August 8, 2009

Tattoo Story Part 2: Remove Dried Blood

So I found my design.

I'd love to say it came to me in a dream, but in truth it came to me in my son's favourite Dr Seuss book. It was perfect. It was literary, it represented my life, and it was small enough so that if the whole thing turned out to be a hideous mistake I could laser it off.

Unfortunately, I had no idea where to go. The only tattoo parlours I knew were in Kings Cross, patronised, I imagined, by criminals, drunken sailors and weapon-wielding gang members. Then one day, my friend Mandy pointed out a tattoo studio (note: studio, not parlour) just a suburb away. That afternoon, I checked it out.

“I want to get a tattoo,” I told the multi-pierced and tattooed receptionist.

“Wow, you are amazingly cutting edge and brave,” she said admiringly. Well, no, that’s just what I expected her to say. What she actually said (barely glancing up from her tofu burger) was “Yeah, okay. What day?”

I had no idea. When was a good day to brand myself? “Monday?” I asked.

She made an appointment. “Your tattoo artist will be Tong,” she told me. “His design folder is over there.”

Artist. Sounded reassuringly professional. I flipped through the folder. A purple dragon loomed at me from a hairy back. A blood red rose adorned a giant breast. I broke into a sweat and slammed the book shut.

“Great! See you Monday!” I said. If I turn up, I thought. It’s not like I’ve paid a deposit.

“You need to pay a deposit,” she told me.

It was the moment of truth. I was tempted to run, but I paid the money. The receptionist handed me an appointment card. “Read the instructions on the back.” I turned it over.

Care of Your New Tattoo: Leave bandage on for three hours.
Okay, sounds reasonable.
Wash with soap and water to remove dried blood.
Blood? There’ll be blood?
Do not pick scab. Let it fall off by itself.
Scab? Who said anything about a SCAB???

On Monday, Mandy, my designated support person, met me at the studio. Inside, a young man with dreadlocks waited, while two heavily pierced girls inspected a range of nipple rings. I began to feel faint.

The receptionist asked me if I’d chosen my design. I sheepishly handed over the Dr Seuss book. To her credit, the receptionist barely flinched.

She made copies of the symbol in several different sizes, which Mandy and I considered with the utmost seriousness. In the end, we decided on the second smallest. The receptionist agreed, and - though I’d never met her in my life before and she had a studded lip - I felt strangely reassured.

After a 20 minute wait (during which I considered bolting about 20 times), Tong, my tattoo artist, appeared. I appraised him warily. He was a big teddy bear of a man, reasonably normal looking, except for a huge hole in his left earlobe, stretched by a massive earring. He also seemed to be mute, smiling benignly as he waved me through.

I felt alarmed at the prospect of entrusting one of my ankles to this silent stranger, but then I remembered the deposit, and followed, with Mandy close behind.

The tattooing room was clinical, with long black recliner chairs and cabinets of (what I desperately hoped was) sterile equipment. It was like a dentist’s surgery, only sado-masochistic.

I lay in a chair as Tong made a stencil of my design, and placed it on my ankle to determine the correct position. Suddenly I panicked.

“Tell me, Mandy!” I blurted. “It’s your last chance! Do you like it? Am I too old?”

“It’s great!” she assured me. I clutched her hand.

“Do it, Tong” I said.

Tong fired up his equipment (well, he switched on the needle). He looked very nonchalant, which worried me. Shouldn’t he be wearing an expression of intense concentration?

I heard a gentle buzz, felt a scratch on my ankle, and tensed, waiting for the shocking pain.

“When’s it going to hurt?” I asked Tong.

“This it!” he said.

It was nothing! Just like a sharp pencil being dragged across my skin. Okay, a very sharp pencil, but nothing dreadful. Uncomfortable, yes, but compared to the pain of childbirth (or, even worse, electrolysis) it was a walk in the park.

“Done!” Tong announced.

“Congratulations!” Mandy said.

I looked down. I had a tattoo!

Years down the track, I still love my tattoo. It makes me feel strong, sexy, and a little rebellious. In fact, I now have another, in a secret, sensual location (okay, on my shoulder).

Still, I’m constantly surprised that they don’t wash off. Just like having children, it’s the permanence you never quite get used to.


  1. You ARE incredibly brave. This is from a woman who has always been too scared to get her ears pierced. And pretty cool too.

  2. ! Fucking Excellent. So truly? Not much pain? H made out he'd had his nuts torn off. Well done you.

  3. love it!

    i was stupid and got mine on the hip bone. in a few spots my leg twitched and it hurt on the bone. but then again im without children lol and a wuss.

    but mine can be covered by underwear. i have another couple of designs that i like just need to figure out where to put them.

  4. So glad you all like it! So far anyway...
    But would you tell me if you didn't?????

  5. i would. heaps of people dont like mine. but im not fussed its on my body not theirs.

  6. I think it's wonderful. I have three tattoos on my ankles. 2 tiny one just above the ankle on my right leg either side and one on the outside of my left leg. A gecko. I have another on my right shoulder. I love them all. I think I have another in me but not sure what or where yet. Maybe something to mark having children one day (gotta be soon though at my age!!!) I thought they all hurt but the worst was the noise from the needle - like a dentist. Ugh!

  7. Kym: you're right, the noise was hideous. I think that's why I expected the pain to be a lot worse - it sounded like an instrument of torture. Love the gecko!

  8. Ah! I really, really love it. It is just so perfect.

    I have 3 - one is, of course, a Chinese symbol I got at 18. But! I still love it. It means passion and cheesy symbol or not, I believe it is the most important element in life.

    I got my second two recently, which I actually wrote about here They're my absolute favourites. Every time I look at my wrists, I get excited. I think this is how men must feel when they see boobs.

    And I have about fifteen more in me, next one on my neck. Did you like your tattoo parlour? If so, where was it? I went to Inner Vision and don't think it lived up to the hype... think I might try Mischief Moon next...

    Okay, that was way too long for a comment. Sorry. x

  9. Siamese Saffron: Just checked out your blog pics, they're gorgeous! I love wrist tattoos, but being Jewish, I just couldn't do it - too reminiscent of the Holocaust.
    I went to Kaleidescope both times - it was highly recommended & I was very happy. Then again, it wasn't like I had a lot to compare it with! x

  10. I love that you were brave enough to get a tatoo. I have to eat huge jars of special nutella before I can even go to the dentist (is it any wonder I need so much dental work?).

    And I love the !. I think it sums up perfectly what you were trying to say. Then again I love every punctuation mark ever written by Dr Seuss

  11. Well worth the wait, "!"

    I think it's perfect, and am impressed that you felt no pain.

    I've never had electrolysis. Is it really really bad?

  12. Eco-Chic-Mummy:
    YES - like having a needle inserted into each individual hair follicle & zapped with an electric current. Probably because that's exactly what it is!!!! I had it done on my eyebrows. At one point I tried it under my arms. I gave up after 2 minutes. It was excruciating.

  13. You know what, Kerri? That tat says, " Dont mess with me "! How appropriate! Like it......Fender4Eva

  14. I think it's super cool. And small enough to avoid comments by every bum, biker and Queenslander you pass. Very clever. I have a big half sleeve tattoo on my right arm, and cop the "NOICE TATT!!" call every now and then. But as my mother would say, it's my own silly fault.

  15. That is gorgeous.
    I was surprised by how much tatoos don't hurt too - I have a little turtle on my shoulder who I often forget about and something in Polish which is meant to mean "only today" but doesn't. It means "a word completely made up today" So yes, english might have been better..but hey, no one knows except me :)

  16. That's really cool. What is the tattoo you have on your shoulder?

  17. The exclamation point tattoo is awesome. Does a small one hurts? I want to have one and ask my boyfriend to have one also for us to have something memorable for the rest of our lives.

    tattoo lettering

  18. I think it's super cool. And small enough to avoid comments by every bum, biker and Queenslander you pass. Very clever. I have a big half sleeve tattoo on my right arm, and cop the "NOICE TATT!!" call every now and then. But as my mother would say, it's my own silly fault.


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