Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jesus Loves Me And My Tattoos

I have a constant itch for a new tattoo. There's a pit in my stomach that won't go away. Every time I run my fingers any one of my tattoos, I think, "Man, I regret getting this tattoo. I really wish I would have gotten something even bigger." I'm not sure why I like tattoos so much. Maybe it's the pain, maybe it's the badassyness of it all, maybe it's the meaning. Whatever it is, I won't stop until I get a full freaking sleeve. (Just kidding Mom...)

For tattoo enthusiasts like me, sitting on the sidelines while a friend gets a tattoo is the absolute WORST. Unfortunately, I found myself in that very situation last weekend. Jacy and I were invited along to be moral support as our friend inked up her right forearm. She grimaced a few times, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the internal pain and longing that Jacy and I experienced.

After my experiences with tattoos, I'm slightly amazed how eager I am to jump right back into the tattoo saddle. My first time was, well, a little on the scary side of things. Sadist? Maybe I am.
Warning: This cautionary tale of my first tattoo.

The time was June of 2005. George Dubyah was in the White House, Green Day was on MTV, and I was fresh out of high school working as a cook in our local bar. Yup, them there were the good ol' days.

On my 18th birthday, I decided to do what every 18 year old should do. I bought porn. And it was an utter disappointment. I love men just as much as the next straight teenage girl, but that shit was downright graphic. Not my thing. So, I went with Plan B -- straight to the good stuff -- I decided to get a tattoo.

I wrangled up my friend, Tim, and we rushed to “Erics Tatoos” in Meadow Grove, Nebraska, to get our first ink. And yes, Erics Tatoos was missing an apostrophe and a “t” from its name. But whatever. I was 18 gosh-darned years old. I was free. I was a woman. I had rights. And I needed a damn tattoo. Sure, there were red flags. Maybe how Eric didn't wash his hands after running them through his waist-long hair. Or how he had a used car dealership/pawn shop out his back door. Or how his breath smelled like cheap whiskey and Mary Jane. But we didn't care. We came for one thing and one thing only: tatoos.

When we got to the parlor, Tim flipped through Eric's portfolio and chose this gem of a tattoo:

No need to rub your eyes again. Yes, folks, this is indeed the Godsmack sign. To this day, I don't know why he chose that as a tattoo. Could Tim even name a Godsmack song? Probably not. But it didn't matter. WE WERE FREE AND 18.

I decided on a teeny, tiny, not-worth-my-15-bucks star on my wrist that resembled supermodel Gisele Bundchen's tattoo. Perhaps the price tag was another red flag. Eric only charged me 15 bucks for my tattoo. Nebraska had a state minimum of $40 at the time. But, I was poor and working in a bar, so the price tag was just right for me.

When Tim and I walked out of that tattoo shop, we had the best dang poorly-shaded, crooked tattoos in the history of man. Tim liked his so much that he went back a few weeks later and got another one - a giant outline of a cross on his upper arm - which he later had to get covered up because of the wonky lines. Actually, I think he got two more. I remember some Chinese lettering on his stomach, too. He had to get that one covered up as well.

Eric's started it all for us. Less than a year later, I decided upon a second tattoo.

At 2 a.m. on some random weeknight, I convinced my freshman year roommate, Hannah, to join me at Guns 2 Roses in Lincoln. I knew exactly what I wanted --a gothic-looking cross on the back of my neck. Easy peasy. Get in, get out. I'm not sure why I was so Hell-bent on a cross, but I think it had something to do with my lifestyle at the time. Perhaps, I thought, if I got a cross, then the world would know that I had a Christian soul and would be forgiven for my freshman year fun. Who knows.

Guns 2 Roses had a whole new set of red flags. 1 - the owner, Gary, listened to entirely too much Phil Collins. 2 - Gary didn't have any tattoos himself. No tattoos on a tattoo artist? Meh, who cares! (I cared later. That guy didn't know how hard he was tattooing me. My foot was ON FIRE!)

My idea of a gothic, uber-Christian cross was shot down immediately after I asked Gary to give me a price quote for my tattoo.

"75 dollars."

75 bucks? Really? There's now way that a tiny cross on the back of my neck should cost 75 bucks. Didn't he know I was POOR?! Normal people would probably have just walked out on Guns 2 Roses. Or they would have just gone ahead and paid the measly 75 bucks, but I'm not normal. I am a tattoo addict. So, I decided to bargain with Gary.

"Hey Gare, how much would it cost to get a small tattoo on my foot?" I asked.

"Oh, I'd say about 50 dollars for this cross on your foot. I had to charge you more for the neck because it's a little tougher job," Gary replied.

Was this man out of his mind? Did he really think I wanted that same tattoo now? No way. A cross was great for my neck, but not for my foot. Who did he think he was putting crosses on my foot?

I hadn't actually thought beyond getting a cross. I had no idea what I wanted my third-in-line tattoo to be. But I blurted something out anyway....

"Actually, Gare Bear, I really want a Gemini sign on my foot," I said.

So, Gary had his best apprentice draw me up a Gemini sign. Fifty dollars and 10 minutes later, I was the proud owner of a black and teal Gemini sign on the top of my left foot. Looking back, I bet Hannah thought I was absolutely nuts. I went into the shop to get a symbol of my Christian faith and walked out with Chinese Taoism written all over my foot. Guess that's a Gemini for ya.

So far, I've accumulated four tattoos total, with another one coming soon. (I've promised myself a really kick-ass tattoo after I drop another 30 lbs. MOTIVATION!) And, in case you were wondering, I am Hepititis and AIDS-free, despite Erics Tatoos - which was later shut down because of a Hep outbreak (or so I'm told).

And yes, my parents have seen my tattoos and, no, my dad didn't take me out back and beat me with a skillet. And, in case you were also wondering, Tim and I both have full-time jobs. Two thumbs up for accepting parents and employers!

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