About six weeks ago a thought occurred to me that I never would have expected. Out of the blue, I decided I wanted a tattoo. I don't mean that I wanted a cool tattoo to make myself feel young and hip and a little dangerous. I mean I wanted a particular tattoo, not as a decoration, but as a declaration.
This was no small decision for me; I have to admit that in the past I'd been guilty of judging people with tattoos, especially women. I thought it was a little on the trashy side, to be honest. So I prayed about it for a few weeks before I mentioned it to anyone. Most of all, I wanted to honor God with my body, his temple. I didn't find anything in the Bible to discourage me; in fact, while I was praying about the decision I ran across a scripture in Isaiah about the Israelites writing on their hands, "The Lord's,"--a label remarkably similar to what I had in mind. How did they write it on their hands, I wondered. Could they have used tattoos?
After a few weeks, I felt confident in my decision, and I began to make preparations. I asked my ex-husband where he and his wife had gotten their tattoos, and then I called my sister, a gifted artist whose usual medium is cakes.
"Emily, I need a favor."
"Brace yourself.... I want you to draw me a tattoo."
"Are you sure about this?"
After I assured her that I'd thought this through and prayed about it, she said she'd be happy to do the drawing. I told her I wanted a cross--rugged, not ornate--with a banner draped over that said "His."
She said she'd get it ready as soon as possible, and she also agreed to keep this to herself.
Her 15-year-old daughter Hillary saw her drawing and asked what she was making. "It's a tattoo design," she said.
"Who's it for?"
"I can't tell you."
When Hillary saw the design, she immediately thought of me. "That reminds me of Aunt Sarah. But it couldn't be Aunt Sarah. She would NEVER get a tattoo."
Emily just smiled.
So when Hillary saw me slink out of their house a few days later carrying the tattoo in its photo envelope, she was utterly shocked. And so was the rest of my family when they saw it yesterday, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This past Thursday I showed up at the tattoo parlor with a canteen of water, Emily's drawing, and my husband, for moral support. Once the artist, Jamie, had set everything up, he invited me to climb up on the table. "You do know this is going to hurt, right?" he asked.
I smiled grimly. "Yes, I know."
"This your first one?"
"It won't be so bad. Imagine getting a bad sunburn and then having someone draw on it with a ballpoint pen."
That's not so bad, I thought.
Bill interjected, "No, it's more like a cat scratch."
"On a sunburn?"
He nodded. I decided I liked Jamie's analogy better.
I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. "Well, I've been through natural childbirth with absolutely no drugs," I said, both to impress him and to reassure myself. "It can't be much worse than that."
"You'll be fine, then," Jamie said. "This should be a piece of cake."
He started by applying a template to my foot, the site I'd chosen because it will give me the option to cover it up if I want to.
As we waited for it to dry, I sat trembling on the table.
|Trying to Be Brave|
"Yep," Jamie said. "I dream about it at night."
It reminded me of buzzing bees, and it felt a lot like a bee sting--a bee sting that lasted 40 minutes! I think it hurt worse than I expected, but I took it like a woman. I didn't cry, or whine. I just gritted my teeth and clutched Bill's hand. Sometimes I almost got used to it, but then he would go over a bone and I would drawn in my breath and clench my teeth. Apparently the top of the foot is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo, definitely not recommended for your first. But as this is my only, I couldn't save it for the second.
|About 5 Minutes In, No Turning Back Now|
Here's a mystery. Even though the pain was relentless, a combination of generalized stinging plus sharp sticks moving randomly over my foot, the time went by fairly quickly. We made small talk and listened to stories from Jamie's 20 years of tattooing. Another mystery was that I could never tell where he was tattooing unless I looked, which I tried not to do. He'd be down near my toes, but I'd swear he was up at the top. Bizarre.
Anyway, I made it through. I had no choice once he got started; no way I was going home with a quarter of a tattoo.
He did a phenomenal job, exactly like Emily's pencil drawing but in beautiful color. "Sweet!" Bill said as he took a picture.
|I chose purple for royalty (because I'm a daughter of the King, of course!).|
Here it is the next morning, after my foot had swollen considerably.