One Friday evening, back in the late 1990s (I think it was around 1998, but could have been 1997 or so) my boyfriend M, my friend Nicole, and I headed to the tattoo shop in Kenner (KENNA BRA). I picked a piece of tribal flash art off the wall, something not too big and not too small. I decided I wanted it on my calf – I figured that I could always wear tights or pants and cover it up if I had to. The artist transferred the design to my leg, had me lay on a table, and told me not to move.
HOLY SHIT THAT FUCKING HURT, Y’ALL.
For what felt like an hour the guy tattooed my calf. It was probably more like 30 minutes, but I was in a pretty major amount of pain. I held M’s hand and stayed as still as possible because the last thing I wanted to do was twitch. When the guy was done, he told me how to take care of it, bandaged it, and we paid and left. M and Nicole had to help me walk down the stairs because I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. That night I realized that I was just not cut out for multiple tattoos. I also realized that I have a very low pain threshold and that piercing probably wouldn’t be for me either.
I’ve always appreciated lovely ink. My good friend Amy has these gorgeous sleeves on both her upper arms – one she had when I met her, and the other she got when we worked at The Company together. I watched LA Ink for a while (until I got tired of the drama). The thing that interested me most about those shows was the people who were being tattooed – each piece of art MEANT something to that person. Each tattoo came with a story, or something symbolic, or it reminded them of something they had been through. An enduring piece for something that person had endured. These were not pieces that they walked in and picked off of a wall – these were pieces that represented something to that person. Even if that represented something beautiful on their body…it was important to them.
You always hear that people who get one tattoo always want more. I would have loved another piece, but the fear of the pain that it would bring held me back. I couldn’t imagine going through that pain again for anything. I was too afraid.
Until last Friday.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of getting a tattoo since last year. One of my coworkers and friends, Julia, has this gorgeous feather inked on her shoulder near her neck. I asked her where she had it done and she mentioned Turning Point Tattoos here in Mandeville. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the studio – Felicia, Doug’s stylist, has a piece from there, and I’ve seen other pieces on ladies who come into the store. After some deliberation on the design (and gathering of funds), I decided to go check out the shop for myself. I spoke with Jordan Madere, an artist at the studio, about the design and what I was looking for. He sent me a sketch, I adjusted it a bit, and I headed to the studio after work last Friday to get it done.
I mulled over the idea for about a month. I knew I wanted something meaningful and beautiful. I didn’t want a tribal piece, and even though I adore celtic knotwork to this day, I wanted something else. Finally, it came to me one night as I was looking through some old pictures – I wanted something that reminded me of my grandmother. My Maw-Maw always had these giant hydrangea bushes in front of her house when I was growing up. When they bloomed, they bloomed the brightest blue – so brilliant, almost neon-colored. One of my graduation pictures was taken in my cap and gown, standing in front of those bushes. When I got married, I asked the florist to have a base of the brightest blue hydrangeas she could find in my bouquet, in memory of my grandmother.
I also wanted my favorite quote from “Desiderata”, a poem by Max Ehrmann. Amy sent me this poem a few years ago, and since then, it’s become one of my favorites.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
The first time I read those lines, it moved me to tears. It’s one of the things that made me stop hating myself and my body. Around the time I read that poem, I started learning to accept myself. Large, small, fat, thin – we all matter and we all deserve to be here. I knew I needed this somewhere in the design. When I spoke with Jordan, I explained what I was looking for, and sent him pictures of the hydrangeas’ color and the line from the poem. Since I wanted to feature more of the flowers, we kept the part of the quote I liked the most.
Jordan was really amazing. His artwork is outstanding, and when I mentioned my hesitation on getting it done because of the pain of the previous experience, he helped to calm my nerves by explaining that some artists are really heavy-handed with their lines, and digging deeper is always more painful. He is proud to be a “light-handed” tattoo artist. While he was getting me situated, I found that he’s a fellow sci-fi fan and gamer. It’s always nice to find more of those on the Northshore! He helped me stay calm and did his absolute best to keep my mind off of the pain. Over the course of the evening, Kati, Julia, and Shelby – all fellow Bra Genie ladies and good friends – stopped by to keep me company! Julia also got her nose pierced that evening, a delicate crystal stud that looks absolutely perfect on her (and makes me want one SO bad)!
The funny thing is – the pain wasn’t so bad this time. Maybe it’s where I placed it on my body (middle upper back), or that Jordan really is a light-handed artist, or maybe I just remember a lot more pain than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong – it hurt a lot. When he started, my back felt like raw hamburger. After about 30 minutes, though, it all felt the same. Some spots were a lot more sensitive, but it was tolerable. He was fast, too – I got there at 6:15, he started about 6:45, and I was done around 8:30.
When Jordan finished, I took one look at it and started crying. The color was perfect – just as bright and blue as my Maw-Maw’s flowers. I know everyone there probably thought I was crazy, but it meant a lot to me. I’m really, really pleased with how it turned out and I’m loving showing it off in shirts and dresses.
Now that I know the pain isn’t that unbearable, I’m wondering what else I have been putting off that I could try. I don’t think I could pull off a nose ring, but I would really love to get another ear piercing. I used to have a second set of holes when I was in college, but they never healed properly so they closed up. Maybe a small ring in the cartilage of my ears…