On January 3 of 2010, I had four impacted Wisdom Teeth extracted during a two hour procedure that I would recommend to absolutely anyone who enjoys applesauce and Oxycodone. It’s a story for another time, but I bring it up because on that same day one year later, I partook in another two hour procedure most would describe as painful (yet routine) and not necessarily for everyone. I got a tattoo.
Quick backstory. I had been wanting to do it for quite some time, but my anxiety always got the best of me. “What if I regret it? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t hack it?” I soon realized that the bulk of these nagging doubts were coming through with the tone and timbre of my Mother, so I drowned out the voices with alcohol, put together a design I liked and moved forward. The line comes from a song I wrote when I was a younger, sadder man, but it has more meanings to me than I really care to describe right now. When people ask, I just tell them it’s because I’m a writer.
I must admit, for a guy whose image relies on having no self-esteem and confidence, it’s some pretty cocky shit to permanently etch into your skin. But that’s me, too. I’m an enigma wrapped in an asshole.
I knew I would be getting the art done at Blue Lotus in Madison, which always seemed to be the de facto ‘Best In Town’ when it came to ink and piercings (although I’ve heard they’re all pretty good). I wanted someone who specialized in realism, and Dave was my guy. A 25-year old from Sun Prairie (home of CDP Headquarters) with a stunning body of work and plenty of experience already under his belt. After a consultation meeting where we conferred on what exactly I wanted, a Monday evening date was set, and I was nervous, but ready to roll.
The Missus (along with probably 55% of the nation, I reckon) is no stranger to tattoos (the last time I checked her for ticks, I think she had 7 or 8…tattoos, not ticks), so she was excited I was finally hopping on board. However, I knew she would be no help when it came to explaining to me how the process was set to go down. Our epidermal pain tolerances are a bit different to say the least. I, for example, fear superficial wounds like paper cuts and stapling my fingers together (two things I do constantly). The Missus, from what I can determine, has no nerve endings. If she ever gets sick of her office job, I’m sure she can rake in quite a bit of cash swallowing fire and pounding nails into her tongue for tourists.
So, much like when I got my Wisdom Teeth removed, I took to the Internet, looking for every worst-case scenario and horrific YouTube clip I could rustle up. I’m the kind of guy that always wants to know what to expect when everything goes wrong, and still do it anyway. Fortunately, tattoos are amazingly resilient when it comes to bad news; next to getting something you regret, chances are you’re never going to have a problem with ink trapped between the surface layers of your skin, and for that I was relieved (and as usual, the last to know).
I have nothing funny to say about the 120 minute tattoo process itself. Dave nailed it (he’s a pro), and while pain was involved (they do hurt a little), it’s nothing you can’t handle if you’re getting something you really want. In fact, I get the feeling I took it significantly better than most (I gritted my teeth a bit when work began on the veins in my wrist, but that’s about it). By the time I got out of the chair, all I could think about was when I could get my next one. While I cannot offer any of you advice on what it’s going to feel like if you’ve never had one before (most of the descriptions you hear are all pretty accurate), I can tell you that it only hurts when it’s happening. The pain doesn’t radiate through the entire tattoo for the entire process; it’s only uncomfortable in 3-4 second increments on the tiniest of areas. In short, it’s not a good enough excuse to talk yourself out of getting one. The hard part begins when you get home.
Tattoo maintenance, for the first few weeks at least, is nothing to scoff at. In fact, how it’s going to look is nearly more dependent on how you take care of it than how it was applied in the first place. In a word, it’s pretty disgusting. There’s constant washing and lubrication. Scabbing, flaking and ink secretions. That slime that’s all over it? Yeah, that’s your plasma leaking out. It’s a borderline surgical procedure (certainly done with surgical precision), so you owe it to yourself to be vigilant for a few weeks until everything cools out (and even then, put sunscreen on it every time you leave the house). Mine is currently (1 week later) at a stage where it looks like I have Leprosy. Chunks of my body are falling off every time I make a sudden movement or sneeze.
One thing I’m being mindful of is over-cleaning. As anyone who read Aerating The Mashed Potatoes (or at least the first 10 pages) knows, I sometimes do more harm than good when it comes to sanitation. Clean it, but let it breathe enough to take care of itself. Name it. Caress it. Sing it to sleep.
Before committing to something like a tattoo (especially one displayed in a prominently visible place), one must consider the Pros and Cons. While I cannot speak for you, here are mine:
PRO: I’ve broken the ice with my first tattoo. Now I’m free to get more with significantly less fear and more knowledge, plus my right arm looks super sexy and badass.
CON: More conservative folk still consider tattoos to be degenerate or deviant. This may limit my chances to score a White Collar job I’m sure to hate.
PRO: I’ve again found a new way to express myself, while proving something to myself in the process. It’s therapeutic and typically allows people to become more certain about their own personalities.
CON: Now that I have a defining mark on my body, I can no longer commit crimes and/or pursue a life in the Adult Film industry.
PRO: Let’s face it, we like it when people ask questions and take interest, even if they can be backhanded. It tells people a little about yourself, and hey, it’s a beautiful work of art on your body.
CON: The Porn thing is still sort of a bummer. I suppose clown makeup would conceal it.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to this last week: Babying my first tattoo so it heals quickly enough for me to get another one in February. However, now that I’ve done two things in two years on 01/03 that would be considered ‘painful,’ I’m thinking I should turn it into some sort of official holiday for myself. ‘Ryan J. Zeinert’s National Pain Day’ or something. Next year, I’ll get my appendix taken out just for precaution’s sake.
Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. If you live in the Madison area and want Dave to do your next tattoo, give him a call at 608-284-0870 or visit TattooMadison.com.