So I just got my first “real” tattoo.
All of my other 8 tattoos have been script/roman numerals. I’m a writer, ok? I really like words. (There seems to be some type of stigma associated with getting font tattooed on your body in tattoo culture.)
Anyway! So for my 9th tattoo, I finally got some real art done by a fantastic artist based out of Virginia. It was my first big piece of work and I’m a little surprised by how I coped with it.
Getting a tattoo is a weird process—after the fact, I might add. It’s saying goodbye to the skin on that part of your body forever. You’ll never see it again. You now have to see—insert whatever it is you got tattooed on your body—every day.
What I went through was a little like the five stages of grief with my new tattoo.
Denial: It’s Not Really There!
If you’ve gotten a tattoo before, you have experienced this.
Immediately after you get your tattoo, you love it. You show everyone. It’s fresh. It looks amazing!
You wake up the next morning and you’re like, “WHAT. IS. THAT.”
It’s not that you didn’t remember that you got it done. It’s just that… well, it’s a part of you now. Like really a part of you. For the first couple hours after I got my tattoo, I was like, “Whoa. What is that thing?” By the next morning, I remembered that it was there.
But while it was healing, it didn’t seem like it was a part of my body. It almost looked like a shiny new sticker that I could just peel right off. Despite the fact that while I was washing it and could feel the lines inked into my skin, I thought, “It’s not really there! Nothing’s different!”
Anger: Why Did I Get That?
Not everyone has welcome reactions to your new ink.
Mom: “IT’S HUGE! How much did that cost? What?? Why?!!!”
Bestie: “DUDE IT’S FUCKING AMAZING YOU’RE AMAZING I LOVE IT AHHH!!!!!!!!!”
Fiancé: “Wow it looks sexy, you’re sexy, I love you.” *kiss*
Grandma: *insert slapping motion here* (Yes, she literally slapped my tattoo three days after I got it. I have not yet forgiven her.)
Regardless of people’s reactions (or on account of people’s reactions, whatever), you start to feel mad. Why did I get that? You think. You also see your credit card statement of how much it cost and, let’s face it, wake up the next morning feeling like shit because that part of your body is swollen and sore and red and you can’t wear clothes that cover it and you feel like you just hate everything.
Bargaining: If Only I Could Change This…
I saw a great YouTube video about tattoo regret and it really resonated with me, not necessarily because I have any tattoos I regret per se, but because she makes a great point.
You will always wonder:
- What if I got it smaller/bigger?
- What if I got it in color/black and grey?
- What if I went to a different artist/shop?
- What if I just had them change this little part of it?
- What if I had gotten something different?
- What if I didn’t get anything at all???
You bargain. You wonder what could have been changed. You think about changing it in the future. In my experience, the only reason I have wondered these things is because I am still grappling with my new tattoo.
I’m still processing it.
I don’t know what to think about it.
And, it’s not perfect.
Because nothing is ever perfect no matter how much we want it to be. Does my tattoo show imperfection? Of course. But, like me, it’s still beautiful.
Depression: I’ll Never Have Naked Skin Again
At some point, you start to feel depressed that you have this tattoo. You spent a bunch of money, spent hours in pain, and are now spending weeks taking care of it, resentfully avoiding the bathtub and wondering when you’ll ever feel normal again.
And then you realize that you’ll never BE normal again. Because you have this tattoo and you don’t know how to handle it. You know you’ll never see the skin on the other side of that tattoo again. What are you going to do??
You’re going to deal with it and you’re going to be just fine. Your skin is ruined, yes. But now you have this beautiful, imperfect tattoo as part of you, another mark of your journey here that you’ll hopefully grow to love and accept.
Acceptance: I Actually Like It!
Finally, once your tattoo heals a little more and it stops looking like a giant sticker, once your mom has stopped commenting on it and you can stop sleeping in weird positions to avoid rubbing it, you begin to accept and love your tattoo.
It’ll take at least a week or two, but you’ll realize that this tattoo is what you wanted and that it looks beautiful. It’s not perfect, but it’s you.
Side note: if you really hate your new tattoo or it has a major flaw you just can’t get over, you might not ever get to this stage, and instead you can seek out a tattoo artist who is experienced with cover-ups and get it taken care of. Laser removal is also an option, but I’ve heard it’s more costly and painful!
Do You Love Your Tattoo Yet?
It’s taken me a little while, but I love my new tattoo.
I’m grateful to the artist and his patience with my first big piece (thank you @tokatattoos), I’m grateful to have a beautifully designed tattoo, and I’m grateful it didn’t get infected while it was healing.
I’m also grateful that my rabbits didn’t scratch it, although Fiver did bite my leg ridiculously close to it, adorable little bastard. He’s literally never bitten me before and he chooses to bite my leg the day after I get a giant tattoo. I think it’s because the tattoo butter I used had lavender in it? Rabbits love herbs!
Give your tattoo some time, show it some love, and let your body heal. You’ll like your tattoo soon!