I got my first tattoo when I was 20. The tattoo was a Native American image of a medicine man, which I got on my right shoulder from Big Brad, a 6’5″ tattoo artist (who looked every bit the part of a Hell’s Angel) at his tattoo parlor in South River, New Jersey.
I tolerated the mild sensation of pain, knowing that on the other side waited my first tattoo. Afterwards, as it healed, I marveled at how it looked, and knew that I would get another.
My second tattoo was a hand-drawn design (my representation of a phoenix) which I had Brad put around my belly button. The pain was markedly different from that of my arm, but tolerable, and I focused, once again, not on the pain I was experiencing, but on the knowledge that when Brad was done, I would have, yet another tattoo.
My third tattoo was a griffin lion, on my left shoulder blade. Before I knew it (and with considerably less pain than either of my first two) I was done, and clearly addicted to tattoos.
Since leaving New Brunswick, and college, I have gotten 14 more tats, including the names of my wife and children on my arms, a tribal dragon on my left thigh, a tribal double dragon across my lower back and my sides/ribs, a band on my right forearm, three tribal freehands on my right and left biceps, and left forearm (one which I got in Bali on our honeymoon), a full mosaic on my back depicting a prophet receiving the word of God and a trio of angels, and a Japanese tiger on my left pectoral.
Some of my tattoos were completed in one sitting, while others took several sessions lasting up to four hours each. All told, I’ve spent no less than 48 hours under the gun. I’ve become quite intimate with my tattoo artist, Flash, as a result of all these tats. No homo.
A few of my tattoos are abundantly personal, others whimsical, and at least one, totally impulsive. But I love them all, and will probably get a few more before I’m done.
Why all this talk of tattoos? Let’s just say I’ve got tattoos on the brain.
I spent Thanksgiving evening at the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at Forrestal with the family and we went swimming in the heated pool. While we were there, there were these two little boys, who just stared at me the whole time.
I thought they simply lacked home training, until my wife pointed out that I’m covered in tattoos, and the kids had probably never seen a dreadlock with tats before in their life.
Last night, I responded to my friend’s indirect Facebook query about tattoos. The takeaway being that anyone covered in tattoos has something wrong with them.
Sure, SOME people who cover themselves in tattoos may suffer mental deficit, of which tattoos are the outward manifestation of their inner demons. But that does not mean that all people who sport lots of tats are similarly compromised.
I, for one (well…I may not be the best example of sanity, but let’s assume I am sane) don’t believe that my tattoos are evidence of mental imbalance. I LIKE tattoos. A LOT. So I have a lot of tats. It’s really that simple.
Members of the Ink Nation are part of a subculture, that prim and proper people cannot and will never have the capacity to understand.
I think that tats, like any other form of body modification, is simply a reflection of the person. To make the leap that anyone who enjoys anything (that is not inherently harmful to themselves or other people) is crazy, is a bit…crazy!
If you’re a strict constructionist, and take every word of the Bible literally, then people who get tattoos are irredeemable sinners, destined for hell.
But for everyone else, folks with lots of tats are just that, folks with lots of tats. They are no different from you and I, they just don’t mind displaying their uniqueness for the world to see.
So the next time you see someone covered in tattoos, don’t shrink away or stare dumbfound. Walk over to them and give them a hug!