Yes, Cynics. You’ve heard right.
I got a tattoo. So there.
I had been thinking about getting one for a while. The concept occurred to me last August, when a lot of things were going on in my life (and not necessarily good things), and I just happened to be thinking of tattooing. I didn’t think of it as a self-destructive behavior type of idea, but rather something for myself to hold on to. To hold steadfast to while things were just crumbly all around me.
You may ask: why do you want a tattoo? Really, if I tried to justify it, then it would come off as just pretentious and superficial, but honestly, there really is no real reason that I would need a tattoo. A tattoo has no utility, no purpose other than as an artistry. However, I didn’t want to get a tattoo just for the sake of getting a tattoo. I got a tattoo for the image, the symbol that would best represent me.
Of course, I wasn’t going to do it on a whim, without doing some research, without telling my parents. I had to be smart. I was (still am) aware of the weight of this tattooing business. It’s basically a wound–permanent!–that you will carry until the day you die. And so I knew that I had to make it count.
So for the next few months, I continued to mull over it. First, I decided what I would get, what image, to be stuck to my skin forever. I decided on the Chinese symbol “fu” which, depending on the context, can mean many definitions: good luck, fortune, happiness, prosperity, hope. Good connotations. It’s a symbol that I grew up with, its image hung on the walls of my family’s home and celebrated during Chinese New Year. It’s also closely associated with bats, for 1) its phonetic pronunciation is similar to that of the animal, and 2) the bat is also associated with good luck. Therefore, I found it a suitable image for myself. Overall, my Chinese symbol was what I wanted, to hold steadfast to hope, give me luck, help me find happiness and success in the future.
Next, I decided on the location: where was I to put it? I wanted it tattooed on an area where it could be seen, but also not seen. I decided the inner bicep of my right arm, because then I can show it off with T-shirts and tank tops, but also cover it up with long sleeves and jackets.
In December, I contacted a friend of mine, who already had two tattoos, and asked her where she got hers. She referred me to the place, and even to the tattoo artist who did her body art. I kept them in mind, and although I was still in that stage of debating whether or not to get it, I promised myself that I would make my final final decision by March, my birthday month.
As the date crawled closer and closer, I became more convinced on getting it. Two weeks before my birthday, I finally made my decision to go ahead with it. I called the place and asked them questions about tattooing and their services (money and such). They were nice about it, and I ended up calling them again a week later for more information. I researched online what to expect from the procedure, as well as the after-care. I broke it to my parents when my school Finals ended/Spring Break began. I had prepared myself for that moment, running through the details that I would say to them, and reasons to justify why I wanted it. It actually went all right: they didn’t forbid it, but they weren’t all gung-ho about it. But I had done my research, contacted the place, and would be using my own birthday money that I saved for the past years to do this. I was kind of sad that my dad wasn’t very happy with me after our discussion, but when I showed my tattoo to him later, he remarked that it was pretty and smiled, so I believe that he has accepted it now.
And it came. The day came for me to get my tattoo. So, that fateful Friday, I went. I went out to the neighboring city (where the place was), and got it done. I was nervous, and it was fine that I was nervous. After all, I was going to have needles in my skin for God knew how long, and how painfully. But the workers were super nice, and I asked for the tattoo artist who did my friend’s tattoos. He was glad to help me, and was extremely patient as I continued to shrink/enlarge the image to the perfect size (my mom and I actually had debated about the size that my tattoo should be: she wanted penny-sized, I wanted half-dollar size. Ended up being more so what I wanted), placing it on the perfect area of my arm (had to move the stenciling five times to do so), and so forth. In actuality, the tattoo fitting and the paperwork took longer than the actually tattooing process (which took fifteen minutes tops, considering that mine wasn’t that large, colorful, or intricate to begin with). After the fitting was done, it was showtime! I laid down on a reclined chair, stretched out my arm, and let my tattoo artist perform the procedure.
It hurt. So much. Like a bitch. I was expecting it, but of course, the reality was much more so than the theoretical. After all, it’s basically a needle carving into your skin. I didn’t actually see it happening, since I was lying down and staring at the ceiling, but I knew that there was blood coming out of me. I kept hearing the buzzing noise from the needle machine, as well as the intermittent pauses as my tattoo artist would stop and whip away the blood coming out from me. I guess I should be glad that I didn’t actually see it happening; I would have probably been nauseous.
It was painful. Imagine this thin, but searing and burning sensation tracing the contours of your epidermis and dermis layers. I kind of got used to the pain towards the end of the procedure, but it still felt awful.
And it was over. I took a glance at it in the mirror, and was happy. He wrapped my fresh wound with plastic wrap and told me to keep it on for a minimum of one hour. Bombarded him with questions about after-care (again, he was patient answering them), paid him (for my tattoo, it was $80. Not bad), shook hands, and went out.
For the next few days, I was careful with it, making sure to wash it three to four times a day with anti-bacterial soap and patting it dry with tissue paper or paper towels. Can’t swim for at least ten days, can’t expose it to the sun (wore long sleeves when I went out on my walks), didn’t touch or pick at it (or else it could get infected), and other precautions. The outer layer has peeled off over the days as well, and now the tattoo has settled in. So far, only my family members and closest friends know about this. They’re cool with it, they accepted it. It was funny, ’cause when I showed one of my friends the tattoo, she was taken back: “Whaaattt?!”, but other than being surprised, she didn’t mind it at all.
As for myself, I like my tattoo. I have no regrets getting it. I’m not going to show it off to the world, ’cause it’s none of their business to know. It’s for me, a part of me that I want to become in the future: happy, prosperous, hopeful. I hold fast to this belief. And I will make my aspirations come to life, just like my ink.
-The Finicky Cynic