All the things I wish knew before getting a tattoo for the first time
When I was growing up, if someone had told me I’d get a tattoo one day, I would’ve laughed in their face. The kid version of me saw it as a way to totally mar your body, and pretty much nothing else. “Why,” I asked, “would anyone want to cover any part of them permanently in the name of artistic expression? Isn’t that what makeup, haircuts, and clothes are for?”
Today, I have two tattoos. The first I got in 2004, when I was 19. It’s a simple word, “Dizzy,” that I got on a whim for two reasons. One, it succinctly described how my newly garnered freedom as a real-life adult felt at that point in my life. And secondly, it’s an homage to one of my (still) favorite albums of all time, The Goo Goo Dolls’ Dizzy Up the Girl. I got my second tattoo for my 24th birthday. It’s a Harry Potter quote that continually reminds me to live in the present.
I got them because I realized there are certain things in my life that will never change, and the permanence of these markings gives me an anchor and a sense of identity that changing fashion, hair, and makeup tastes don’t quite grasp. And today, I am thankful for them. But there are definitely a few things I wish I’d known going in, especially the first time.
I wish I’d known how the pain really feels.
Before I got my first tattoo, all I knew about how the pain was supposed to feel is that there were needles involved, and that it was going to hurt pretty badly. So naturally, I thought I’d feel like I was getting a shot at the doctor’s office over and over again.
In reality, for me at least, it felt like a mixture of getting mildly burned, or if someone took a pair of very thin metal tweezers and pinched the same, tiny amount of skin over and over again. Also, maybe like getting stung by bees over and over again in one spot. Ouch.
Different body parts have different pain levels.
My first tattoo was on a “cushier” part of my body – my lower stomach, on the left side – than my second, which I got on my shoulder. The pain difference between these two areas was, from my memory, astronomical. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious that a bonier part of the body like ribs, foot, and shoulder would be more painful to tattoo than a softer one, but I didn’t really think that through before I decided I could handle getting a second tattoo anywhere I wanted.
Tattoos will change with your body.
Want to know what I didn’t consider when I was 19 and decided my lower stomach was a good place to get a tiny word tattooed on my body? Pregnancy. Or really, just the idea that one day I might gain any weight in my stomach at all. Which, you know, happens. Then it’s stretch city. I think getting the word “Dizzy” on my hip would’ve made a little more sense but hey, I was in college and wasn’t thinking about babies or anything past my current stomach situation. On the plus side, though, this is probably the only tattoo-related regret I have.
Something that will carry you through life is the way to go.
I always felt a little envious of the people who could flip through a book of pre-designed tattoo designs and just be okay with getting something random on their bodies. I felt like kind of a wuss at first because I never just went out and got a tattoo just to get one. But now, I’m really glad I didn’t. I’m grateful I got tattoos that were meaningful to only me, because I’m the one who has to live with them for the rest of my life – ones I can explain with pride to any future kids/grandkids.
Touch-ups are 100% necessary – especially for certain areas.
I never really thought about this before I got a tattoo, and I’m sort of glad I decided against getting one on my foot for this reason: Certain parts of the body lend themselves to tattoos fading so much faster. The bottom of your foot, palms of your hands, inside of your lip, etc. will require many more regular touch-ups than a place that isn’t exposed as often, like your shoulder. Might want to steer clear of those fade-prone areas if you want to save yourself as much cash, and pain, as possible.
You are just as beautiful without one.
My kid self was right about one thing: I didn’t need a tattoo to feel or proclaim any self-worth. So whether you choose to express yourself with a tattoo, a hairstyle, clothes, makeup, or with something totally different like words or music, that is your own personal decision. And tattooed or not, you are beautiful and awesome.