First Blood 212: Bring on the Pain

Published: 28 May, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 212, May, 2012

Continuing our series of short articles for those new to the tattoo scene.

Bring on the Pain

The question you will doubtless get asked most after your first tattoo, is this: “Did it hurt?” You may well be asking yourself the same thing before you go in for your first one.

The big and clever answer of course, is “no”. And the truth is not so far removed from that either really. It doesn’t hurt in the big scheme of things. It might smart a bit every now and again, but it’s not even on the scale of say, toothache, or having a baby (apparently), and it’s certainly nowhere near having a part of your body removed with no anaesthetic. What it can be though, is mighty uncomfortable after a few hours and for some people, it probably does hurt – but once you’ve got started, you’re hardly likely to be asking to be left alone or running out the door before its finished. So allow me to let you in on a few secrets to make it a bit easier on yourself regardless of how rock hard you are on the inside…

It’s always a good idea to make sure you eat a few hours beforehand to get some sustenance inside of you. If you’re really worried but still determined, you can go down the road of one of the great numbing creams that are on the market – we’ve discussed and tested them out in the mag before with some good results. Nobody will think bad of you if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

There is also a place you can go called ‘the zone’. This is the best place in the world while being tattooed. The zone is basically surrendering yourself totally to what’s happening to your body. It’s a part of the deal you’re making with the tattooist – an unbreakable bond. And if you play it right and continue getting tattooed, it becomes a place you can get to very quickly that you will begin to love.

How do you get there? Well… sadly, I don’t have a road map. It’s one of those journeys you’re going to have to take on your own – but it is there and you can find it pretty damn quickly too. You’ll see.

It’s worth wrapping up here by saying that there are genuinely some parts of the body that really do hurt more than others though. The stomach is a legendary pain zone, and anywhere that there’s no muscle between skin and bone is pretty high on the list as well. I am of course assuming that by the time you get around to getting something like your eyelids tattooed, you’ve spent more than a few hours in the chair already and don’t need to hear anything from me.

Public Skin

Public skin – no, not pubic skin as I saw it written in another tattoo mag one day – is living your life with your hands, neck, head (which of course includes the face for most people) tattoos on full display. These are hard/impossible to cover places – unless you happen to like hanging out in a bee-keepers outfit or something.

Personally, I don’t live with public skin. Not for any particular reason other than I don’t want any. In years gone by, public skin always meant “I am a tattoo artist”, and that was the end of the story. I kind of liked it that way. That was back in the dark ages though when going into a studio still felt like you were doing something secretive and your first time was a bigger deal than getting laid. Since I’m not in Motley Crue or a tattoo artist, I’m quite happy with that decision. I love this job with all my heart, but who knows what may happen next – and that’s something you need to consider. Where are you headed in your life?

And this is where it gets muddy. Some people are able to function perfectly well with public skin – some of our staff thrive on it, especially the photographers. But it has to be said, they’re pretty shit hot at what they do and after all this time in the game, are hardly likely to decide that they need to go get themselves a nine-to-five gig to make the rent. Most people existing in the world however, will probably come across conflict when it comes to working for a living.

There’s no real reason for this conflict to take place other than the simple fact that some employers don’t like it. It’s not the image they wish to portray to the world. As somebody pointed out to me a while back, “it’s my right to have my hands tattooed if I want to!” I’m in that corner all the way, but I live in the real world, in which I also have to truthfully say, it’s also the employer’s right to not have someone working for them with their hands tattooed.

The road goes both ways no matter how unfair it might seem, so maybe putting a little more thought into it before you go all out is no bad thing. It’s pretty tough making your own way out there in the world these days.

Unless of course, you’ve filled the other 95 percent of your skin up that is, in which case, I say go for it.