Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blog #4 - ink

I have always loved tattoos. I got my first one at the age of 20. It wasn't legal in Oklahoma yet, so I drove to Texas with my roommate & my on & off again boyfriend from high school. I had done my research, with the help of the legal piercing shop I had been to, and found a good studio.

The design I picked was tiny & typical. It was really a test to see if I could take the pain. 30 minutes & $50 later, I had ink.

I never had the urge to get a second one until my husband died. He passed away in the middle of December, and I convinced myself that I needed a memorial tattoo before the end of the year. I had to get it before I started a new year, a year he had never lived in. Inspired by the song Torch (Alanis Morissette), my friend Blaine & I began working with our tattoo artist on an idea. For the design, we chose a wooden torch, with the Thunderbird representing the Oklahoma Army National Guard in the flames. Jason loved being a member of the Guard. It was family tradition for him. He was my soldier, and fought hard to stay alive as long as he could. We added small wings to the torch, with our (Jason & I) favorite colors. The placement of the tattoo could only be one spot. Jason had a port implanted in his chest, to avoid having his arm stuck for chemotherapy & blood work all the time. It was his first cancer surgery, and a painful one. The port was placed in his upper right chest, connected to a major vein in his neck. This was the part of his body trying to save his life. My tattoo went in this spot. I will always carry a Torch for him.

Blaine got the same tattoo in the same spot. It was important for him too.

Blaine & I met in high school at a drama tournament. We became fast friends. He & his husband took care of me, those first few days of my widowhood. We all used to joke, that if Jason had been gay, he would have married Blaine instead of me. They were a “bromance” before anyone used that term. It meant a lot to me that Blaine wanted the same tattoo. We both carry that torch.

We went together, with several other friends to get the tattoo. Blaine went first, because I had to go to the ATM. He also had more tattoo experience than me, and I was more than nervous about the physical and emotional pain of a memorial tattoo. When it was my turn, sitting there with the stencil on my chest, watching my artist arrange the colors on her desk, we started to smell smoke. The machine that prints out the stencils had caught on fire, after printing out my stencil. 10 minutes of chaos followed, while the fire was put out and everyone had the adrenaline rush. I think it was Jason. I think he wanted me to see flames before getting flames tattooed on my body for him. The adrenaline rush completely calmed me, to the point that I almost fell asleep during the tattoo. I felt no pain. It was calming, and felt very healing at the same time. Perhaps he is my guardian angel now.

After that, I was hooked on ink. Two months later, I got the Depeche Mode tattoo I had been wanting forever. It's the Violator rose. The outline is taken directly from the vinyl (it was important to me to have the correct size and scale for such an important piece), but instead of doing it in solid red, my artist used more color and detailed it as a realistic rose. Most people who look at it just see a rose. You have to love Depeche Mode to understand it. I love it.

Then less than 3 months after my husband died, one of his best friends died. Vince was 29 years old & his heart stopped. He was obese, depressed, and lived a, uh, unhealthy lifestyle. Jason & the other guys (that all grew up together) constantly worried about Vince. They were always trying to help him, to get him to take care of himself. Vince's funeral was the first time everyone was together again after Jason's funeral. It's so wrong to lose two people in the same group in such a short amount of time. I decided I needed another memorial tattoo.

I needed something to show my love for all of my family & friends. Working with my tattoo artist, I decided on two roses. A large red rose for my family, and a smaller yellow rose for my friends. It's on my upper left chest, opposite my torch for Jason.

My most recent tattoo is a halo on the back of my neck. I got it for four reasons.

1. My favorite song from Violator is Halo, and Depeche Mode played it the first time I saw them live.

2. I grew up (and am) Catholic. I wanted something religious to represent that.

3. I believe that everyone has a bit of good in them.

4. I needed to see how I handle the pain of ink on the spine. I don't handle it well at all.

There are more tattoos to come. They will be blogged about when they happen. I look at tattoo work as artistic therapy. The pain is an emotional release, and you are left with a visual reminder of a memory, something you love, someone you love, something beautiful.

Recently, I have watched two good friends get tattoos for emotional therapy. One marked her divorce with ink, the other losing a fiancé to infidelity. They both felt a weight lifted when it was over. It really is a healing tool.

Many (mainly older) people have asked me about the future, when the tattoos fade or sag or whatever. I won't mind. I will be honored if I live long enough to see those changes. The tattoos become a part of your body, and they will change with the rest of your body. The ink is a part of who I am, and I love it.

No Regrets Tattoo
1712 NW 16th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
(405) 702-0088

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