I wrote the first half of this article while sitting in a waiting room, just before getting my first ever tattoo.
Damn, this is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I can’t believe I’m doing something this stupid. I’m about to get my first tattoo.
Rationally, I know this isn’t a stupid decision. I’ve wanted a tattoo for at least 2 years, maybe longer. I’ve researched hundreds of tattoo studios and artists, thought for many many many many months about what design I want. I came up with something meaningful to me (a bowling pin, something which has featured heavily in my photography in the past. Ive talked it over with mates, I’ve talked to other people who have tattoos. By all accounts I’m ready.
But I’m fucking terrified. I have more anxiety than the first time I ever hit on a girl. My mind is racing, and as I listen to the buzz of the needle in the other room, I’m panicking with thoughts like “this isn’t me” “I’m too old for this” “I’m going to regret this” “This is permanent disfigurement”.
But that terrifying fear is exactly what I need to do this. My mate Dan and I have this saying, “If something terrifies you, then you probably need to do it.” We don’t run away from fear; we run towards it.
The real reason I’m scared is I know this is one of the last things tying me to my old life. The old Andy never would have gotten a tattoo. The old Andy was safe and conservative and thought tattoos were for “lower class people”.
Yeah, the old Andy was a total pussy. But the mind resists change, and I’m terrified that last step is the nail in the coffin. It really does prove that I’ve completely and utterly changed and I can never go back. Once this tatt is on my arm, I can’t erase it. And I can’t erase all the changes I’ve made. I just texted my mate, “This is the last part of killing the old me.”
Let’s do this shit.
The rest of this article is written a week after the tattoo.
Damn, what a little bitch I was. Isn’t it nuts how irrational some of our fears are? We really don’t like change, do we. God damn I’m glad I “forced” myself to just nut up and get this. Now that I’ve gotten my first tattoo, it’s opened the door to get more & become “a guy with tatts”.
What was the process like?
Pretty easy, apart from the whole “Holy shit I’m getting a permanent mark on my body and I’m terrified I’ll regret it” bit.
- I first researched the hell out of tatt designs, brainstormed for 12+ months about what I’d like, etc. (Yeah, I took a really long time to make sure I was happy with a design). Settled on the idea of getting a bowling pin (explanation below).
- Next I googled the hell out of tattoo artists within 100km of me (I was willing to travel if I really liked an out-of-town artist). I have a folder with hundreds of artists I liked and their designs. Finally settled on Bugsy from Third Eye Tattoo in Australia. He specialises in black tattoos and I love his shading style.
- Went in for a consultation, showed him pictures of bowling pins and explained I wanted it on my shoulder, I wanted it black, I wanted it with his cool shading style, and possibly something “dark” or “ominous” like his other skull tattoos.
- A week later he showed me the design – but with a twist. He had one design with just a plain bowling pin, and another with the skull inside it. He said “You kept telling me how much you liked my skull tatts, so I figured you probably wanted a skull to go with your bowling pin.” Legend. (If you can find a tattooer who cares about giving you the best tatt they can, all the better).
- 45 minutes of sitting in a chair talking to him (he’s a super cool guy), with barely any pain, and it was all done.
- “Aftercare” was easy – just had to avoid the sun, avoid swimming for 2 weeks, gently wash it in the shower and apply antiseptic cream a few times a day for 2 weeks. It didn’t hurt, didn’t really itch, only flaked a tiny bit for 2 days.
Why a bowling pin?
Check out a bunch of photos I’ve done in the past:
[flickr_tags user_id="64746070@N07" tags="bowling" max_num_photos="100"]
Notice a theme? Bowling pins 😉
The bowling pin is very meaningful to me – it reminds me of a photography project I did where I took a photo every single day for 365 days. The bowling pin was a prop in the first day’s photo, and it became a recurring prop throughout the entire project.
The project itself was the first real disciplined thing I ever did. I was diligent in creating a photo every single day, and didn’t miss a single day – even on a particular day I had food poisoning. That daily discipline gave me the confidence to be just as disciplined with my weight loss journey, and then do an “Approach Anxiety” program to fix my fear of girls, then join the gym, and a whole lot more. My photography project was THE catalyst for my self-improvement journey, and a bowling pin represents all of that for me.
I still have my bowling pin sitting in my cupboard at home. I’ll probably always keep it.
My next tattoo will be a duck – which reminds me of my Approach Anxiety journey (I’ll write an article on that at a future date).
Did it hurt?
It was a really strange feeling. At some points it felt like my skin was being sliced open, but not in a super painful way. At other points it felt like a whole bunch of mosquitoes constantly biting me. It was more “annoying” than painful, and my brain kept telling me to swat the needle away.
That said, I was only in the chair for 45 minutes. Larger tatts obviously take longer, and I could see the pain becoming uncomfortable after 4 or 5 hours straight.
Interestingly, the artist said a bunch of girls come in to get tattoos because they love the pain. I’ve had a few girls say this to me themselves (bare in mind these were girls who were into BDSM/rough play/pain).
Other interesting things: The needle is dipped into the ink every few minutes throughout the whole process. For some reason I’d always assumed the needles were hooked up to tubes of ink and “squirted” them into your skin.
Tattoos are VERY black/saturated when you first get them, and then fade over the next week or two. For the first few days, it didn’t look like a tattoo – it looked like someone had drawn on my skin with a Sharpie marker.
It’s amazing how quickly you get used to your tattoo. The first day or two, it looked “weird” – like it didn’t belong on my arm. Like a sticker someone had put there. It’s only been a week, and it now already looks like a part of my body.
Girls seem to LOVE the fact I have a tattoo. I’ve only seen 3 girls since getting it, but all 3 loved the idea of me having it. Like by having a tattoo(s), you become “a guy with tattoos” and you’re a turnon for some girls. To be fair, I’m turned on by girls with tatts too.
Got any questions about getting a tatt? Drop them down below and I’ll answer.