leah's stupid life

Tattoo or not tattoo, that is the question.

So, I feel like you guys and I have known each other long enough now for me to ask you some advice. (There are actually a crazy amount of people reading my bookish ramblings and looking at my geeky t shirts these days and that fact makes my heart go weee, like super weee, and I kinda feel like I love you all a little bit.) Here’s the thing, I sort of a little bit maybe am considering getting a tattoo. But I’m also sort of a little bit maybe talking myself out of getting one.

So, I’m being sensible and taking my time, because I don’t want to go and get one and then be like… Oh. I don’t really fancy this any more, but at the same time, I don’t want to spend so long thinking about it and not actually doing it that I get to fifty and then am like, well. I already have grandchildren and they’re already inked up. No point in me doing it now. So, because I am hugely indecisive, I am turning to you, my trusted friends to help me out with this. I’m assuming that at least one of you at least knows someone who has a tattoo or two and can help me decide whether or not this is a good idea.
See, both my parents and my brother are inked, many of my good friends are, I know it isn’t like a huge deal or anything (one of my friends has more tattoos than she does digits in her age, so it’s definitely not something that’s frowned upon in my corner of the world), but I don’t think any of them have really told me the truth in regards to the pain.
I have an irrational fear of pain. And needles. And dentists. And clowns.
Thankfully, unless I entire some kind of circus themed tattoo shop or come across a moonlighting dentist, I’m only going to have to face two of these fears if I go ahead and do this. The pain is the thing that’s really holding me back. So really, I just need someone to tell me on a scale of say, one to OH DEAR GOD I’M DYING just how much does it really hurt?
My mum (lower back) has a ridiculously high pain threshold, she tells me it just felt uncomfortable. My dad (shin and forearm) has a really low pain threshold but maintains (because he’s a man) that it didn’t hurt at all in the slightest. My friend (shin) told me that it felt like sun burn. Another friend (heels and hip) told me that it felt like being scratched by a cat over and over again. Now sunburn and cat scratches I can deal with, but another friend (back) told me it was the worst thing that had ever happened to him and he wanted to pass out. Is he the only one that’s telling me the truth? Because honestly, I don’t think I want one badly enough to warrant extreme pain for like an hour.
Now I know everyone has different levels of pain and that nerve endings are at different points in your body, but if someone could just honestly give me the low down, I’d be really grateful. I’ve been doing a lot of research into this – way more than when I decided what university course to take – so actually making a decision shouldn’t be too far away. I just want to be completely and utterly informed before I go in.

I’ve researched which artists in my area are the most recommended, I’ve researched after care, I have pretty much decided what I want it to be and where, but I’m still fine tuning a few things… All of this is down, but I’m still not one hundred percent…I think this might work better in list form. I like lists. Lists are good.  So, reasons why I’m thinking a tattoo is not a good idea:

  • The pain.
    We’ve sort of been over this. But yeah, I really, really, really am proper scared of needles and pain. And painful needles.
  • The forever aspect.
    So, I’m told that laser removal surgery hurts more than actually getting a tattoo in the first place, so that’s something I definitely want no part of. But, guys, I have a problem with commitment, it’s why I’m terminally single, I can’t commit to another person any more than I can chose a favourite cereal, so the idea of having something permanently on my body (the underside of my arm specifically) is blowing my mind a bit. Like, am I still going to want something there in five minutes let alone in five years? I’m not fussed about being eighty and having a design on my arm that has aged with me, seriously, at the moment, I’ll probably be the only person in the care home that doesn’t have a tattoo and really, if I spend my life not doing things in case I regret them when I’m older, then I would never do anything. So, I’m not worried about it growing old with me, more the fact that it will be there until my skin physically erodes from my bones and that’s a really long time to stay with something. So, I kind of have to be absolutely one hundred precent sure that whatever I pick is something that I am going to love forever.
  • Employers.
    I’m lucky, my current employers are pretty awesome and don’t care that I have blue hair, so they really aren’t going to bat an eye lid about me turning up with a tattoo, but I might not be so lucky in the future. As much as I love my job, I don’t know if I want to be there forever (see above, I am a proper commitmentphobe – I need another commitmentphobe to date so I never have any pressure) and if I move onto somewhere else, how are they going to feel about it?
  • I’m anaemic.
    My iron levels are constantly low and I don’t know if having a tattoo is even safe. I don’t really want to put myself in a situation where I am going to get ill just because I sort of maybe want a picture on my arm. Does anyone have any experience or advice for this?
  • I want to make sure that I’m doing it for the right reasons.
  • The pain.
    Did I mention I’m not good with pain?


But then, there is this list:

  • It would be a way to express myself and would serve as a reminder of certain things that are quite important to me, even if they don’t mean anything to anyone else. And if I was ever in a situation where I didn’t have physical reminders any more, unless something quite extreme happens to me, I’m not going to lose my arm.
  • I don’t want to regret not doing it. Like I said, if I keep umming and ahhing for the next God knows how many years, will it even be worth it? Will I be sat in a care home thinking, man, I wish I had gotten that tattoo so I could catch sight of it in the mirror and smile about how good life was.
  • Not trying things and not taking risks isn’t living, it’s existing and I want to live.
  • My parents have them. My parents cannot be more rebellious than me, that’s not how it works.

Ok, you get the general idea.
Basically I am stupidly indecisive and a little nervous, if any of you have tattoo stories, horror stories, nice experiences, thoughts, opinions, anything, I want to know about it, I want to be as informed as possible when I finally make a decision on this and I can’t do that on my own.

Thanks guys!
(For potential advice, following me in general and for being you!)



16 thoughts on “Tattoo or not tattoo, that is the question.”

  1. Oooooh, this is exciting stuff!! Unfortunately, I don’t have a tattoo so I am utterly useless as an information fountain. I love the idea of having a tattoo, last year I got super taken with the idea and started thinking about it seriously (like you I was also worried about the pain, the forever factor and the employment barrier) but guess what, I STILL DON’T HAVE ONE. I’m so indecisive it’s ridiculous. I kind of had an idea of what I wanted, and thought I could get it done on my foot so that it would be easy to cover up (it was more of a personal message for me anyway) but I decided that I would wait at least a year before actually getting it. If I still like the idea of it after a year, I thought, then maybe it’s worth getting. Thus far, I still like the idea of my tattoo, but there are also other ones I’ve seen that I love, which them makes me want to change my mind!! Sigh. (Ohh, and my parents are totally against tattoos, which totally makes me want to get one more.)

    Have you tried getting a friend to draw it on how you want it with pen? Or getting a henna version? Or you could give this a go http://www.wikihow.com/Create-Your-Own-Temporary-Tattoo (don’t know if it works though).That way you could live with it for a while and see if you like it, that may help you decide. Otherwise I hypocritically say GO FOR IT.

    Phew, that was a long comment.

    1. Hahaha!! The indecisiveness is ridiculous, I think waiting for a year is a good idea, I might see if I still like the idea come Christmas and if so, then I can get on with it! I put temporary ones one all the time, just to see how I feel about it. I can see me still considering it in five years!

  2. I don’t have a tattoo, but I do know that the underside of the top of your arm is incredibly painful. Is it your upper or lower arm you want tattooed? Because if it’s the upper, I would seriously reconsider the positioning. I used to know someone who had 3 bands round his upper arms, but none of them went all the way round because he just couldn’t take the pain on the underside. I think its a lot more tolerable on the forearm though.

    PS I don’t think a fear of pain is irrational, I think its entirely rational!
    PPS I have a fear of clowns too – super creepy.

    1. Really?! Awww no, I thought it would be ok there because it’s fleshier! It was the upper arm, I thought it would be a good place as I could always cover it up if need be! Maybe I’ll rethink that, thanks for the advise!
      (Also, Clowns. Man. I hate clowns. I had to go and take photos at a fun day where there were clowns and I was shaking so hard that I couldn’t actually do it. Awful.)

  3. Hi! I have a tattoo, it’s on my hip and although it was (yarg!) 16 years ago I don’t remember it being painful, just scratchy, and I definitely wanted to get another just couldn’t decide what to get. I am terrible with pain and needles and get very faint when I have blood taken so if I can do it I’m sure you can! My advice would be to find a really good tattooist, try someone who has done a mate of yours, and have a good chat with them about what to get and where to get it. Getting a tattoo is a great way of marking a particular point in your life – I got mine when I first started uni with a really good friend and every time I see it it reminds me of that time and how I felt and who I was. If you are worried about work just get it somewhere you can cover with clothes but most workplaces are cool about them nowadays, they are pretty common. Good luck and let us know what you decide!

    1. Thank you! It seems the common consensus is that it doesn’t hurt as much as we’re lead to believe!
      I think it would be a great way to open and close chapters of my life, but I do have a few reservations, there are a number of artists around and I think I’ve picked one who did my brother and some of my friends, they also offer bamboo method as well as machines, which I’m told is less painful. More to think on!

  4. I know what you are feeling; it took me a long time to make the final decision and get my tattoo a bit over two years ago. I have quite a high pain tolerance, and the hand-size tattoo I got on my left shoulder didn’t hurt at all, it just felt scratchy like various have mentioned before (although they say that the shoulder is a place tattoos never hurt as much). I got the tattoo mostly for myself, and I got it in a place I can decide to show it or not. It’s a reminder of who I was at the time I got the tattoo and who I want to be right now and in the future… (I got an 88 butterfly with the words Carpe Diem; representing freedom, travel and not being afraid to explore the world during the journey finding yourself.)

    The best advice I can give you is to make sure you are completely convinced you want to have the tattoo before you get one. If you have doubts concerning pain, design or your thoughts about the tattoo in the future; don’t do it as yet. Tattoos are forever, and is a painful mistake if things don’t turn out as you want to. Also, make sure to check the artist and work space, and bring a friend as support. (My friend was actually more scared than I was in the end 😉 )

    1. Your tattoo sounds amazing!
      Thank you for the advice! I think, based on the comments I’ve had that waiting is probably for the best, I think I might wait until Christmas and see how I feel about it then. I didn’t want to be stuck with something that I’ve changed my mind about! You guys are all so helpful, thank you!

      1. Thanks! Waiting is probably the best yeah, and will convince you of the best thing to do… I had my doubts too at the beginning, but I just waited until I was sure about my decision. No regrets whatsoever, I love my tattoo! 😀

  5. Right – Leah Smith!

    With the best possible respect to those commenting above, don’t wait. DO IT.

    I’ve known you years, and if you keep umming and ahhhhing about it, you will never do it!

    A tattoo is NOT permanent, there are loads of machines that will remove tattoos these days… and you can even buy makeup that will cover it if you’re ever in the situation where you need to hide them (actors use this method all the time).

    It hurts, yes. But the pain is not as painful as you think it will be, everyone keeps saying my thoughts- it’s like a hot scratch, and unless you go in and ask for a full sleeve or massive one, you’re going to be sat there an hour – tops!

    I FULL HEARTEDLY suggest that when I next come home, we road trip to Bournemouth and make an appointment with the guy who did my bows. He’s won awards, is an amazing artist – and I’ll get another one with you. What say you mon petite pois? x

    1. Dude…. I don’t know! Which is my problem! I kinda want to be sure, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it, techniques and that kind of thing, so please enlighten me!

  6. I felt the same way when I was wanting my first tattoo. I took a couple of weeks to really decide what I wanted and then I got it done. I went to the shop a couple of days before just to make sure I didn’t need an appointment and I was able to get a price estimate and time estimate as well. I absolutely HATE needles and when he said only 30 minutes I was okay with that. I had a friend go with me the day of and almost backed out when he turned the gun on but as soon as he started I felt silly for being so scared. The feeling for myself was more discomfort than actual pain. It just felt really hot. I got mine on my back too, so the pain level was pretty low. It ended up taking 2 and a half hours, but I did take about a 5 minute break to relax, and it’s a quote (5 lines). I have gotten a second one since then and am waiting to get my third. When people say they are addicting, it’s so true. You’ll probably be ready for second within a year. I would take a couple weeks to make sure you re positive that is what you want and then go for it. Also you can look online to see the higher and lower pain areas. (My industrial ear piercing actually hurt a lot worse than either tattoo.)

  7. I have 3 tattoos, my foot, left side, and the upper middle of my back. I got my foot first because I heard it hurt a lot and I figured if I could handle it there anywhere else would be easy. My pain tolerance is mid. I can handle it if I have to, but if I don’t have to be in pain I’d rather not be, haha. Parts of the foot was pretty painful and I was ready to call it quits, but by the time I hit that point the tattoo was almost done so I stuck it out. My second was my back and it was right on the spine. There was pain in this one too, but only because it took 4 hours. It’s not large, but the tattoo artist I had was amazing and went really into the detail on the colors, even after 8 years it still looks amazing. My side was just more of an annoyance, it’s large but it’s only black and white, it took about 4 hours as well, but while there was a prickly sort of pain I was mostly just over laying on my side for that long. It really just depends on the size, the detail and the location. Areas where it’s mostly fleshy and not a lot of bones or nerves will hurt less, though if your going to get something large with a lot of detail there will be more pain than something small with not a lot of detail. The after pain can be helped with lotion or the stuff made specifically for tattoos, I just used Aquafour lotion. It feels like putting aloe on a sunburn haha. If you want one and your sure of what your getting I say go for it. You are allowed to take a break if you need too, but no if you take a break there’s a chance when you come back the skin rests as well and it might hurt more after.

  8. I did my own tattoos at a demolition party in Auckland years ago, i was so drunk i never felt a thing, they are on my left hand and wrist, a painting or story or something else created would remind me of the time just as good, but follow your greatest excitement until it no longer exites then do something else 🙂 tattoos can look good or bad, but only you can feel it 🙂 become your own boss, there is no harsher judge >:)

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