So it seems that some of my nearest and dearest lied to me *insert shocked expression and horrified gasp here*. Yes, lied to me. L-I-E-D to me. Straight to my face. Looked me in the eye and told not just a small white lie, a tiny fib… no they told me a whopper. My own family and friends. I’m sure you’re wondering what they could have possibly said that was so terrible, so earth shattering that it has drawn such a deep and emotional response from within me?
They told me, wait for it… “The pain of getting a tattoo is not THAT bad.” Lies, I tell you!
It was only as I sat yesterday, arm extended, palm facing upwards that the thought entered my mind… “A tattoo is made with a needle. A needle that puts ink into my skin. The tattoo artist (and Amy-Lee at Jinx is definitely an artist) is about to colour in my skin with a needle. That’s gotta hurt.”
She gripped my arm and bent her head to begin.
“Wait! How much pain should I expect?”
“It’s really not THAT bad.” What I heard: “It’s blah blah blah bad.”
In the 3 seconds between her comment and the aforementioned needle touching my skin, a lot happened:
I looked at her beautiful, numerous tattoos and compared that to my ZERO tattoos and thought, “Not THAT bad for you I suppose, the professional who already has all that ink up her arm.”
Then I remembered the 1 Compral tablet (for pain) and the 1 Myprodol (anti-inflammatory) that I took beforehand in anticipation and hoped that would take the edge off the “not THAT bad” pain. Please note that I do not have a problem with analgesics, I do however, have a problem with pain. I even take painkillers before getting my eyebrows waxed (Mental note: research horse tranquilisers for when I try number 10 on The List: waxing my legs).
My next thought (yes I do think that fast) was, “Don’t be silly, I’m sure it really is not THAT bad.”
This swiftly gave way to my next thought, “Better brace myself. I don’t want to flinch and end up with a typo or something,” which abruptly turned into, “Ow. Damn. It is THAT bad.”
At this point my fellow inked friends are probably smirking, but let me stop you there mid-smirk… Remember that initial needle prick? Followed by a thousand others, which collectively felt like a clean scalpel slicing into your flesh, just deep enough to feel it? That mild burning sensation that soon gives way to an intense burning sensation?
Not THAT bad. Humph.
I tackled one of those self-same untruthful family members on the phone a little while ago. Our conversation follows:
“Why did you not tell me about the pain?”
“It’s not THAT bad.”
“Uh uh. Don’t give me that! I know now…”
“Well if I had said it was almost as bad as childbirth would you have done it?”
And right there you have the reason for the secrecy around the pain of tattooing… Less people would do it if they knew. This means the only tattoos we would see in general society would be the ones that are accompanied by a story that starts with, “So, I got drunk one night and my friends thought it would be funny to…” (Like Ted in How I Met Your Mother with his butterfly “tramp stamp”)
Instead, we have the intricately beautiful designs of artists such as Amy-Lee on living canvases around us.
My tattoo took only fifteen minutes from start to finish and as Amy Lee finished I said, “Wow. That’s permanent.” Yes. Captain Obvious, that’s me. Which I followed up with an honest, “I love it.”
And I do. I really do. It’s beautiful and exactly what I wanted.
So what is it?
A few years ago, one of the people who have spoken into my life on numerous occasions gave me a scripture that they felt God had given them for me. Since then, I’ve meditated on it many times and wanted to somehow take action on it.
It comes from Song of Songs which speaks of intimacy between a lover and his beloved, a beautiful parallel to the intimacy we are called to in Christ. And in verse 6 of chapter 8, it says:
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm: for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.”
When I looked into it, I found that the seal mentioned refers to a type of stamp seal worn around the neck or on someone’s wrist. It was unique to its owner and wearing a seal on your arm was a public symbol of belonging.
For me, my tattoo of an infinity symbol with the word “love” written in it is God’s seal on my arm. It is a daily reminder that I am not my own but I was bought with a price. The New Living Translation reads, “For love is as strong as death, its jealousy enduring as the grave”. The infinity symbol is representative of its enduring and lasting nature and the word “love” reminds me that I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.
In the day and a half since I got my ink, I have not regretted the decision even once. I really do love it.
I know you’re probably wondering what I’ll say to people who ask me, “Did it hurt?”
“It’s not THAT bad.”
I can say that because in light of the fact that it took fifteen minutes to do something so beautiful that will last a lifetime, it really wasn’t THAT bad.
Amy-Lee works at Jinx Tattoos (trading as Bohemian Tattoos) in Paarl. You can view some of her work on her facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jinx-Tattoos/159717044053302
This means two down, twenty-eight to go…