Wisdom Through Humor
Marked For Life

by Rachel A. Schofield

With only a quinquennium remaining before my 30th birthday, I decided to get 'inked'. After all, one must do such things while they still have the fervor of youth fueling them. What was my motivation to permanently embed ink under the first 3 layers of my dermis? Ah, call it a rash and impetuous desire to leave an indelible mark on this lifetime. OK, on my body.

Here are some questions (and thankfully, answers) for the neophytes out there, who may be interested in acquiring some permanent body art.

What was your experience like?

The tattoo artist I solicited came on a recommendation from a friend. F.Y.I, this is a wise move. Not only do you get to ask your friend a gazillion questions regarding the shop's setup and conduct, but you get to see the artist's work on a real live body.

My sister and I went with said friend on the day of her tattoo touch-up. With a stomach full of butterflies and a brain riddled with reluctance, I made an appointment for the next day.

I arrived the day of my appointment, butterflies still residing in my stomach, but the reluctance had disappeared. I knew I wanted to do this, I was just afraid of the 'experience'.

Note: Experience is a euphemism for pain.

I presented the artist with the design of my choice. We discussed size, placement and cost. Her manner was (ostensibly) relaxing, but nothing would remove my trepidation until I felt the first sting of the gun.

She escorted me to a private room, where I watched her prepare her station: opening single-use needles, dispensing ink into disposable containers, and assembling the tattoo gun. Now it was time to 'prepare' me. I exposed the area to be tattooed (the small of my back), and she proceeded to wipe it down with alcohol (or the like), remove any traces of body hair, and then transfer the image on to my skin. I then laid face down on a dentist-like chair, and prepared myself for the imminent discomfort. I squeezed my eyes shut.


She pressed the needles into my flesh. Nonchalantly, she asked, "How are you doing?" With much relief in my voice, I asked, "Is that it?" She said, "That's as bad as it gets." Phew, I could handle this. Granted, in spots the pain level was intensified. But all in all, it was a very bearable experience.

Will it hurt?

I don't know. Does the thought of a needle gun being impaled beneath your dermis, and then dragged through the layers of your flesh sound uncomfortable? Yes, it hurts, but it's not unbearable. I find we'll endure just about any amount of hardship when we want something. Besides, a few moments of discomfort are worth the trade off -- a life long piece of body art.

Will I get AIDS?

Anytime the skin is broken, it's susceptible to the AIDS virus. It's important your tattoo artist sterilizes his/her equipment in an autoclave and that they only use single-use needles and disposable ink containers. And just like a health care worker dealing with blood, they should wear latex or vinyl gloves at all times.

How long does it take to heal?

Healing is a very individual experience and can be influenced by many external factors. In general, the tattoo should be almost entirely healed at the end of a two-week period. Follow your tattoo artist's instructions and all should go well. In my personal experience, the skin was inflamed and scabby for the first week and in the second week, the tattoo was peeling and flaking. Not exactly beautiful imagery, but hey, it happens.

What if I don't like it?

Last I checked they don't wash off. There are just some things even Shout won't get out. There are really only two options to deal with an unwanted tattoo:

a) Get a cover-up tattoo,
b) Laser tattoo removal

Prudence is paramount when contemplating the position and design of your tattoo. Experiment with temporary and henna tattoos before getting marked for life.

"Marked for Life" by Rachel A. Schofield originally appeared in Jagged: a sharp online magazine. Visit Jagged at


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