By the time I was sixteen years old, I had already started to think about what kinds of tattoos and piercings I would get after I turned eighteen. I looked at different kinds of designs and placements for both tattoos and piercings and just couldn’t decide on what I truly wanted. Until I came across a tribal butterfly that I fell in love with and knew I wanted to put it on my body. I felt a strong connection to the butterfly because at that particular time I was getting ready to spread my wings and go from one stage of life to the other. I recognized I was getting ready to break free from my cocoon and that the butterfly was the best representation of this time for me.
I held tight to that butterfly and a few months after my eighteenth birthday, I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to spend my winter break at my sister's. The moment I knew I was going to be in Phoenix I started to devise a strategy. I made plans with another friend that lived in Phoenix to pick me up when my sister was at work and take me to a tattoo shop, as my sister disapproved of my interest in getting my skin inked.
When we arrived at a shop on University and Mill I was very nervous but super excited all at the same time. I had butterflies in my stomach and was about to get a butterfly permanently placed on my hip. I went in the shop, paid and sat down in the tattooing chair. I gave my artist the drawing of what I wanted and consulted for a minute with him. We then agreed and I allowed him to place the stencil on me. Stencils are regularly used to help tattoo artists craft a flawless tattoo. The lines of the tattoo design are transferred from the stencil paper onto the skin in purple so that the artist can easily discern where to tattoo the skin.
As he got the tattoo machine and ink ready, the butterflies in my stomach started to flutter around much faster and then I heard it: "Buzz, buzz, buzz". I couldn’t help but think “this is it, no turning back now.” I was so nervous that I squeezed my friend's hand and closed my eyes tight, expecting the worst pain. As the needle started to pierce my skin I knew I would be okay. It was painful but it was a "hurt so good" kind of pain, and from that moment on I was hooked. The tattoo artist finished my tattoo and I went home to my sister's, not saying anything.
Most of the designs that we see on people are occasionally plain, sometimes elaborate, but always personal to the individual getting them. There are various motivations for getting tattooed and pierced, which include group affiliation, the desire to have some kind of memory, to represent a stage in a person’s life, and to have distinction from others and maintenance of one’s self-identity.
Come back next week for Marks Worth Making Part 2 and go a little deeper into the reasons why people decide to get inked.