, but nobody beat me up for my lunch money. I’m a farmer’s daughter from rural South Dakota, but I’m no hayseed. However, a few months after I turned 18, I did the most cliché thing I’ve ever done.

I got a tattoo.

Do I regret it? No. Do I wish I hadn’t done the typical wow-I’m-18-I’m-an-ADULT-I’d-better-do-something-adult-like-get-a-tattoo? Yes. Do I wish I had spent more time thinking about what would be permanently stamped on my skin rather that what I ended up with? Yes.

But I never would’ve done it if it wasn’t for the coupon.

You read that correctly: A COUPON.

I should probably start at the beginning. It was my freshman year of college, and our first real break was approaching. By “real break,” I mean a Thursday and Friday off towards the end of October (aka, midterm). I had already experienced a fair amount of freshman drama: d-bag boys, crappy classes (I’m looking at you, statistics), and being super poor for the very first time. After approximately two months out of my parents’ house and into my college career, I felt like an ADULT.

That’s probably why I said “hell yes!” when a very dear friend of mine called and asked me if I would like to get a tattoo with her over my fall break. That’s what adults do, right? I had been a legal adult for almost six months, and the only thing-you-do-after-you-turn-18 I had done was buy a lottery ticket. I hadn’t voted, gone to a Minnesota casino, or bought cigarettes (fun fact: I STILL haven’t done those last two things). But you know what I could do now that I couldn’t do six months before? Get a tattoo.

My friend went to a different college, and she had been issued a coupon book for businesses around the area. One of the coupons was for tattoos: buy one, get one FREE. Remember me mentioning that I was poor? This coupon is what allowed me to get a tattoo, as there would’ve been no way I could’ve scraped up the cash without it. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good deal. My friend and I agreed to split the difference, and voila! We had a plan for cheap tattoos.

I don’t remember how much time there was in between my friend calling me with her proposal and our actual tattoo appointment, but I don’t think it was a lot. I was in the midst of finishing up some midterm projects and papers, so I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to really sit down and research an image that I wanted permanently inked on my body. As it was, I surfed through a few Google Images and selected some music notes on a swirly staff.
This is the actual image I brought to the
tattoo shop. Feel free to judge me.
One fine day in October, my friend and I headed to our appointment at the tattoo parlor. Our appointment was with a bald, surly guy with a giant green lizard tattooed on his arm. I don’t remember much about our appointment save for the fact that he was incredibly rude to us. Here we were: two 18-year-olds who were really excited and REALLY nervous to get our first tattoos, and he seemed irritated the whole time. It wasn’t like we were giggling and screaming; we were just excited. Maybe he was really regretting issuing those coupons to the college, as I’m sure he had dealt with many nervous first-tattoo-getters in the past few days. Anyway, that was his own fault. We were paying customers, ready with our money. No need to be testy.

I volunteered to get my tattoo done first, and Lizard Man set about his business. My tattoo was a simple outline in black ink, so it took almost no time to complete. I had it placed in the lower left side of my back (no tramp stamps for this gal), so there was plenty of fat to absorb the pain. It felt as though someone was drawing on me with a ball-point pen, but pushing REALLY hard. My friend’s tattoo was in color, so hers took a little longer and was a little more painful, but we both made it out alive.

I thought my tattoo was totally badass (clearly, I had very little experience with bad-assery). It took a little time for the swelling and redness to subside, but once it did, I was in for an unfortunate surprise: the treble clef had no tail. WTF. I don’t know how this escaped my attention at the tattoo parlor – I’m going to blame it on a brain addled by adrenaline, smeary black ink on a fresh tattoo, and a desire to get out of the path of the angry guy with the tattoo needle. Plus, I can’t even see this tattoo without the aid of a mirror and/or some serious neck-craning. So I have a tailless treble clef. Son of a BITCH. But honestly, what did I really expect from a place that offers two-for-one coupons?

While I’m complaining about this tattoo, I have to do some whining about my shortsightedness. Since I’ve lived with this tattoo for more than seven years, I have come to resent my 18-year-old self a little bit for not thinking the design through. Sure, the music idea is just fine, but come on: a random jpeg off a website? If I wanted to go that route, I could’ve at least dug a little deeper and found a much cooler design instead of the juvenile one that I ultimately chose. My biggest bone to pick with my younger self is this: the music notes placed on the staff are totally random. THEY DON’T EVEN FORM A SONG. What kind of dumbass gets a musical tattoo where the music notes don’t form a song?

All this didn’t stop me from going back for ANOTHER tattoo the following fall break: yes, my friend had another coupon. By this time, I was dating Hipster Boyfriend (the art major, remember?), and I informed him that I’d be getting another tattoo come fall break. “Cool!” he said. “Do you want me to design something for you?” I had been dating Hipster Boyfriend for no more than four months, and I balked at the idea. I had to let him down easy, saying that while I really appreciated his offer, I had some ideas in mind (not true). I didn’t know much about tattoos, but I had the cardinal rule down pat: never get a tattoo in any way related to your significant other, as there’s no telling how long they will be significant.

I eventually chose to get an Andy Warhol daisy as my second tattoo.
I had always loved Andy Warhol (I still do!), and I was already loving the art history classes I was taking (not knowing that it would eventually turn into my degree). So that was my choice, and I was much happier with it than I was with the musical staff.

Our appointments were with the same Lizard Man as last time, and he was just as cantankerous as last time, too. My friend opted to get her tattoo done first, and this time, the tables were turned: her tattoo was to be black, and mine was to be color. Her tattoo was over in a flash, and it was my turn in no time. This tattoo was to be on my left side, right below my ribs. Turns out? Getting a tattoo there REALLY hurts. I wasn’t far into the tattoo when I broke out in a cold sweat, and not too long after that, I was pretty sure I was going to die… or at least pass out. I think I slipped into some sort of delirium: my friend later told me that I told Lizard Man not to bother coloring the daisy; the outline would do just fine. Lizard Man overruled me and did the coloring anyway, which was certainly better in the end.

The finished product was… ok. I realize that my Andy Warhol probably wasn’t the easiest thing to translate into a tattoo, but a good tattoo artist can do amazing things. Sadly, my Warhol daisy was done by the kind of tattoo artist who issues buy-one-get-one-free coupons. 
While searching for a photo of
the original daisy, this image popped
up in Google. Yes: an Andy Warhol
tramp stamp, and it's just as poorly
done as mine. How about that!
The daisy is pretty smeary and looks a bit as if Lizard Man DID quit halfway through, but I’m not about to go get that one fixed. One time with holy-crap-I’m-going-to-pass-out-and-fall-on-my-face-on-a-grimy-tattoo-parlor-floor level pain is enough for me, thanks.

Between my smudgy daisy and my mutant treble clef, I learned a very important lesson in tattooing: you get what you pay for. I’m not sorry I have my tattoos, but if I could do them over again, I would in a heartbeat. Luckily for me, they’re not THAT terrible (they wouldn’t place in Mitch’s and my Ugly Tattoo Game, so that’s important), and they’re well hidden – only visible during bikini season.
See above.
So now you know about my tattoos. If you learned anything from this story, I hope it is “you get what you pay for.” If you’re going to get a tattoo, DO NOT GO FOR THE DEAL. I did, and now here I am with two iffy tattoos. On the bright side, it’s a good story: do you know anyone else who got tattoos with a coupon? Didn’t think so.

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