For being only twenty years old (twenty-one in April!) I have my fair share of tattoos. Three big pieces and three smaller ones to be exact. So I thought it only made sense to share a little bit of what I've learned about this big part of my life.
I never knew I wanted tattoos until I was seventeen. I didn't know anything about them actually since growing up in a small, pretty conservative town, I never really saw much of them. I'm not even sure what the reason was that I initially became interested in tattoos, no one in my family has any, but the moment I did I needed to have one right then in there. That was the first mistake I made. I went out one night around 9pm with my then boyfriend and my older sister's id, and we drove around until we found an open tattoo shop. I had done zero research on anything, and didn't know the first thing about tattoos, I just knew I wanted one. I went into the random shop downtown and told the man I wanted a quarter-sized tattoo of a sacred heart on my wrist. Don't ask me why I wanted that because I really don't know. I wasn't even really religious. I guess I just thought it'd look cool. He tattooed it on me and I was too excited to be "tattooed" to even notice the shaky lines or that it was completely tilted. Hiding it from my parents was easier than I'd thought, too. So it was all good. So good, that a couple months later I went back and got another little tattoo. The word lovely on the side of my foot. Again, didn't really think about it, just thought it'd look cool.
I think it was by the time I was eighteen and had moved into a bigger city for a while that I realized I wanted to be actually tattooed and not just have a couple dinky pieces on me. I got really nervous and thought I had messed up for good by starting out the way I did. So finally I did research on artists and tattoo styles, and decided what I actually wanted and not what would simply look cool. When I was nineteen I decided I was ready to get my first big tattoo, and got it done in a spot that wouldn't show in everything like my other two. I ended up loving it and was so glad I had spent a while thinking about it. I finally covered up the funny heart on my wrist with a real and beautiful piece that I love, and plan on covering up my foot one very soon!
So six tattoos later I have learned a lot about the whole thing, and put together a list of tips for anyone who is planning on getting tattooed, so hopefully you don't make the same mistakes I did!
- DO YOUR RESEARCH! All artists are not created equal. Take the time to find someone who knows what they're doing, and who also tattoos in a style you like. Look at portfolios and talk to a few different artists about what you want until you find someone who can fit your needs. Try not to get caught up in just being excited, take your time it'll be worth it.
- Don't get tattooed just to be cool or because you think everyone else is doing it. Tattoos are a life-long commitment, you really don't want to be stuck with something you got just because a friend got. Also, avoid getting a trendy piece. Don't completely copy something you find on Pinterest or Tumblr, make sure it's something you really love and not something that you just think is cool right now.
- Don't decide who you get tattooed by based on price. If the tattoo is cheap, it will look cheap. It's so worth it to spend a little more for a good quality tattoo. And don't ever let a friend with a tattoo machine tattoo you, even if it's free, it's a bad idea!
- Decide if you are really really ready for the commitment. Being tattooed comes with a lot of shit that can be a deal breaker for some people. For one, your older family members probably won't be a huge fan of them, and they probably won't keep their opinions to themselves. So every holiday and family dinner, get ready for lectures and eye rolls. Also, complete strangers won't be afraid to speak their mind either. They'll ask to see them, ask if they hurt, ask the meaning behind it, ask what you'll do when you're eighty years old, ask EVERYTHING. It does get old, trust me. I have gotten my feelings pretty hurt before when strangers and even family members have told me they look bad and I'll regret them. There are quite a few people out there that feel obligated to share their opinions on other peoples' lifestyle choices, even if they're offensive and rude, and it can get hurtful. Another big one is jobs. Work places have become more lenient about tattoos, but unfortunately there are still some out there that will make you cover your tattoos. Will you want to mess with wearing long sleeves every single day, even when it's really hot out?
- My final piece of advice if you're going to go for it would be to start in a more hidden spot. Get tattooed in a place that won't be shown very easily. It will give you a good idea of if you like being tattooed. When I got my first big one high up on the side of my thigh, I was always wishing it showed more and didn't want it hidden because skirts and shorts covered 90% of it. So that made me feel more comfortable about getting tattooed in more visible places.
I've been tattooed for a few years now and am positive I want a lot more. I absolutely love having beautiful, unique artwork on my skin that I get to wear forever. Being tattooed does have it's disadvantages for sure, but for me, and a lot of people, it's more than worth it. And don't worry, this generation is one full of tattooed people, so you won't be the only colorful eighty year old out there :)