Tattoos as self-care.
It is interesting, the myriad ways that tattoos can be discussed, debated about, and dismissed. I've experienced many of those discussions, given my love for tattoos, and of course, with it being the focus for my PhD research. One thing I do not hear about much though, is the way that tattoos are a form of self-care.
The process and experience of getting a tattoo does not stop once it has been wrapped in cling film and you've left the studio. Depending on the size of the tattoo, the healing process can take weeks of much needed attention, to ensure it doesn't lose colour, or scar, or get infected. Lucky for me, I've experienced all three. However, this does mean that I now know the best ways to care for my skin, what to pay attention to, and how long I have to replace the white bed sheets for (honestly, a post-tattoo white bed sheet is really not a pretty sight. If at all salvageable).
When I get a tattoo, my attention is drawn to the area by the warmness, the throbbing, and the sweatiness of the tattoo whilst still under the cling film.
I am aware that there is something new, it feels different - I have to contort my body to move past people in crowded locations so they don't knock it - you become aware of the space your body occupies. I have to consider the side of my body that I'm going to lie on when I sleep, because you really, really don't want to lie on a fresh tattoo). I have to think about the clothes that I'm going to be wearing, at least for the next few days, to reduce friction on the area, and ruining particular clothing. You have to bathe the tattooed skin at least a couple of times a day, so you get to know that location really well.
That part of your skin looks fresh with a new tattoo - bold and newly coloured, it stands out, until it blends in again, and the awareness fades, until the next tattoo.