ORW: Go ahead, shove ink into my skin!

I used to draw on myself with marker when I was a kid. I think my mom was happy with this new transition, because it meant I wasn’t drawing on the walls anymore. Even if they were imitation Picassos in bright rainbow color.

Graphic by Nick Foote/TNL

“At least it’s not permanent,” she would say in that exasperated motherly tone as I presented my latest Crayola forearm masterpiece for examination.

It was only to be expected, especially with all that foreshadowing, that I’d find myself tattooed a bit down the road.

Tattoos, why not? Who wouldn’t want a tiny needle jabbed repeatedly into their body, squirting lines of permanent colored stuff under their skin. Who wouldn’t want a frumpy, middle-aged man (that likes to make what he thinks are funny little “oops” comments, chuckling at his blistering humor) with faded drawings of naked women on his arms ripping their flesh open with a frickin’ vibrating ink scalpel? Sign me up!

And while I did indeed go ahead and do this, there’s no denying the above process sounds dumb, especially considering it’s nowhere near as bad as the traditional ink-coated boar’s teeth and mallets used to pound in cool Polynesian designs. This process is repeated all up and down Samoan guys’ vulnerable torso areas, sometimes for months on end, with other similarly tatted-up Samoan guys holding them down. Their process is a little more laborious. And manhood proving.

I want to know who first concluded ink under the skin would be a good idea in the first place. It goes along the same baffling lines as who first decided to squeeze a cow’s udders and drink whatever frothy liquid came out.

My tattooing experience was part of a mass exodus to Body Piercing Unlimited & Tattoo. We all were able to convince each other that body modification definitely needed to happen. Throw caution to the wind; this is mob mentality at play!

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Upon arrival, we were greeted by a skinny dude who looked like a bejeweled ink tapestry endorsed by Neff. He launched into his scripted spiel about artistic consent and latex allergies and health concerns, but I personally found it hard to hear an assurance of cleanliness and infection safety from a guy who had more piercings than skin area, bulbous lip rings and stretched ears the size of hula-hoops.

“You’re concerned about me getting an infection? Man, your ear’s about to fall off.”

I’d heard horror stories about the pain associated with getting a tattoo. “It’s like a constant burning fire across your skin,” “It’s a squirming nightmare, buddy,” “The ribs are the worst.” Girls assured me I’d have tears in my eyes. Guys told me they themselves had wanted to run away. I went in expecting to grit my way through some god-forsaken trial by ink rite of passage.

I skipped the ribs by getting one on the shoulder instead and just found myself mildly annoyed by a buzzing jabbing sensation across my shoulder blade. The most aggravating part about the whole thing was my tattoo artist’s attempts at comic relief.

“Oops. Heh, heh.”

“… Good one, Jack. Again. You really got me going there.”

I didn’t look like I was having as near of a bad time as the guy in the boyfriend-girlfriend combo who went before me. The classically naïve tattoo scenario involves 18-year-old lovebirds who want to express their devotion to each other; she was getting a lock tattooed on her wrist and he was getting a key — with names underneath. You could see the light of dawning regret on his face as he watched this being ingrained into his arm, and it was painful. One couldn’t help but feel for the guy and his potentially foolish high school whims.

Afterward I felt the itch of my tattoo for the next couple days, and, like a flashback to my younger years, I couldn’t wait to present the new inky shoulder to my parents. The older generation just can’t seem to understand the whims the younger, and my father, the great cut-through-the-bull$#!^ extraordinaire, gave me the most honest opinion about my tattoo I’ve heard yet.

“Are you looking for confirmation for what you’ve done, or what I really think about it?”

Thanks, Dad. I’m glad to have gained a fraction of your scathing wit. I’m not removing it though.