As work continues on my second sleeve, I have been wondering if the novelty of getting a tattoo ever wears off…
Time goes so quickly. In 8 years I have gone from very my first tattoo to now having more than I can count. The relationship I have to my ink today is completely different to back then. The process of getting that first tattoo was so momentous (and the same rituals and behaviours followed for maybe the next 6 or 7 that I had after that). Those first time rituals were: saving up for ages; putting a great amount of attention into what I wanted; making a decision; booking an appointment; counting down religiously until the day arrived; feeling sick about it for weeks and worrying about how it was going to feel, who I should tell or how I would react to having it. I would spend every evening drawing it, every night dreaming about it, and every minute thinking about it.
Whilst clearing out my mum’s attic this weekend I found bundles of sketches from my teenage years. Sketches, which I (yes, cringe), had taken in to show the tattooist at the time to show him exactly what I wanted. I remember having sleepovers with my friends where we ate pizza, drank Lambrini and drew the symbol over different limbs of my body, so I could carefully decide on placement. The day I was tattooed for the first time was so notable – the stuffy smell of incense in that back-alley shop in Preston, the amicable smile of the bloke with a grey beard, feeling the pricking sensation for the first time. I had built this moment up for so long, that I couldn’t not remember every detail.
Afterwards, I was constantly parading my tattoo. It was a very personal symbol to me but I was also proud of it and I would buzz off the fact that I was the only person I knew with any tattoos. I remember showing my family, friends and huddling round the fire with my housemates the next day telling them all about how it felt. They were so impressed. I didn’t post it on Facebook – my tattoo had no relationship to the online world. Fast forward 8 years and I’m sitting in a coffee shop after my second appointment this month. I’ve got a couple of pieces of ongoing work, and the pre-ink routine consists of me texting my tattoo artist to say, ‘you free on Thursday?’ Now, I see tattoo art in a completely different way. I often don’t put too much thought into what I’m getting. I’ve had various flash pieces, impulsive tattoos at conventions, and bits and pieces that have no deep meaning to me. I let my artist take the lead on where they think it would work best on my body. I don’t take anyone with me and don’t normally tell that many people I’m going. I value how something looks over what it means. I nearly always show my artwork online somewhere. I blog about it on here. All this thinking had been sparked off by a colleague at work who was getting a quote tattoo on her arm. She was buzzing about it daily, drew it on her body various times before her appointment and was as giddy as a kid at Christmas.
As we get bigger, better and more frequent tattoos, do we lose that first-time excitement? Do we ever get it back?
One of the other things I found in my childhood home attic this weekend was folders and folders of poetry, written by me, from the age of about 14. Inspecting them, it’s clear that (like most teenagers) I was searching for meaning, in everything. I guess this is why I started to get tattoos – as my brain became an analytical machine that would never switch off, the process of getting the mental vomit out and onto my skin, definitely helped. Those early tattoo experiences will always remain an important part of my own self-discovery, my desire to ask questions and my attempt to control my own destiny. But I think as you grow up, your eyes open to the limitless unanswerable questions around us everyday, you don’t have to search so hard for them. Even though today, my appointments might not hold as much poignancy as before, I am still always searching for interpretation and deep thought within them, and I fuelled with questions that allow me to write stuff on this blog. Before, I wanted to be in the driving seat of my tattoo decisions, in order to manifest whatever philosophical thoughts that would arise. Now, there’s something quite nice about sitting back and letting the world make decisions around you.