My First Tattoo: The Ins and Outs

Are you one of those people that has always admired tattoos, but was never sure if getting one was the right thing for you? Lisa Brennan is on hand to share her first tattooing experience.

To mark the beginning of 2016, I made a decision to do something permanent, something unusual and something that I had been strongly considering for six years. It was a choice that would significantly alter my body image and redefine the physical meaning of “me”, for me. I lost my tattoo virginity.

I had always wanted a tattoo, but never really knew what to get. I toyed with different ideas, but nothing had a strong enough meaning to justify injecting it into my sensitive skin. Eventually, I chose “Lumos”, a word that has a deep significance to my psyche. Lumos is related to the Latin root lumen-, meaning light, which in turn comes from the Latin word lux, which means light. It is one of Harry Potter’s first spells in the collection entitled “Harry Potter”. However, for me, it has a greater meaning. I didn’t get this modification because I like the franchise and Rowling’s famous characters.

I went under the gun due to the concept of light. Albus Dumbledore describes depression and low moods as a choice, by telling the students that ‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’ This inspired me to choose light, to choose happiness and to choose to make the best of all situations, even some of my darker ones. Since “Lumos” is the spell for light, the students can summon light by casting that spell. This makes my tattoo a rather quirky metaphor.

Getting the tattoo itself is the process which lots of people have anxiety about, and I have to admit that I was genuinely terrified. Getting onto the table, my legs turned to jelly and I lay down just before they decided to give way. Even my artist laughed, which made me laugh, and actually put me at ease. I had looked up the pain of a rib tattoo online, watched YouTube videos and read reviews. A lot of people said that it was the most painful body part to receive ink, but it didn’t stop me, this is what I really wanted. My tattoo artist said that he would do a small line, so I could get an understanding for the dreaded feeling. I’m not going to deceive you all and say it didn’t hurt, it did. It is multiple needles piercing the skin each and every second, and all of my words in my vocabulary cannot sugar coat that. However, it happened so quickly that it felt like one continuous cat scratch. It was nothing that I couldn’t stand, and was over pretty quickly. I know it is said that pain is subjective, but if you are a person who really wants a tattoo, don’t let it stop you. It’s nothing dreadful.

Healing a tattoo is much easier than a piercing. For the first night, a soap and warm water wash is recommended, followed by a cling film covering. For another 10 days, three coatings of Bepanthen is recommended (nappy rash cream), with no cling film. It should be healed then, or well on its way.

I was initially alarmed by the redness and darkness of my tattoo. It’s not black, it’s white and baby pink ink to signify light over darkness, bliss over despair. However, for the first few hours it appeared a very dark red and I panicked to no end. This turned out to be skin irritation, and by bedtime that night, it was a paler pink and looked much nicer and more feminine.

Since getting this tattoo, I look in the mirror and see something that I like. This never really happened to me before, and it is quite an unusual sensation to get changed in the morning and to smile when I catch a glimpse of my ink. I have always suffered with poor body image, feeling that my body isn’t nice and detesting my stretch marks. However, this addition has certainly allowed me to embrace me, and has worked in reminding me to see the good sides of my body. And even in days that I feel desperately fat, or that my body is hideous, I will look at my tattoo and see something nice, and that something nice is part of me. This has really helped in my journey to positive body image, and I am incredibly grateful for that.

So in a nutshell, my advice to any tattoo virgin is to go for it! Pick something significant, the pain will subside and the cleaning isn’t a huge ask of anyone. It’s very difficult to regret something meaningful, so the more meaning, the better. And enjoy the new journey of art and discovery!

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