An online friend is in the process of getting his first tattoo. It’s a lovely retro pinup design, with some nifty modern elements, and it covers most of his upper arm. It will take more than one session to complete.
I think he’s very brave for starting out with such a large design. It’s hard to tell how one will react to the process of getting inked, and if one is committed to something that covers a fair amount of surface area for a first tattoo, one might be in for a far harder time of it than if one had chosen a smaller design to start out with. However, obviously each person’s reaction to the inking process is unique.
When I went to get my first tattoo, the artist, seeing someone’s middle-aged mom in the chair and being understandably cautious, drew a line on my skin with an un-inked needle first, to show me what it was going to feel like. When I told him I’d be OK with it, then he went ahead with the rest. And truthfully, the only part that made me say “OUCH!” was when he was doing the little dots of color that surround the stars. The rest wasn’t anything I couldn’t easily handle.
Now, if I’d decided to start out with my ankle tattoo, which hurt like the dickens, I might not have gone back for any more ink. I had a really amazing endorphin rush after the second ankle inking was done, and walked around on cloud nine for a long time afterwards–but that didn’t negate the fact that it hurt like the dickens while it was being done!
There are tons of blog entries about people’s experiences with tattoos and how much they hurt. I’ve written a few myself (like this one here). And the ever helpful About.com site has a very helpful article that anyone doing research should make sure to read. But in the end, only the individual getting the ink is going to know whether the pain today is worth the pleasure tomorrow.
Am I being too cautious to suggest starting out with a small design first? What if someone only wants the one tattoo? (OK, most of us know that ink is addictive, but there are some people for whom one tattoo is enough.) What’s your opinion?