Saturday, January 2, 2010

The triangle returns; the lotus tattoo

Yes, I'm back. I started this three-pointed blog very enthusiastically, and faded quickly. Sigh. Sometimes we fickle humans are like that.

But the new year has spurred my urge to write--yes, a need that somehow even Twitter can't fulfill ( And since I got a bee-yoo-tiful new tattoo this week, I may as well start with that.

It's a lotus. I know, a lot of people are getting lotus. That's because they frickin' rock. I even know someone at work who got a lotus tattoo on her forearm. Sheesh, the cheek of people who copy my tattoo before I can get it done!

I've wanted this tattoo for ages. I dreamed about getting a lotus tattoo years ago. No, seriously. I dreamed about myself with an lotus tattoo, then looked it up online and thought, "Yep, I should really get a lotus tattoo." This does make me sound like a wee bit of a flake, but I'm not concerned. Not only am I telling the triangle's honest truth, there are far greater flakes on the interwebs than me!

I got it done at New Tribe Tattoo on Queen West. I've had all my piercings and tattoos done there since I've been living in Toronto. This one and the last one were done by Dave, who looks like your average bad-ass tattooer, with almost visible flesh covered in various inks, but on the wall right above his tattoo table is a beautiful photo of him and his wife. What a cutie!

Because not everyone in the universe has tattoos, I'll tell you how it happens. Without the pain and the blood and the partial nudity, it's definitely not the full experience, but you'll get the gist of it.

I made the appointment a couple week ago. I was happy not to have to wait too long, because the last time I emailed for an appointment with Dave I was told it was a two-month wait. Luckily, over the holidays people are apparently not thinking of getting tattooed...

I emailed the image over when I made the appointment; Dave got back to me with a quote. I dithered about the size a little, but Dave said we could settle it when I came in, no rush. Which was great, because the one person I showed the tattoo to said, "It might be a little big. You're little, you know!" I am--at 5'1" a 5-inch-wide tattoo might look out of proportion. (In case you're curious, the one my ribs is just over 4 inches wide.)

When I got to the shop (late, unfortunately...stupid streetcar...), we settled on the size and I waited for a few minutes while Dave got things ready. I had emailed him I wanted it in blues instead of pinks, so he picked out some inks for me and let me pick. I unzipped my skirt, untucked my shirt and peeled back enough clothing to bare my left ribcage. Dave cleaned the skin and carefully placed the stencil. I checked the placement, okayed it (really, a good tattooer knows better how to place it than I do, so really I was just pretending not to implicitly trust him).

And then the fun began. I lay down on the table on my back, then twisted to the right until Dave was happy with where the stencil ended up. I ended up in a side/back laying down position, but I was comfortable. Which was my main job from then on: breathe, be comfortable, and don't flinch.

Before I continue, a mini-primer on tattoo, piercings, and pain. Yes, tattoos hurt. A needle is going in your skin repeatedly for an hour or so. A quick internet search tells me no one has a clue how many times a minute it is, but let's just say that when it comes to needles and your skin, anything more than once is a lot. However, my lower back tattoo barely hurt: I could've been tattooed like that for days, if I wanted. It felt like being scratched by a sharpened fingernail. The only time it felt sharp was when it was over my spine, and that was fleeting. Piercings are more painful, but they last seconds. Seriously: by the time you count to two, you're done. Easy-peasy.

So I lay down on the table thinking I was prepared. I knew it would hurt more on my ribs, but I could handle it: 4 tattoos and 6 piercings, and I'm a tough chick. Tough. I was full of shit.

In the beginning it was fine, when he was tattooing on the fleshier part of my upper waist, but when he got higher up on my torso, onto my actual ribs, it hurt. Yes, hurt. The image that kept running through my mind was a scalpel drawing a line up my skin. Which probably didn't help at all.

It's important to breathe, and not tense when getting a tattoo. I kept trying to breathe and unclench my hands, with some success. It was bad enough at the very top of the tattoo that I had to ask for a couple breaks. Just 10 seconds or so, to relax and re-focus, but I felt like a wimp. S'okay, I'm still tough... right?

He finished the outline, which I've heard--and Dave confirmed--is more painful than filling in. So he switched to a different needle (I assume, because I wasn't watching) and loaded it with colour and started at the bottom of the tattoo again.

I was shocked at the difference. The pain at its worst had felt like a scalpel, and even when he moved back to a fleshier spot, it had diminished somewhat but I still had to concentrate on working through it. At the bottom of the tattoo, with a new needle, it felt like a cat's tongue. You know how a cat's tongue is rough, to pick up fur? And if a cat licks you a few times in one spot, it gets a little sensitive, but not really, you know, painful? That's what it felt like. I was pleasantly surprised.

And then he moved around and up the tattoo and the pain got steadily worse until we were back with the scalpel again. Then back to the bottom again, another colour, around the circle once more (I admit, the last time I was feelin' the scalpel-pain I started getting whiny) and we were done. I apologized for the whiny-ness and Dave said it was fine--I didn't flinch, and that was all that mattered. Which made me feel better.

Dave let me check it in the mirror before bandaging it up--which I assume is just politeness on the tattooer's part, since it's, you know, permanent, but since the bandage is supposed to stay on overnight it's nice to get a look first. Dave kindly said he liked the blue better than the pink in the original.

He cleaned my skin--to get rid of the ink and, you know, the blood--and put on an ointment. The net tells me it's antibacterial ointment, but I'm sure it's also so that the great giant tattoo-wound doesn't stick to the bandage. He had to go to the next room to get a bandage big enough (which made me feel like a tough chick for getting a giant tattoo--until I remembered Dave's fully tattooed arms) then he taped it on and I was done.

I took the bandage off the next morning, and cleaned it with soap and water, following aftercare instructions.
Now, it's three days later, and it still hurts. I don't remember my last tattoo hurting this much, but it's lines surrounded by blank space. This is a four-inch wide piece of filled-in tattoo, so it makes sense that it hurts more. It's peeling, which is normal, and I'm moisturising it, according to instructions. It should take about two weeks to fully heal.

I still love it. I think it helps that I make myself consider a tattoo for at least a year before getting it done. After that long, getting the tattoo feels like putting a piece of your soul directly on your skin.

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