Monday, October 10, 2011

My First Tattoo

I grew up in a family full of bikers.  No, not granola-eating road cyclists.  Real bikers.  My aunt could kick your dad's ass.  I've seen her kick many.  Hell, my cousin (a girl) could kick your dad's ass.  My grandma could drink you under the table (at least she could until recent medical complications).  Everyone had a 'get drunk and fight' attitude.  Everyone had tattoos.

I was always morally opposed to tattoos.  Somewhere in my childhood I decided I wanted to be nothing like my family (when I gave up drinking and smoking and turned toward the books).  But something strange happened a year or two ago.  I came across a symbol that so thoroughly described me that I suddenly had the urge to get a tattoo of it.  This was that symbol:

This was a symbol that was trademarked for Michigan's hosting of the annual American Nuclear Society Student Conference.  Everything about it appeals to me: the block M, the nuclear aspect, and Michigan being the center of the universe.

When I returned to L.A., I was still infatuated with it.  On June 22nd, 2010, I applied to be on L.A. Ink.  I wanted to get it done on a reality show.  I thought that the story of a thoroughly educated nuclear engineer getting his first tattoo was unique enough that they might be interested.  How many people have master's degrees in engineering and tattoos?  I had stolen the symbol from the conference website, and I had updated it to make it even cooler (to me).

I never got casted.  I never got it done.  It got put on the back burner, but I never completely disregarded it.  Something lately got me really interested in it again.  I made a new friend at a Michigan bar a few weeks ago, and she even recommended one of the tattoo parlours in Ann Arbor for getting my tattoo.  I think that was the last thing that set me.  I was heading to Michigan for over a week.  I would get my damn tattoo.

And I did.  On October 1st, 2011 by Finn at Lucky Monkey Tattoo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after we shut out Minnesota.

It wasn't too painful.  I guess I had planned for it to be bad.  I went in knowing that I'd sit through it regardless of how bad it was.  Don't get me wrong, there's a person carving into your leg.  However, your body gets used to it after a few minutes.  At no point was it completely painless (the bottom right corner of the tattoo was the worst part), but at no point was it painful enough that I was wincing or uncontrollably pulling away.  The sound of the needle got in my head more than the pain got to my nerves.  I found myself tilting my head to minimize the sound of the needle(s).

It was over really quickly, much faster than I expected.  And it looked awesome.  It cost me a little over $100, which is 1/3 of what I was expecting to pay (compared to L.A.).  I finally accomplished my first item on my 30 by 30 list.  I thought it would be bloody (I drank a fair bit that morning, and I have high blood pressure).  He kept dabbing it while he was drilling, and I assumed it was the blood, but that's apparently how they apply the ink.  Not bloody at all.  I feel like I want to watch how it is done now.  I took off the bandage after two hours, and it looked awesome for the first few days.

For the first couple of days, you're supposed to wash it with light soap and water 3 times a day.  That was easy.  It felt a little like road rash at the beginning, and it felt more like a bruise after a few days.  After that, you're supposed to put lotion on it 3 times a day.  By now the scab is forming, and the tattoo has a scaly texture.  I used some fancy fragrance free face lotion that Annie had, but ink started to come out of the tattoo after a few days.  It was turning everything down there blue, and I was worried that the maize lines around the M would never show up again.  I didn't know if this was strange or not.  I freaked out a little (or a lot), went and bought different hand lotion, and things seemed to have calmed down.

My family kept asking me why I wasn't using A&D ointment.  That's what they all used.  I told them that the artist/parlour said I didn't need to.  I was hell-bent on sticking to the directions given to me by one of the best tattoo parlours in Michigan, as opposed to advice from people who drunkenly got their tattoos in a kitchen from a high friend of theirs.

At one point a mosquito landed on my tattoo and started feasting.  I squashed it, and blood stained the upper left corner of the block M.  Much like the blue that's smeared everywhere, I expect it to disappear after a week or so, and I'll be left with a perfect design.  It's not really that itchy any more, so I'm guessing we're rounding the end of the whole healing stage.  Now, I just have to hope that the scabs don't fall off early and leave dull patches in the coloring.  By this weekend, I suspect it'll feel like the rest of my leg, and I'll be officially tattoo'd for the rest of my life.

Your turn to get some ink, Annie,


  1. I've been talking for years about the tattoo i want to get. Still haven't gotten one. I cant wait for the day though! I just need to have the extra money.

  2. I read somewhere online to be set on the tattoo for at least a year before actually getting it. It's great advice. Glad you're ready for yours, too, Kayleigh!

  3. I got my first tattoo at Lucky Monkey! And the first installment of my back plate too. Good choice!

  4. Very cool, Rob! I think the waiting and really thinking about the tattoo is a great idea. I walked into a tattoo parlor the day I turned 18 and had a large butterfly from their wall placed on my neck.

    It was basically a great decision.