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Helpless Female Gets a Tattoo

I had never even thought of getting a tattoo until a couple of years ago. I can’t explain what happened. Kind of like I can’t say just when and why the idea of piercing my belly button suddenly seemed interesting when I was 48 years old. It just occurred to me one day that it would be a fun thing to do. I wasn’t sure about the pain involved and I didn’t want something huge or unavoidably obvious. I began researching the whole tattoo process.

As I discussed it with a few friends, I heard some cautions:

  • make sure a tattoo is for a specific reason
  • don’t get one because it will look bad on old skin
  • start with a small one

I began regularly asking random people about their tattoos, strangers and acquaintances, which none of them objected to. People who get tattoos don’t seem to mind talking about them, which I guess makes perfect sense, or else why would they print things on their bodies for everyone to see? Made me wonder if everyone shouldn’t at least get one tattoo so we could do away with uncomfortable ice breaker games at social events. Everyone could just ask about each other’s tattoos and the discussions would be meaningful from the start.

The idea of making sure it is meaningful seemed intuitive to me, at least on the level that I was putting a permanent mark on my body. I didn’t want to haphazardly put a cute little picture and two weeks later get tired of looking at it. I also figured it needed to reflect who I am to some extent, although I wasn’t sure how much of my inner being could go into one little tattoo.

As for concerns about aging skin and making myself look old, I’d gone through a similar thought process regarding my hair. Everyone seems to have opposing views about what “makes” a person look old. I kind of think aging makes a person look old, and I’m not going to stop having fun or being decorative because I’m aging. Just can’t. However, I also think that there are things that can make me look not quite so desperately-gloomy old, such as a smiling countenance, generally healthy habits, and enough sleep. Getting a tattoo or the length of my hair can’t really affect those things.

There was no doubt I would start with a small one, because I have experienced enough pain in my life to be cautious. But would it be pain like plucking unwanted hairs or like an injured tooth? And how long would it last? Would I end up with half a tattoo because I couldn’t handle it? I decided that if I could do things like have 7 babies without drugs, run a half marathon, and go through laser hair removal, all for the sake of happiness and/or beauty, I could risk a small tattoo. I just really hoped it wasn’t like the laser hair removal!

So, there I was, with the good humored, but not-sure-my-wife-isn’t-a-little-crazy acceptance of my husband and the moral support of a few close friends. I am a little suspicious that the support of my friends was more along the lines of “let’s see how this works for her before we go ahead and get one.” But I know they love me, too.

I think everyone should have a friend with them for their first tattoo. It helped me relax before the actual zapping, or whatever you want to call it, and helped immensely during the zapping. I would just say “tattooing” but that doesn’t quite project the worry and the sensation. The fact is, it hurt. In some ways it was like the laser hair removal, unfortunately.

Now, I have to tell you that the artist, ReAnna at Blackbird Studios in Nampa, was very nice and patient about it all. She answered all of my questions, including my concerns about pain. She fine tuned my self-drawn design and checked and double-checked symmetry, curves, and alignment. She did a little invisible test spot on my wrist before the procedure to help me decide between two locations. She even gave me breaks when I said I needed one every 30 seconds and didn’t yell at me when I accidentally moved my arm. She did put my arm in a super secure position under her hand after that, but I was never “held against my will.” She would just as soon I had good things to say about it all.  :-). (click on any photo to enlarge)

Laying down the tattoo stencil so that she knows exactly where to zap me.

Laying down the tattoo stencil so that she knows exactly where to zap me.

ReAnna of Blackbird Studios holds me tighter so I can't flinch, but she'll give me breaks whenever I want.

ReAnna of Blackbird Studios holds me tighter so I can’t flinch, but she’ll give me breaks whenever I want.

She and my friend attempted to distract me with pleasant conversation during the more painful sections. She suggested that it usually works better if the friend talks about something interesting than if the tattooee (tat-t00-ee – She didn’t use that word. As far as I know, I just invented it.) tries to carry the conversation. When the pain was resulting in me uttering a string of irrational syllables, my friend suggested labor breathing, such as for giving birth to a baby, but then we decided that was possibly counter productive. Distraction might be more effective. We began to talk about barefoot running, which worked pretty well.

Feeling more intense pain seemed to be more of a function of how many and how close together the lines were in a certain part of the design. Yes, the inner aspect of the wrist is thought to be more sensitive than other areas, but ReAnna said it can also just vary a lot from person to person. I do know for certain that the more simple lines were not nearly as painful.  It really was over sooner than I thought it would be and then the pain stopped.

Me with ReAnna right after she finishes the tattoo.

Me with ReAnna right after she finishes the tattoo.

Next, she had to give me all her care instructions suggestions. I said emphatically that I would not be applying antibiotic ointment to it prophylactically. I helped smooth that over by letting her know I’m a nurse and also have a long history of eczema, so am very much aware of what I need to do to take care of compromised skin. But I was not going to be unnecessarily killing off my normal flora with antibiotics when there was no sign of infection. I would wash it and keep an eye on it. Then, there were the standard practices of icing everything, so I briefly explained my view on working with the body when it felt stimulated to produce inflammation. I assured her I would keep the tattooed area moisturized with olive olive, though, and use the saran wrap cover when it might get dirty or irritated from rubbing. I am told it will begin to peel in a couple more days, and please DO NOT help it along.

Two days later, the area was looking very healthy. It was only very slightly pink for the first day and a half. It is a little sensitive to touch still, which I only know from gently washing it and putting the olive oil on. I like to look at it and am quite happy with how it turned out. Even knowing how much it hurt, I would do it again. A small one. I asked her when it was over how she would rate my reaction to the process and she admitted that I might be on the sensitive side. She reassured me that the touchup in about 8 weeks will not be anywhere near as painful. I didn’t know there was going to be a touch up, but I’m sure I’ll get through it.

But will I do it again? It’s too early to say. I am somewhat interested in a couple more relatively small tattoos, but she said a lot about keeping tattoos out of the sun so they don’t fade, and I’m not sure I have any place else that I want one that I can keep out of the sun. I don’t use sunscreen unless absolutely necessary either.

I haven’t set out to shock anyone. I’m just on a journey here, trying some new things along the way, like tattoos and barefoot running, that, if nothing else, are less dangerous than driving on the freeway. (Remember, the crocodile hunt was NOT my idea!) If you see me around, feel free to ask about my tattoo.

A close up right after it is done.

A close up right after it is done.

My tattoo is an infinity symbol with heart center and my husband's and my names. It looked good 2 days after I got it.

My tattoo is an infinity symbol with heart center and my husband’s and my names. It looked good 2 days after I got it.



  • Francis L. Parker

    Good article!

    some another good source on tattoo pain scale:

  • lauraimprovises

    Thanks, Francis – that is a useful article. I was just trying to tell a friend about it last week, and convince her to downsize her plans until she had tried a smaller one. 🙂

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