Columnist Alexis Sachdev explains why her new tattoo isn’t a piece of ink she’ll regret, but instead a permanent accessory.
My whole body shook with vibrations, feeling as though it would rupture at any minute. Heat pressed against my skin from all directions. My face tightened and grimaced as I made weak attempts to keep my breathing regular. The flash of a camera kept going off while I tried to drone out my pain with John Lennon’s voice. After 45 minutes of agonizing pain, adrenaline rushes and crippling dizziness, I leaped up with joy and hugged my best friend.
Last weekend, I ventured to South Street to strike another to-do off my bucket list: get a tattoo. I went to Moo Tattoo at 513 South St., after hearing rave reviews about the cleanliness, perfectionist artists and reasonable prices. The artist, Shawn Dubin, took me under his wing and metaphorically held my hand through the whole process. I emerged with a beautiful illustration branching across the canvas of my back.
When I went out that night, I made sure my body art was visible – partly because Dubin told me to keep fabric off it and partly because I really wanted to show it off. Amid the never-ending questions of “What does it mean?,” “Is it real?” and “Did you just get that today?,” I realized fashion extends beyond the fabric-and-thread confines of clothing.
Ink is a different type of accessory than a purse, watch or pair of shoes. For one, you can never take it off. Secondly, as Kenny and I cited in our first installment, fashion is all about self-expression, confidence and originality. What could be more original than your own design, custom or self-drawn, on your body?
Those who have tattoos do not regard the work as just a painful experience or a mark on their skin. It is a piece of artwork to be cherished – a declaration of religious, political or personal dogma, a story book of his or her life, a dedication to a loved one or an inspirational quote that can uplift in times of need.
When I showed my mother my tattoo, which reads “Semper ad meliora,” meaning “always moving towards better things” in Latin, tears welled in her eyes. She pursed her lips and shook her head.
“I think of [tattoos] as self-mutilation,” she said. “I don’t want you to regret this when you’re older.”
Opinions like my mom’s are pervasive in tattoo culture. Despite the beauty behind the artwork, tattoos still receive a bum rap mostly from parents and religious figures, who claim tattoos only belong on the arms of leather-clad bikers or street-hardened rappers like Eminem or Young Jeezy. Parents, mine included, deemed my ink as a waste of money and a decision I will regret later.
Television shows like TLC’s “Miami Ink” and “LA Ink” and A&E’s “Inked” don’t help the tattoo nation’s reputation, either. The increased presence of tattoos in pop culture – from TV shows and celebrities – devalues the artistic and personal nature of the art.
My advice to those seeking to go under the needle is this: Wait six months to one year before getting a tattoo. You might find yourself in a situation where you are caught up in the hype or passion of the moment, especially if your friend just got one, and you’ll be compelled to head down to the parlor as soon as possible. The longer you wait and sit with your idea, though, the less likely you’ll regret the decision later in life.
Whatever decision you come to, it is most important to cherish your piece. If it is personal enough to go on your body, love it with the same passion you did when it was first placed in your skin.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.