It’s midday, and I’m sat in a local tattoo studio, as I have been for the past 2 hours. Following a snap-decision at 9:30 last night, I decided to pop down to get a walk-in tattoo, celebrating none other than Friday 13th.
It’s an interesting date, isn’t it – full of superstition and bad luck for some, a bit ‘spooky ooky’ for others. Upon hearing that the local studio was holding a ‘flash day’, which they usually do on Friday 13th, I decided to not only join in (it’s been a while since my last tattoo), but also to capture the moment and help me get on with some writing (did I mention I’m writing a book? An actual book? Due in just under a year? If you see me, please don’t mention books).
In the 2 hours thus far that I’ve waited, I’ve seen a lot of regular human life. I’ve seen a new mum get tattooed, with new-born being passed to dad (who then followed with his own). I’ve seen a first tattoo happen – the excitement and buzz of the impending imagery being followed by a pale face and pain. I’ve seen a whole family come and get tattoos together (one guy got a small slice of pizza on the back of his head, and it was the highlight of the morning). And we, the (now impatient) to-be-tattooed, watching this spectacle from the waiting area.
The waiting area itself holds interesting insights into everyday life. People are sneakily comparing their tattoos, checking out what each other has with side glances and non-so-subtle stares. Mums are breastfeeding. Everyone is scrolling social media. Apart from the buzzing of the needles and that wonderful (you know if you know) smell of disinfectant, you’d think it was just a meeting place. Normal everyday conversations, magazine reading, chatting.
There is however the unexpected choice of Lewis Capaldi playing in the background (this did develop into a few hours of Chilli Peppers, which was more suited). It stood out to me as the ‘not normal’ music choice for these spaces.
And to me, tattoo studios are interesting spaces. They’re a gathering of joint interest for people with a variety of interests. You’re sharing your future permanent life choices with others, and especially on a day like today, those choices are pre-selected (‘flash’), not the “I’ve designed this myself” inkings we hear about today (and funnily enough, the exact topic of conversation I had when I gave a talk on meaning-making in tattoos earlier this week).
Finally, it’s my turn to hop into the chair. I’ve never met this tattoo artist before, but it’s interesting the trust we put into these people. I appreciate the tattoo I get will not be the ‘finest’ piece I have (Friday 13th flash, for a grand total of £13), but that thought and construction in itself is something interesting – today is not about flashing cash, showing off the ‘artwork’ I’ve got from a great artist. It’s a spontaneous decision to ruin (thanks Mom) my body with something a little funny that I’m not going to forget, and I’m doing this with a shed-load of other people too. For the amount of time I’ve spent in a tattoo chair now, I hadn’t thought about it much until that moment. The pain. I’m pretty good with pain. But I have that last minute ‘oh shit why did I pick a location that’s on bone?!’, which was followed by a dim buzz and a scratch rather than an almighty wounding.
In this moment, I have become one of the spectacles. People are watching for my reaction (the studio has a ‘wall of pain’, with images of people in MUCH PAIN from tattoos / piercings. It was quite funny). My partner comments that I’m ‘taking it like a champ’. Sorry guys, no tears from me! (I just felt for the guy because he had my foot resting on him whilst he tattooed me, and who like feet?!). My three and a half hours of wait for this is over in just about 10 minutes. The tattoo artist pats my leg and sends me on my way.
I’ve written about this next part before (Tattoos as Self Care, here), and it is the bit I enjoy. So much attention is needed. And for me personally, I’ve been tattooed today on a part of my body I’ve not had tattooed before, which means I need to get used to a new sleeping arrangement I’ve not tested, think out a different set of clothes for a few days, and be mindful of our big brute of a dog when she brushes past me.
All in all, I’m happy with what I’ve got, and happy to have been able to storify the process. My thinking behind this was to consider how the tattoo studio space itself creates something of a microcosm of general society in any given day, but even more so on a ‘special day’ such as this, Friday 13th.
I look forward to hearing your stories!