When I was growing up, only bikers and sailors had tattoos. They were considered a mark of ill-breeding or rebellion. Today, tattoos are more common than reality shows. Grandmothers have them. Chess club members have them. Heck, even kindergarten teachers have them. And they’re not just symbols of rebellion any more. They have become as popular a means of personal expression as clothing or jewelry. So, are you thinking about joining the ranks of the tattooed? If your answer is yes, here are seven things you should definitely consider:
1: The Location. Getting your first tattoo somewhere that cannot be concealed is probably a bad idea. That howling wolf on your neck might seem awesome at first, but there is a chance that you will grow tired of it or simply wish it was somewhere less visible. After all, you can only wear turtleneck sweaters so many days in a row before it looks suspicious. Try somewhere like an upper arm or shoulder. That way you can show it off if you want (by wearing sleeveless shirts or tank tops) and keep it covered when you don’t.
2: The Pain. Do tattoos hurt? Of course, but the pain is more in the realm of an annoyance, not something that will bring you to tears. The pain can be described rather generally as a sort of mild electric burning. The location of the tattoo also plays a role in the degree of pain experienced. In general, the more tissue between your skin and the bone, the less the tattoo will hurt. So a tattoo on the middle of the chest, where the sternum is just millimeters from the skin, is going to hurt a lot. The same goes for what has become known as the ‘tramp stamp’ (a tattoo women get near the base of the spine), since there is very little padding between the backbone and the skin.
3: Sterilization. This is EXTREMELY important. Unless the tattoo artist takes his needles from a hermetically sealed, sterilized plastic sleeve, DON’T get that tattoo. Any reputable tattoo artist will have an autoclave (a sterilizing machine used in doctor’s offices and hospitals that looks a little bit like a toaster oven) and will have sterilized all needles before using them.
4: The Color. It might seem odd, but having a colorful tattoo actually costs a lot more than just a black and gray one. Getting the name ‘Michael’ done in black and gray might cost you $50, but have each of the letters a different color and you may end up paying $100.
5: The Permanence. While tattoos slowly fade with age, they are basically permanent. I already have several tattoos, so I am fine with this, but consider the fact that whatever you get is going to be with you the rest of your life. If you really hate what you got, you may opt to get a cover up tattoo over the one you don’t like, but these don’t always look so great. And yes, there are tattoo removal lasers, but they are MORE painful than the tattoo itself and require several visits to permanently remove the tattoo. Tattoo removal isn’t cheap, either.
6: The Design. This is what makes getting a tattoo fun. You get to become a living canvas, a walking work of art. The only limit to your design is your imagination. Pick something that you really love and will be proud of. Also, DON’T get a tattoo on a whim. Getting that “My ex-boyfriend Bob is a prick” tattoo might be exhilarating in the moment, but odds are you’ll wish you hadn’t gotten it later.
7: The Tattoo Artist. Check out the work of several artists before deciding on one. Many tattoo artists specialize, so ask your potential artist what they like to tattoo or specialize in. If the artist you are considering specializes in flaming skulls and snakes and you are looking to get a cute little butterfly, you may want to look elsewhere.
I love my tattoos. They are a part of who I am. Take these seven factors into consideration before getting your first tattoo and you can have a good experience and get a lifelong symbol that says something about you.