I distinctly remember the first time the needle went into my arm. I am not talking about those pesky mandated vaccinations I was required to endure as a child. No, this time I was a consenting adult, and the needle was not going to be administered by any kind of doctor whatsoever. I never would’ve imagined, at least not a few years beforehand, that I would one day aspire to voluntarily have a needle inserted into my arm, but that is precisely what happened. I never thought I’d take such drastic measures either, like driving for an hour and a half, just to satisfy an urge, but I absolutely did. I was forced to make the trip to the big city because my modest hometown did not offer what I had been desiring.
I can recall a slight hesitation in my steps as I climbed up the stairs to the second floor of the rundown building. I was not reluctant because of what I was about to partake of, but I was somewhat worried about being in an undesirable part of town. I know it’s a pretty lame excuse, but I really hadn’t given the situation I was about to experience as much thought as I should have. I definitely had not taken into account any future consequence I might be confronted with, possibly for the rest of my life, after the often times scorned procedure was completed. I was solely fixated on the yearning I had acquired…and nothing else. As the needle pierced my flesh, for what turned out to be the first of many more times to come, it just felt right. Of course, I have been referring to my initial tattooing experience.
Soon after turning 18, I decided to have my firm body (obviously, things have changed since then) inked with the manliest of manly tattoos: a small rose. Paul Stanley, vocalist and guitarist of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band, KISS, sported one on his arm, so clearly it was a cool thing for me to emulate. I suppose many people take to the needle after being inspired by another person, place, or thing. The rest probably get tattooed after encountering some life altering event they then deem necessary to pay homage to somewhere on their body. For me, a rose tattoo seemed like the best option when considering what the other most popular designs were “back in the day.” The other choices were a ship’s anchor, usually inked on the forearm (like Popeye), and the word, MOM, commonly inscribed on one’s bicep. I was neither a sailor man nor a mama’s boy, so I believe I made the only logical decision I could’ve at that time.
Receiving my first tattoo was initially a bit daunting; however, having my girlfriend (aka lovely wife) there by my side put my mind at least somewhat at ease. Although the tattoo artist’s appearance was unrefined, probably due to the fact he was blanketed in tattoos, he was very personable. Who was I to judge anyway especially since I was just about to get some artwork on my skin as well. There does seem to be a fine line though between artistic expression and the “freak zone.” The tattoo artist did an excellent job of explaining to me in detail what to expect during the tattooing process. More importantly the guy did not bat an eye when revealing to him that I wanted a rose tattoo on my bicep. Maybe my tattooist had mastered the art of “holding his tongue,” or possibly he just “bit his lip” to keep from laughing. Maybe he too was familiar with Paul Stanley’s ink and thought I would look cool, or perhaps he simply was a true professional in his chosen line of work.
I selected a specific style of rose from a couple of stencils the tattoo artist had on hand. He shaved off what little hair I had on my young bicep, applied some rubbing alcohol to the smooth surface, and then placed the chosen pattern onto my arm. Before I could say, “ouch!,” the gentle humming sound of the artist’s tattoo machine had encompassed the small but sanitary room. The tattooer’s tattoo machine used to be called a tattoo gun “back in the day.” That terminology is now frowned upon by not only those who enjoy surrendering to political correctness but by those working in the industry as well. Regardless, I intently watched as the tiny needles rapidly punctured my skin in one small area at a time. Every few seconds the tattooist would wipe away the seeping blood, pooling on my skin’s surface, so he could continue tracing the rose stencil on my bicep.
I’m quite certain the entire tattooing process lasted for only about 30 minutes. Being continuously pricked with needles, for about half that time, wasn’t nearly as painful as some would have you believe. The best way I know how to describe the feeling of being tattooed is also an explicitly gross way. I compare the sensation to someone picking your zits, one after another, for the duration of the procedure. I warned you my description wasn’t going to be pretty. At least I didn’t mention oozing pus. I left the big city completely gratified with the $35 addition to my body. My urge had been fulfilled, and I no longer desired the needle…until the next time.