As a woman with a full sleeve, along with a handful of other tattoo locations on her body, I get asked about my ink nearly every day. It can be quite the conversation starter at times, and I love when people take interest. I’ve gotten some questions like, “WHY would you do that to your body?” to which I’ve learned not to take offense, but to realize that tattoos simply aren’t attractive to everyone!
I was recently asked, “What would you share with someone who’s thinking about getting a tattoo?” I think the best way to share my experience and opinions on the matter is to answer three of the most frequently-asked questions I receive. So, here goes!
- “Does it hurt?”
YES. Tattoos hurt. I like to describe the experience as “a searing needle ripping through your flesh.” A little dramatic? Yes, but I’m an Enneagram 4, so dramatic is my jam. While many people have different pain tolerance levels, the needle of a tattoo gun punctures the skin at a rapid rate, so you can expect, at the very least, some discomfort. Why do it, then? Well, because I like them.
I can vouch that my threshold for pain has gone up since I first got tatted at 19. My time limit for a single session is about 3.5 hours. After that I tire of the pain and it seems like the needle hurts more and more. That’s when I call it a day and schedule my next session, if necessary. (Not all tattoos take long; the shortest duration I’ve sat in a chair was about 10 minutes–it just depends on what you’re getting. Most people also ask me how long it took for me to get my sleeve done and are shocked when they discover I worked on it over the course of about 2.5 years.)
- “What do they mean?”
This is a very popular question to which I answer that most of them mean nothing. Some of them, obviously, have meaning: the letter “D” for my maiden name, “G” for my sister Gia, “MOM” for my mom, a cross for my Savior, a Cherokee woman for my Grandma and her heritage, and, of course, “LA” for the best baseball organization in history. (Quiet down, SF fans, this isn’t your time.) But all the rest I got simply because I liked them.
My current tattoo artist is a master at realism, so I had him do some realistic roses on my forearm. I’m a believer that not every piece has to have a backstory or meaning–that you have the freedom to get one because you like it.
- “Do you regret any of your tattoos?”
This is a tricky one; most of the time I don’t have a straightforward answer and sometimes I say “Sometimes.” The hesitancy in answering that question is due to my being an artist and always conjuring up new art pieces or thinking, “Oh man, this flower would have looked good with a geometric design behind it!” But it’s too late because the flower has leaves and color behind it already. I will say, too, that some tattoo artists will take some creative license.
So, if you want to have creative control, I would find the artist who listens to and connects with you. Express the things you like and don’t like in tattoos in detail beforehand. If you don’t go crazy with dark shading or extensive lines right off the bat, you can always tweak your tattoos. I have done that to several of mine over the years by adding color or more detail and even extending some. It has freshened them up, made them a little more modern, and it feels like I got a brand new one all over again. Not gonna lie, every once in a while I get the twinge of panic thinking, “Wait, why did I do all this to myself?! If I ever want them gone I’ll have to pay some doctor a billion dollars!” But then I calm down and remember that I love the artwork, I love having tattoos, and then I think about what I want next.