Following a tattoo session earlier in the week I’ve been wearing Bepanthen (nappy rash cream) and cling film on my arm for the last few days.
Not the most comfortable of attire.
Well, today is Friday which means the dress code policy at work is relaxed, so I’m in a t-shirt.
As a result, people have noticed my arm is trussed up in cling film. This has led to an exercise in stating the bleeding obvious.
“Your arm is in cling film.”
“You’ve had another tattoo.”
But in all honesty, I’m not being fair. Of course I’m aware my arm resembles a beef joint in the fridge; it’s just a typical way for them to start a conversation about it; one I can’t wait to have, over and over again.
The conversation always starts with:
“What have you had done? Can I see it?”
Sure, no problem. Let me cut away the strategically placed tape and peel off all the cling film that took ages to put on this morning with one arm so you can see it and say “Oh, right. Cool”.
Maybe I should reply with “You’re wearing make-up. Can I see what you look like underneath?”
I attempt to show them through the layers of cling film which looks like a black and grey Jackson Pollock and I still get the “Oh, right. Cool”, so that’s good. Then the conversation moves on to include one or more of the following:
“What does it / they mean?”
Unfortunately this is unavoidable. After all, I have two full sleeves on display. To me, tattoos are not about how they look or because it’s ‘cool’, they’re very personal and they all have meanings no matter how small. I choose my tattoos carefully because I’m going to have them for a very long time.
So am I going to disclose everything to just anyone? No. I have my life on my sleeve, not my heart.
If it’s a close friend or a family member, I’ll talk them through every line and every detail, but to everyone else I tend to glaze over the question with “Oh all sorts of things”.
This is because I know that, deep down, they’re keen to move onto the next question.
“Did it hurt?”
No, it was like being licked by kittens.
This question is not to be confused with “Do they hurt?”, which is a dead giveaway of a person who doesn’t have tattoos. These ink virgins then follow up with:
“I don’t like needles.”, and/or “I couldn’t have a tattoo.”.
Well, I don’t like needles either. It’s not the same thing. Having a tattoo feels similar to a hot scratch across the skin whereas a needle feels like you’re being punctured right to your very soul.
And, why couldn’t you have a tattoo? Of course you can. Just sit in a chair and get one.
I believe you meant to say you WOULDN’T have a tattoo, which is different. I’m assuming this is because you fear the pain, or is it because you simply don’t like or agree with them? For your sake I hope it’s the former because, as you may have noticed, I have a few tattoos and you’ll likely offend me (despite the fact I look like I bite the heads off kittens to you).
Then comes the classic “What about when you’re 70 years old?”
What about it? When I’m 70 years old I’m going to:
- Be awesome
- Not give a shit about how I look.
- Be surrounded by a generation of other 70 year olds also covered in tattoos.
Don’t base your judgement on the elder generation of today with their tweed jackets and flat caps. When I’m 70 I will be part of a generation of old farts covered in tattoos and all sorts of piercings, punctures, modifications and randomly positioned flesh holes. If anything it’ll be YOU who will stand out.
“Look dad, that old man over there is a funny pink colour!”
“That’s called skin, son”
Having said all this, a majority of the time I get drawn into a conversation about the tattoo(s) they’re planning to have.
With women it’s usually a flower, or writing, or a butterfly, or their name located either on the wrist, hip, lower back (*cough* tramp stamp *cough*), foot or behind their shoulder.
Oh, and stars. There’s always room for stars.
With guys it’s ALWAYS the upper arm and usually over the shoulder. They demonstrate what they mean by running their hand along their upper arm and over their shoulder as they describe it to me, just in case I don’t understand what the upper arm and over the shoulder means, despite BOTH of my sleeves covering my entire arm and going over my shoulder.
On top of this it’s usually tribal, or a dragon, or stars (again), or a Koi fish with Japanese waves, lotus flowers, cherry blossom and clouds. Fucking clouds. Fucking mashed potato clouds.
I once saw a guy on the tube with a whole sleeve made up of stars and fucking clouds.
Why? Was he a meteorologist?
I doubt it.
Even if he was, at least choose something a little more imaginative like rain and meteors and comets and hurricanes and tidal waves.
That would be awesome!
Nope, “clouds and stars please”.
The famous tattooist Kat Von D has this quote on the sleeve of her first book:
“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.”
Or, if you’re just eager to get a sleeve to look cool, have clouds and stars.
What a waste of your body’s real estate.
In addition to all this, I sometimes get asked advice on designs and ideas. I’m happy to do this, but I usually find that as soon I start showing them where to look online for great ideas and inspiration, they suddenly know better and disagree with and/or reject everything I suggest.
Not enough stars maybe?
Sometimes they insist on showing me the online portfolio of the tattooist they’ve chosen.
Sometimes these tattooists look like they use an Etch-A-Sketch.
But they seem excited, so I play along. I then show them the portfolio of my tattooist in the hope they’ll see the difference between them. They don’t.
In fact, they often suggest I try their tattooist instead; a tattooist they haven’t even used themselves rather than the amazing artist I’ve been going to for 10 years.
Yeah, that’ll happen.
After all said and done, tattoos aren’t for everyone.
The one thing that some people (especially tattoo virgins) can’t comprehend is how much it costs to get a tattoo. These are the people that will have no problem buying an expensive LED 1080p 3D Smart TV which may last them 5 years or so. My tattoos will be with me forever.
THAT’S value for money.
And when I’m asked “Don’t you ever regret having them?”, I look the person in the eye and say:
“When you die you can’t take your money, your house, your TV, your car or any of your things with you; someone else gets all of that. My tattoos are mine. I’m taking those and my memories with me.”
Depends on my mood.