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I Got My First Tattoo and Here’s What Happened


So, fun fact about me: I’ve always liked ink. Always. I had huge plans to get one when I turned 18, and then in middle school I found out I was allergic to nickel, so there was a high chance that getting pierced or inked would be bad for me. And it was, actually: I pierced my belly my junior year of high school, had this awesome custom piece of titanium body jewelry, and then it rejected like six months later.  

But then, two years after turning 18, I said, “F*ck this, I’m done waiting. It’s senior year; I’m getting inked.”

Long story short, I picked one of the 10,000 designs I have ready to go and booked an appointment at a local place that most of my friends from home go to. Showed up, got tatted, and then went home, and all was well.

I’m sure that was anticlimactic for you.

No, seriously. All of my friends had been hyping the experience up, and it was nothing like what I thought.

1. The wait can be longer than the actual inking part.

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This was true for me. It all depends on when your appointment is, Plus, I was getting a very simple design, but some modifications had to be made to it, so it took the artist I had longer to get off his lunch break and draw up my design than the actual tattooing part. (No, really, once he started tattooing my arm it took maybe five minutes for it to be finished.)

2. Don’t be upset if you can’t get EXACTLY what you wanted.

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My design had a lot of lines. Like, a lot. The artist I had explained that eventually, the lines would increase in size as my skin expanded and contracted with age and everything, and if I got the size/all the lines I wanted the tattoo would eventually just look like a huge mole on my forearm — can someone say Oh HELL no! for me? Thanks. Most of you who know me probably think my first response would have been, “No I want it how I want it so do it like that,” but those of you who really know me know that I respect the fact that someone else has gone through years of training, so it’s not my place to tell someone how to do a job that I cannot.

3. The part everyone talks about — pain.

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Idk what y’all are talking about. Like, yes, I got mine in one of the least painful spots on the human body, but also, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had like seven people tell me it was supposed to be like “A bunch of bee stings” and stuff, but I’ve never been stung by a bee before, so I can’t really use that as a valid comparison. It was honestly just irritating, like someone was scratching me really hard, or I had caught my wrist against something accidentally and scraped it. Probably once I start getting other ones in different places I’ll be giving a different opinion.

4. Don’t take a posse. Pls.

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Seriously. Sure, everyone wants to be there to see the faces you make, but pick like two people to actually go with you (or make everyone else stay out in the waiting room). Depending on the studio, the rooms/booths can be v small, and you don’t want to overwhelm your artist (also be respectful of your artist; some of them like to work in silence, some talk while they work, it just depends). Plus, you want your friends to be comfortable. I took two people who not only had tattoos, but also had gotten them from the place I went to so that they would be comfortable there with me. Kind of like the calm to my anxiety, you know? I was less nervous with there not being an audience, and the next time I go it’ll probably just be me by myself. 

5. You’ll be told to use lotion: use it more than they tell you to.

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Because of my nickel allergy, I had (well, still do) a huge paranoia of something happening to my arm with the ink and wanted to make sure my tattoo was as healthy as possible. Plus, mine is highly visible when I wear short sleeves, so I didn’t want everyone to see peeling skin at my formal work functions. I put lotion on multiple times a day, and then when it really started peeling I put small amount of Vaseline on it. Almost two weeks later, and I have only like three dry spots left.

6. You leave ready for another.

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Duh. The adage, “You can never have just one,” is so freaking true, y’all. Of course, I’ve been around people with a million tattoos all my life (ironic bc my parents have none but somehow we’re friends with people who do????), and I’ve always wanted like 10 billion, so it makes sense. But, I was waiting to check out and I said to one of my friends, “So you coming with me around graduation for the next one?” and she couldn’t stop laughing because she didn’t think I was serious. But I am (currently attempting to pick from the 10,000 designs I have stored in my head/on Pinterest so if you have suggestions hmu fam).

Of course, all of this varies depending on who you are, your pain tolerance (which, since I didn’t bawl for the five minutes a needle was injecting itself into my skin at like 1000bpm, I think mine’s pretty average), and a million other factors (where you go, who your artist is, what you’ve had to eat/drink — spoiler, no alcohol fam — what your design is, the placement, blah, blah, blah). It’s literally like you’re at the doctor’s office when you get a vaccine — except instead of walking out with a lollipop, you get a cool piece of artwork that’s on your body for the rest of your life.

You can categorize Royall as either Leslie Knope when she has her color-coded binders: or Hyde whenever Jackie comes into a room before they start dating: There is no in-between.  Royall recently graduated with her B.A. in Sociology & Anthropology from CNU and now studies Government & International Relations at Regent University. She also serves as the Victim Advocate and Community Outreach Coordinator for Isle of Wight Co., VA in Victim Witness Services. Within Her Campus, she served as a Chapter Writer for CNU for one year, a Campus Expansion Assistant for a semester, Campus Correspondent for two years, and is in the middle of her second semester as a Chapter Advisor.  You can find her in the corner of a subway-tiled coffee shop somewhere, investigating identity experiences of members of Black Greek Letter Organizations at Primarily White Institutions as well as public perceptions of migrants and refugees. Or fantasizing about ziplining arcoss the French Alps. 
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