“I think I want to get a tattoo,” said my mom nonchalantly as we laid in her bed watching TV on Friday night. Wizards of Waverly Place was on. I was nine.
“What?! Why?” I don’t know why I was acting like getting a tattoo was the craziest thing in the world. Everyone on my dad’s side of the family is inked. My cousins and aunts in the Northeast are inked. If anything, having a tattoo was like a rite of passage and even at 9 years old, I understood that. I think that it was just because she was my mom, and a tattoo was about as life changing as things could get. And yet, she remained tattoo-less for another 8 years.
That doesn’t mean that she stopped expressing her interest in having one but eventually, as I got older, I told her at 15, “I think I want to get a tattoo.” Obviously, she wasn’t surprised. In fact, she got very excited, “Let’s get matching ones!” We spent the next 3 years coming up with potential ideas and places on our body. “I want to get a treble clef right under my belly button!”
“I want a bird!”
“What about wings between my shoulder blades?”
“I’d like the infinity symbol that says love on my wrist.”
This back and forth went on for some time until my mom’s 40th birthday came around last year. We agreed to get the tatoos exactly one month after. I kept hassling her to find an artist and I had told all my friends that I was going to get one before I graduated. My boyfriend at the time was going to get a sleeve at some point over the summer and was anxiously awaiting my review. We drove to the tattoo shop in Brooklyn with quiet excitement, not really knowing what to expect.
The first thing our artist, Bria, did was print out six different sizes of the design we sent her. She asked us what size we wanted and started explaining how it was a fill-in. The tattoo would take 15 minutes. I laid down on my side on a gurney with my sweats pulled slightly down to expose the outside of my right thigh. She shaved the area and printed a temporary tattoo of my design. “Here?” She asked.
“No, higher up.” She washed the temporary tattoo off and shifted it up 3 inches. I nodded silently. She explained to me that it was going to burn and tapped me with the needle a few times to show me what it felt like. It was important that I stayed completely still to avoid messing it up.
The reason I started screaming wasn’t because there was pain, at least not initially. It started to burn 15 seconds later. The reason I screamed (even the word ‘scream’ is a bit dramatic) was because of how uncomfortable it was. My mom shoved my jacket into mouth to make me shut up. It was ticklish yet painful.
As soon as it was over, Bria wrapped it in plastic. A tattoo is a scar so your body is going to try healing itself by pushing the ink out and into the plastic. The skin is also slightly raised around the outline of the tattoo. My tattoo didn’t sting, but it felt sore, like I’d bumped it into a sharp edge. After a few days (or longer depending on the size of the tattoo), you can take the plastic off but it will most likely be very dry. It was important for me to moisturize this area for the next two weeks. After that — congratulations, you have a tattoo!