My First Tattoo

I finally got my tattoo done this past Monday, August 30, 2010.  I now know why I waited so long…

It’s four and a half pages long AND there is use of some colorful language so be warned!  I’m just trying to keep it real.

My First Tattoo (may be my last … for a long time)

I have wanted a tattoo for a very long time; years in fact and finally before my forty-second birthday I got one.  Yeah, I’m going to be 42 but don’t tell anyone.

August 30, 2010 I showed up to Element Studios for an appointment with Sweet Laraine.  I was nervous to say the least.  I knew going in that a tattoo was painful so there really was no way to prepare for it.  I would deal with it as it happened.  C’est la vie, baby.

When we arrived Laraine was putting on the finishing touches to my tattoo idea, unfortunately she didn’t check the email I sent her the night before.  Her assistant “forgot” to remind her there had been some changes.

Sweet Laraine did not look pleased.  Her assistant apologized to her repeatedly.  Apparently she told SL while she was doing a tattoo.  The last thing I wanted was a put off artist doing a tattoo but SL bounced back and looked at her email then did some quick work.

She came up with an exciting piece but it was missing the waves.  I hated to tweak her idea BUT this was permanent and it was going on my back.  The problem was fixed and everyone was happy, or perhaps that was a look of indifference on her face?  I don’t know.

Once Todd and I were in her booth she seemed to liven up, which was a relief.  The stoic artist funk wasn’t working for me but far be it from me to say jack, she was the one holding the instrument of hell.

Yeah, I say hell because the pain inflicted by this torturous tool could be likened to the unquenchable flames from the eternal lake of fire.  Un-quenchable.  You pray to be consumed and dissolved from existence but it never comes, well, at least for the next two hours for me.

I was committed to this tattoo.  I wasn’t going to be the one person with half a tattoo outline.  I was determined to suck it up.  What I didn’t know was the depth of this pain I was about to be immersed in.  Let me preface by saying Todd said I took it like a man.  I didn’t cry or scream out in pain, well, not out loud any way.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!  You just can’t prepare for that kind of unimaginable pain.  I actually prayed, or may be in my delirium I prayed, for death.  I imagined I was being tortured by my enemy and let me tell I would NOT make a good POW.  I would have squealed or ratted out my mother’s family secret to her carne guisada recipe in less than five minutes.

Once Laraine got going my nerves were on heightened alert firing off WTF-is-going-on-here messages to my brain.  Yes, I cussed, again, not out loud, just in my head.  It got pretty bad in there.

I wanted to share some of those wild rapid thoughts, thoughts that were slamming into each other trying to find the exit to get out of dodge.  They climbed over each other without a breath to separate them.  They were all banshees… screaming, sputtering — a mob of slobbering feral thoughts.

Here are some of my banshees:

Find a happy place.  Find a happy place.  Find a happy place.  (Say in 3 seconds)

Where are those endorphins?  Where the hell are they Tandi?  Has it been 30 minutes?  They’re late.

Focus!  On what?  Nothing is working!  (I look at the flash art at my eye level.  I notice the graduated colors of red bleeding into orange –)  CRAP!  I look at the reflection of Todd on the tile below me.  CRAP, CRAP, CRAP nothing is working!!!

How do people do this?  WHY do people do this?

People put these on their necks!

It’s like a thousand bees stinging me in one place!!!

Where’s the fucking rabbit hole, Jeanette?

I try to imagine myriads of trails going underground, wildly twisting and turning.  I see roots fly past and then I find a nest but i say, “Screw it!” I have to keep running because the hounds of hell are at my heels.

Ah…. I feel a cold wet towel on my back.  It is such a soothing relief.  It smothers the fire but only momentarily, my cruel torturer fires up the bug zapper and gets back to gnawing on me.

Yes, (I plummeted into another metaphor) a hungry saber tooth lion is gnawing on my back, hitting bone, vibrating my core as waves of numbing pain streaks over my left elbow like a hot, uncomfortable, tightening cord.  It feels like my hand has been electrocuted, you know that kind of funny bone pain that reverberates throughout your arm and it’s not so funny?  yeah, I’m not laughing.  I swear my pinky and ring fingers have gone numb for a few seconds.

Breathe!  I pant, exhale, pant some more… I try to imagine the labor and the “ring of fire” and dilating to 10cm and what that would have been like (I only dilated to 6cm w/o meds).  How would I have breathed through that?  Where the hell is my epidural?  I want one from the neck down please.  Somebody?  Anybody?

Damn is this ever going to end?  Please tell me the outline is done.

God, help me deal… wait (insane laughter) I asked for this pain.  I did this on purpose to myself.   I’m so screwed (more twisted, hopeless laughter).

I envision wicked kitty claws; a vicious little kitty digging into my flesh like I’m some kind of scratching pole.  Kitties don’t know how to retract their claws so those clear razor-like weapons are constantly poised to cling and cut.  Bad kitty!

I can’t recommend this to anyone.  If you’re going to get one go BIG, like they say, or go home.  May be I should have gone small… no, then I wouldn’t have come back for this one.  Crap!  Do I even WANT another one?

Hell, I was SO confident this wasn’t going to be my last one.  HA!  I’m not so sure. (I laugh at myself)  I might have to eat crow.  My stomach is growling.  I’m hungry.

Am I even close to being finished?  I don’t dare ask.

Lupe wants a tattoo.  She can’t handle pain well.  She’s going small but shit even THAT’S going to hurt like hell.  Hell, unquenchable flames like the tattoo needle.


We take a bathroom break and for a second I think about walking out the front door.  Ok, not really.  I’m surprised to see daylight outside the windows.  It’s been very dark where I was at.  I thought I had heard thunder or a storm at one point.  May be it was my mind splitting?  HA HA HA  ahhhhumm yeeeah.

I turn on my iPod and hope I can focus on the music.  Before my appointment I was syncing my music from iTunes but before I had to leave it didn’t finish so only TWO albums transferred.  I’m not lucky enough to get my “I Hate Everything about You” playlist with music that can scream for me.

No, no, no… I get Needtobreathe and Third Day – Revelation, which are not bad but some (too many) of the songs are too laid back to take me away, and they don’t, my head starts to groove with the music but then that fades away rather quickly by the grinding pain of the needle. 

Hello Lover, I’m back.  Missed me?

The coloring has begun and the quick short strokes are surprisingly bearable.  Why do tattoo’s need to be outlined?  Why can’t I get a watercolor type tattoo?  Is this Utopia?  Have I arrived?  CRAP!  Here we go again.

I start to wonder what she and Todd are talking about since the grinding feels deeper.   We don’t have the same beliefs.  May be she disagrees with something he said?  May be he should shut up? No, wait, they are laughing… not at me, right?  I try to tune in but quickly give up because the pain demands my attention.  It is a jealous creature.

I try to think of how I would write my experience.  How could I make this funny when all I want to do is write one long string of every cuss word I know and then some?


Getting a Tattoo is Good For Your Glutes.   This clenching better do me some good.

I try to coach myself and my muscles in to relaxing.  Why – who can relax under this pain?  Why am I telling myself to do this?  I can’t even convince my ass to relax when Laraine stops.  Slowly my muscles loosen but then tighten again at the thought, “No!  She’s coming back I just know it!”  And they are right.

I try to breathe in controlled breaths and then get hit when I’m exhaling and my muscles have relaxed and I just want to scramble off the table thingy.  I try different techniques in breathing.  I try to meet the needle then I try to melt into the table.  NOTHING is working!  Nothing is working.

At one point I thought, may be Todd can find a branch or piece of wood I can bite into.  No, I would probably snap it and choke right here and die, die during my first tattoo.  Bury me on my stomach.  Everyone is going to see this shit, EVERYONE, damn it!

Please tell me it’s over, I beg of you.

I bite into the flimsy paper sheet beneath me.  I brace my tongue against the roof of my mouth.  I could bite it off if I’m not careful.  I make sure to slowly release my bottom lip before Laraine turns back to me.  I would break fingers if I was holding on to Todd’s.

I’m afraid of grinding my teeth down.  What would I tell my dentist?  Damn, this bone grinding feels like I’m at the dentist.  At least THERE I got drugs to numb the pain.  I wonder what it would be like to have a root canal without drugs– no, this has to be worse.

FINALLY I hear Laraine tell me she’s done.  My nerves are shot.  They hate me.  My muscles don’t trust me enough to relax.  I am extremely exhausted.  I am hungry.

We pay.  We tip BIG (make nice to your artist).   Here’s a BIG tip.  Thank you for inflicting the most excruciating pain I have EVER endured. I am so glad I am NOT going to hell.

I stand there waiting for the transaction to be complete all the while I feel something wet dripping down my back and I’m praying it’s not blood cuz I’m trying to act cool in front of two guys waiting their turn in the lobby.  We leave.

I wonder if it is safe to descend the stairs at the pace I am going, as if I am fleeing my captor.  I’m being careful to hit each step lest I fall to my death because I feel a head ache coming on, not a bad one but light headiness; a dull throbbing sort of one.  That would suck.  Remember to bury me face down.

Finally, I can breathe normally.  Finally, I can say I have a tattoo and it won’t wash off days later.  I am happy with my art.

SO!  Do you want to see my cool tattoo?  Do you want to know what it means to me?  After all the bad language you may be shocked to know my tattoo was based on two scriptures.

Isaiah 43:2

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.


Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart

Life if full of trials but because He loves us He doesn’t leave us to walk through the fire or floods alone.  He is there in the midst of it, protecting us, experiencing it with us.

It is a great comfort to know that God loves us in such a manner that He draws us close to Himself, close enough to draw His wings around us and protects us in such a defensive way.  It is there we can find safety, a sanctuary from the trials.  He will shield us.  We can count on that.

My life has had its share of trials and this year has been no different.  He has delivered me from the fire.  He has protected me from the threatening floods of destruction.  He has been faithful to me.  He continues to be my shield.

He is with me in times of trouble


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