Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My First Tattoo

A little while ago, I was reading a meme on Boondoggled , a blog that I really enjoy. Reading through the list of items, I agreed with most of Just D's responses. However, in one of the categories, "Things I Would Never Do," she wrote that she would never have a tattoo. I was a little surprised, in part because I know so many people with tattoos, but also because I got my first tattoo this year.

For years, I'd thought about getting some skin art. My original idea was to get "Made in Korea" on the back of my calf. My reasons for this were two-fold. First of all, I was, in fact, made in Korea by an American Navy officer and a U.S. staff worker in the embassy. My second reason was that, well, tattoos are cool. And edgy. And I wanted to be cool. And edgy.

Not surprisingly, these reasons weren't enough to get me into a chair, particularly when I realized that the tattoo I had in mind would probably cost about $150. Of course, I always blamed my decision on timing, or poverty, or some other excuse. Deep down inside, though, I knew the true reason: it wasn't the right tattoo.

Almost two years ago, my wife told me that she was pregnant. After I got over my initial terror, we began thinking about names for the little tyke. When we found out that we were going to have a little girl, we decided to name her Georgia. We had three reasons for this. First, my wife is also named after a state, and the whole state thing struck us as a total riot. Second, my wife's father was named George. George was in the process of dying, and we decided that naming his granddaughter after him was a particularly cool way to memorialize him. Finally, between George Trayne (Nancy Drew's best buddy), George Eliot, and George Sands, we had a huge number of great female Georges for our daughter to look up to. Even then, we knew that we were going to call her George.

George was born in October, and her grandfather died in April. In the months in between, she and he were able to meet, and they really hit it off. That summer, as Father's day got nearer, I started thinking about fatherhood, mortality, and being a grown-up. I decided that, at the advanced age of 34, I had reached the point where I probably didn't have to worry about outgrowing my tattoos. I was pretty sure that I would never regret the tattoo I had in mind. Besides, it was something that I really wanted to do. Best of all, between my daughter, my father-in-law, and my favorite writer, I knew exactly what to get on my arm.

George Orwell.

First off, I picked out the perfect picture of Orwell. Half his face was in shadow, giving him an intense, mysterious aura:

My next move was figuring out what I wanted the tattoo to look like. I finally decided on this as a tentative design:

When it came to finding an artist, I didn't want to screw around. After all, I knew that I would be wearing this for the rest of my life. I went to Ancient Art, the best tattoo studio in town. Once I got there, I talked to Richie, one of the artists. We finalized the design and set up an appointment for a few days later. When the day rolled around, I was a little scared, but I decided that I needed to do this because I was scared. I wanted to overcome this one.

Anyway, I went in, sat down and started reading the book that I had brought along. However, I soon found myself getting involved in the tattooing process, discussing details of Orwell's hair and smile, and generally collaborating with Richie. To be honest, the two and a half hours went really quickly. Now, I'm not going to pretend that the tattoo didn't hurt, but it wasn't unbearable. To be precise, it felt like I had skinned my arm and someone was rubbing it with a vibrator. Here's what George looked like when I got out of the parlor:

He was a little too intense at first. However, Richie assured me that George's bright white eyes and demon-red skin tone would fade considerably by the time he healed.

Of course, the healing process was interesting, too. Especially when George scabbed over:

This picture doesn't quite convey the total skin-rot realities of George at this time. To put it bluntly, it looked like I'd gotten the world's most artistic case of leprosy. However, within a month or so, George had healed. This is what he looks like today:

While I'm not totally pleased with the tattoo, I like it a lot. Richie went with a photo-realistic technique that didn't come out perfectly, and I will probably go to a major urban center for my next tattoo, but I'm generally happy with George. As is my daughter, who sometimes talks to him when she thinks I'm not looking.

For my other arm, I'm thinking about Franz Kafka:

No, I'm not naming the next kid "Franz."

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  • I'm a fan of both Orwell and Kafka, but I have a rule. Never tattoo a man, or a man's name on my body.

    By Blogger mist1, At November 8, 2006 at 8:42 AM  

  • LOL! I was going to get a "Made in Taiwan" tag tattooed on my butt (cuz my mom's Taiwanese). But I decided not to put tattoos on skin that'll probably sag...and unfortunately, butts sag.

    I love my artist in Winchester, VA at State of the Art Tattoos...but he's got a year waitlist.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 11:02 AM  

  • Intellectual tattoos, that is almost cool.


    By Anonymous Just D, At November 8, 2006 at 11:16 AM  

  • Mist-
    I think that, for a woman, that is probably a really good idea. My wife has suggested that I avoid tattooing the names or faces of living people on my body. As much as I want a John Waters tattoo, I have to admit the wisdom of her suggestion.

    A year? He must be amazing.

    I originally thought of getting "Made in Korea" tattooed on the bottom of my foot, but was told that it would never last.

    Just D-
    I just wanted a tattoo that fit my personality--geeky, yet proud.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 8, 2006 at 11:25 AM  

  • It's a fantastic tattoo... But I'm still amazed that in this day and age, where everybody has tattoos (isn't it like 37% of the population or something?), having one still changes other people's perceptions of you.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At November 8, 2006 at 3:26 PM  

  • I sure hope your wife's name is not New
    That sure is a different tatoo...and I love the story behind it.
    (I got my first tatoo this year too, something i always wanted to do and finally did at the ripe old age of I'm not telling).


    By Anonymous Odat, At November 8, 2006 at 3:31 PM  

  • I got my first and ONLY tatoo at 16. I thought it was cool until I hit 18. I thought about having a real tatoo artist turn it into something like a pitching wedge on the 18th hole or something equally ridiculous.

    Currently, I use it for my kids sake. I say things like, Oh, you think that's a good idea? Well, when I was 16, I thought this was a good idea. What do you think?

    They have a hard time answering because the tatoo looks like a bad at home juvie tatoo. Not at all super cool like Lee's tatoos!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 4:43 PM  

  • Oh Orwell looks fabulous! Never cared to look at the picture of the man who wrote Animal Farm and 1984. Always though he must have been an old bearded fellow.

    And about tatoo, I am too fickle minded to have anything as permament as that on my body.

    I wonder after you are done with your two arms, where you gonna try next. Somewhere down I suppose! ;)

    And just saw the picture of your cute daughter. Congrats to the proud father!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 5:12 PM  

  • Odat-
    How did you feel about getting a tattoo? I found it kind of liberating.

    When the time comes to scare my daughter, I guess I'll just pull out pictures of me with my hair dyed black. I like your idea of changing it--it seems like getting a ring reset. My NY sister's boyfriend did a similar thing with a girl's name on his forearm. It's currently a huge clover.

    You have a sick mind. Actually, I was thinking about my back. Or torso. Or...never mind.

    Thanks--I think George is cute, too, but I'm a little biased.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 8, 2006 at 6:43 PM  

  • John Waters is an icon however...just get a pink flamingo!

    My life is still changing too much for me to ink something permanent on myself...not to mention my family would be completely horrified!! day....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 7:55 PM  

  • .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 9:28 PM  

  • thanks. i really needed that. haven't been feeling depressed enough!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 8, 2006 at 9:34 PM  

  • Claudia-
    Good idea about the pink flamingo, but it wouldn't do much for my developing "men with pencil-thin moustaches" theme.

    I think freaking out my conservative relatives is half the reason for my tattoo. Well, not half. More like 27%. Still, a sizeable amount.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 8, 2006 at 11:55 PM  

  • Growing up I used to threaten to get a tattoo every summer at the agricultural/4-H fair. (I grew up in the boondocks.) Never did, though, because I was too chicken. Plus the tattoo trailers that came to the fair were super skanky. I probably would have contracted some incurable illness if I made good on my threat. ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 9, 2006 at 1:28 AM  

  • For some reason I have always liked "boy" names for girls...its just cool...I don't know just is!

    By Blogger Nihilistic, At November 9, 2006 at 1:39 AM  

  • Re: my tatoo...I felt like a little kid doing something "they" all told me not to do! And loving it! lol. I always was a rebel. Now I feel like one too! (It's a tiny lil butterfly, with lots of colors, btw).


    By Anonymous Odat, At November 9, 2006 at 8:39 AM  

  • My sister said she would pay for a tattoo for me on my 30th Im turning 35 next week and still havent decided - its such a big step, I was thinking about getting a chris coop nun one. My Hubby was going to get a giger one in Prague last year but we found the tattoo parlour the day before we had to fly home and there was no time either way, just as well really as he has a phobia of needles and would have passed out more than likely

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 9, 2006 at 8:56 AM  

  • Parlancheq-
    On the other hand, you could have gotten that "prison tattoo" look that all the kids love.

    Yeah, holding off was probably a good idea.

    Right there with you. Of course, I also try to slick back her hair and tend to avoid pink clothes (not like you can tell from the pictures). Best of all, if she hates being called George, there's still Georgia...

    Good way of describing it--Let's face it, there just aren't too many ways for people to rebel after they hit the age of 21. Well, not without Molotov cocktails.

    A Giger tattoo--what a cool (and supremely disturbing) idea. I didn't know what a Chris Coop nun was, so I googled--gotta say, a someone taught by nuns, it got my attention!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 9, 2006 at 11:01 AM  

  • You're way cooler than I. I've thought of having one over the years but never could commit to a particular idea.

    Have you read "Until I Find You" by John Irving? I learned so much about tattoo art from it.

    Georgia is a beautiful name, and not overly used and trendy. Ms. O' Keeffe is one of my favorite artists.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 9, 2006 at 5:57 PM  

  • Hearts-
    Do you have any idea how hard it is finding someone who can apply the word "cool" to a George Orwell tattoo? Apart from my wife, of course.

    I haven't read the Irving book. Actually, it's one of the few Irving books I haven't read.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 9, 2006 at 6:24 PM  

  • Re Names: Don't forget the other great female George -- Dead Like Me's George Lass. More importantly, when someone asks your daughter what her name is short for, she has an answer. I've been making up names in response to that question for years!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 11:16 AM  

  • Jamiesmitten-
    Never seen Dead Like Me, but I just looked it up. It sounds awesome. It reminds me of A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore. I'm going to have to check this out!

    For me, it's easy. I'm actually Crankster, Jr.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 10, 2006 at 4:55 PM  

  • Hey Crank, I think a men with pencil thin mustaches" theme is good times.

    Errol Flynn?


    Ricky Ricardo?

    Jinja Out

    By Anonymous Jinja, At November 10, 2006 at 8:03 PM  

  • Jinja-
    And, of course, Jimmy Buffett (in the late seventies). Interesting idea...

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 10, 2006 at 8:28 PM  

  • I just would like to say, great idea, I have personally thought about getting a portrait of the man myself. However, this is a HORRIBLE tattoo. No offense, but I would never trust an artist who did not specifically excel at portraits to have it permanently put on my body. Portraits are the easiest tattoo to get wrong, but hey it was your first tattoo. My first one looked like shit too, until I got it professionally redone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 22, 2009 at 12:37 PM  

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