My Tattoos

9 minute read

For those observant people who check my photo gallery, you may have noticed something: I had my body tattooed, not once, but twice! The people who have seen my tattoos have asked many questions about them. I will just post the most popular ones:

Why get a tattoo? Well, why not get a tattoo? As I am nearly thirty, I like to think that I am old enough to make my own decisions. I had been thinking about a tattoo for several years. It was only after seeing the tattooing process that prompted to me to get one.

Why did I get the ones that I have? The “Emperor ACE” tattoo on my right shoulder signifies my nickname that I received more than 10 years ago for my love of playing cards (and for usually beating everyone else). Even now, a number of my friends call me “ACE.” I originally just wanted the playing card. However, after viewing some samples in the tattoo shop, I decided to add some flames. It makes me feel like I am “on fire.”

The “Silver Jaguar” tattoo is a harder one to explain. The name comes, of course, from the BBS (bulletin board system) that I ran several years ago as well as the present website. I just like the name and the design. I get a similar answer when I ask people how they feel about their favorite character for example; they cannot say why the like the character, they just do.

Am I getting any more tattoos? The future is uncertain, but at this point, I do not have any designs in mind. However, I have thought about getting a tattoo on my left arm to balance out the one on the right. If you look at my “Silver Jaguar” tattoo, you will notice that I favor symmetry.

Will people treat me differently? Getting a tattoo these days is not as taboo as it once was. So far, everyone who has seen my tattoos has said the same thing: “Ouch! Cool!” Of course, I did take special care to make sure that my tattoos were not obvious. As long as I wearing a tee shirt, people will not look at me any differently than they used to (provided that I am also wearing something to cover up the lower half of my body).

Are you going to regret them later? I might. I suppose that something could happen down the road to make me wish that I did not have them. If I do change my mind, I will at least not have to show them to anyone else if I do not want to.

Did it hurt? Nope. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. What, are you crazy? Yes! Of course, it hurt! Rachel likes to describe the feeling as a cross between that pins and needles feeling you get when a limb falls asleep and getting several bee stings.

I suppose that I should back up and start at the beginning. I went to the tattoo shop in July to be with Rachel as she got her latest tattoo. The sound of the tattooing machine was unnerving at first. However, after a few minutes, I got used to it.

After watching the tattooing process, the after care, and the final product, I was ready for my tattoo. I needed to do some research, both on the process and for my design. For me, this meant adding to my playing card collection. After a few days, I was mostly ready with my design. I did not have the exact details down, but I had enough material to give to the tattoo artist so that she could do a sketch. After some time, she gave me the sketch to take home so that I could think about both the design and whether or not I actually wanted a tattoo. The sketch came out better than I had expected. I only wanted to change the corners where they aces were displayed so that it would more closely resemble a playing card.

A few days later, I went back to the shop to get the tattoo. I was nervous. I did not know if I could handle the pain. We had a brief consultation with the artist about how I wanted the aces changed. Then, we got down to business. The first step was filling out a bit of paperwork. Essentially, it said that I am of legal age, that I have no communicable diseases, and that the tattoo may not exactly match the sketch (due to skin colors and the how the skin takes the ink). Next, I had roll up my sleeve. Then, the artist cleansed, shaved, and cleansed again the area where the tattoo was going. It was a bit unusual as I have never had my arm shaved and no one else has ever shaved me (excepting possible during medical surgeries in which I was unconscious).

The next step was the application of the stencil. The artist put down a layer of deodorant. Apparently, the stencil comes out better. Then, she pressed on the main stencil and the two small “ace” stencils. Lastly, she removed the stencils and told me to look in the mirror.

It took me a few moments to decide whether I liked it or not. During the original consultation, there had been some confusion as to the spelling of “emperor.” She had spelled it so fast that my brain did not register it. Therefore, I had repeated the spelling. I made sure that the spelling on my arm was good and sat back down. So far, everything had been easy.

Now, the painful part began. The artist told me that she was going to do a couple of short strokes just so that I could get the feel of it. At first, it did not hurt at all. Then it started to hurt increasingly. It was just on the edge between tolerable and unbearable. Throughout the process, the pain would come and go. Sometimes, it would feel like someone stuck a needle in my skin and that they were moving it all around, almost like I was being carved up from the inside. After awhile, the body’s pain blockers took over. Then, it did not hurt as much. At one point, boredom started to kick in and I had wished that I had brought something with me to read.

After she did the outline, she started adding the other colors. When she was done, she cleaned me up, applied some ointment, and told me to look in the mirror. The tattoo looked better than expected. However, I still spent a few moments checking the spelling. She applied a bandage, gave me care instructions, and sent me on my way. The entire process took about forty-five minutes. It still hurt for a while; it felt like a bruise covered by sunburn.

The after care was not too bad: For the first few days, I had to wash the area with antibacterial soap between three and five times a day. I had to be careful not to scrub too hard. Afterwards, I had to dry the area carefully and apply the ointment. The next several days, I have to put lotion on it (to keep it moisturized). Of course, each time I did my routine I checked the spelling. I really have no idea what was my line of thinking. I do not think that a tattoo has ever spontaneously changed its spelling.

Overall, the tattooing process was not as painful as I thought. Why not get another tattoo? A few weeks later that is just what I did. The consultation process took a bit longer. Essentially, I handed some artwork to the artist and said which things I liked and did not like.

When I went back to the shop for my appointment, we took about 30 minutes discussing the design. Originally, the words were between the two jaguars and were mirrored as well. However, I think that the final design looks better.

We did the same routine of filling out forms, cleaning, shaving, and applying the stencil. Unfortunately, I was stuck when she told me to look in the mirror. Um, I cannot see my back with just one mirror. She had a hand mirror ready. But, that was not working for me. Apparently, while I have enough hand-eye coordination to operate a keyboard, mouse, and phone at the same time, I could not handle two mirrors. Fortunately, the tattoo artist and Rachel were able to set me straight without much of a snicker.

After viewing the stencil (and yes, checking the spelling), I sat back down in the chair. The first few strokes were not too bad. Then, it got worse. The artist told me she was going to draw some of the “fun” lines. These “fun” lines were the long strokes went over my spine. They hurt a lot more than the previous tattoo. However, in about forty-five minutes, she told me to get up and look in the mirror.

As I was walking towards the mirror, the artist said that she still had to do the second jaguar. I was not done yet? Ugh. The first jaguar and the lettering looked good. I sat back down to have the stencil reapplied for the second jaguar (as it has been smeared) and to start the tattooing again. Forty-five minutes later and she completed the tattoo. This tattoo was a lot more painful than the last one. Nevertheless, that is all the pain I will have to experience for the time being. When both tattoos heal, I will likely go back to have them touched up. The artist said that some of the colors in the jaguar might be too light. She said that it was better to be too light than to be too dark. Therefore, in a couple of months, I will go back to finish.

The only thing that I did not fully consider with my silver jaguar tattoo was the aftercare. I am only easily able to reach the upper jaguar and most of the lettering. Ugh. Rachel can help, but only when she is not working. Since I had to be able to apply the ointment on my own, I had to come up with a solution. My solution was a rubber spatula. It is a bit awkward (especially since I have to use two mirrors), but it does get the job done.

Tagline for today: “A cop stopped me for speeding. He said, ‘Why were you going so fast?’ I said, ‘See this thing my foot is on? It’s called an accelerator. When you push down on it, it sends more gas to the engine. The whole car just takes right off. And see this thing [mimes steering wheel]? This steers it.’” - Steven Wright