Finally Doing Shit or Why At 32 I Decided To Get My First Tattoo

So this past weekend I did something pretty major...for me that is.  I've always been a pretty straight laced kid (yes, I still consider myself a kid); I never really rebelled as a teen or had those crazy black-out-drunk-slutty-years in college.  Sure, I drank before I was 21 (sorry mom & dad), I went to the bar/frat parties in college & had boyfriends.  But at the heart of it all, I've always played it pretty safe because I like being a good kid.  (I swear though,  I'm still a good time)

In the last year, I've been really itching to step outside my comfort zone & do something unexpected for me, but I could never figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to do.   I decided to cut off about 8 inches of my hair which was a big change, but let's be real. Hair is hair. It's not THAT crazy & it has already been growing back at warped speed. It felt like a good start, but it didn't completely satisfy that itch.  It was hard to articulate what I was feeling & I certainly couldn't explain where this feeling was coming from, so I tried to ignore it best I could. But then my break thru "Aha!" moment happened.  I was watching a really sweet Buzzfeed video where siblings chose surprise tattoos for each other.  Each person didn't get to see what their sibling decided on until after the tattoo was complete.  Can you imagine getting something permanently inked on you without seeing it first?  After watching this video I realized it; I wanted to get a tattoo.
Yep, that's the face I made almost the entire time
Ok hold up. Me, the girl who is so terrified of needles, I wouldn't get a 2nd ear piercing because I was scared of the pain.   This new craving was really throwing me because I'd never felt the desire or need to get a tattoo before. Tons of my friends have them; some were planned out, some on whim.  Seriously, shout out to anyone who has gotten a tattoo on a whim.  I'm such a planner & control freak, I could never get something permanently inked on my body without REALLY thinking it thru. So props to you folks.  Truthfully, I never thought it was something I'd ever be able to do even if I did really plan it out.

But, the more I tried to ignore my desire to get inked, the more I realized I really wanted to do this. I started asking myself why I thought I couldn't get a tattoo.  What was it that was holding me back?  I decided if I could make a list (see, planner) of all the things that were stopping me & I could tackle each issue, maybe this was something I could get the nerve to do.  So,  what were my reasons?
I knew from the moment I began scouring the internet for tattoo ideas that I wanted something very small & delicate.  I began questioning all my friends with tattoos about the level of pain they experienced & how long their intricate tattoos took. I had a friend take a fork & stick me in my wrist to try & replicate the pain. (Hey Katy? You poking me with the fork on my wrist did NOT do the needle justice!) If I got something really small & it couldn't possibly take that long to do...I could probably handle the pain for 10-15 mins.

Ok, this was a tough one.  Ever since I was a kid, I was taught tattoos were against the Jewish religion; Jews just didn't get tattoos. I was told Jews shouldn't desecrate their bodies (apparently ear piercings don't count),  & you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.  Now,  I was raised in the Reform movement, the more lax movement if you will.  I went to Sunday school, I was Bat Mitzvah'd, Confirmed & graduated from my temple high school...hell, I was the president of our class senior year.  However, because we were/are a Reform household, things like bacon, cheeseburgers & pepperoni pizza were common. Shrimp cocktail? ALWAYS.  Now that I'm older, out of the house,  & don't have children, I don't often prioritize Judaism in my every day life.  I've slacked on going to services, I still love me a good shrimp cocktail...but I didn't want to completely turn my back on something that is a part of who I am.  Torn & looking for answers, I went where everyone goes when they don't know what to do: google.
Guess what, LOTS OF JEWS GET TATTOOS. I don't know why I was so surprised, but I was  quite shocked & a bit relieved. This article in the NY Times from 2008, really helped me understand the issue of tattoos in Judaism. To summarize the article;  Leviticus 19:28 states "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead nor incise any marks on yourself: I am the Lord." Ok so that's the law. However, the law was written because tattooing was largely a pagan practice, done to mark slaves or show devotion to a pharaoh.  Tattooing has clearly evolved since this time as has our society. So it's really important that the Jewish religion (& truthfully, all religions) continue to evolve to remain relevant with our current society. I mean, there is a law about not wearing linen. Come on.  This realistic reasoning I can absolutely get behind.   So many rules in all religions are so archaic & just not logical for the current times.

I also came across this article, I'm a Rabbi with Tattoos, Ask Me Anything.  The title in itself is enough. If a rabbi can get a bunch of tattoos, why can't I?

OK this thought briefly crossed my mind.  So I googled (again) "grandparents with tattoos"...seriously if you want to be entertained, do your own search. But for real, have you ever looked at 75 year old skin? Wrinkles, sun spots, veins...it looks, well, old. So what difference does it make if I have a tiny tattoo that also looks old? It's not like I'm vying to become a senior citizen model.  When I'm old, it will be a reminder that I didn't hold back & had the courage to do something I was terrified of doing.

Well, this is probably the biggest reason why I wouldn't get a tattoo.  Let me just be blunt; I hate pissing off my parents. Back in March, I decided to test the waters a bit & emailed my folks (I was too chicken to call) that I was thinking of getting a tattoo.  I wanted to give them some time to at least get used to the idea before I just showed up with my new ink.  I also wanted them to know I was being serious about this & not just running off on a whim (again, PROPS TO THOSE WHO CAN.)  My mom's first reaction was, "But you hate needles!" She knows me well.  My parents actually reacted better than I was expecting & I know I'm lucky for that.   I don't know if they'll ever actually accept my tattoos, but at least they're speaking to me. On the flip side,  I am an adult...at least I pretend to be. I can't live my life as a 32 year old married woman & not make my own decisions about what I do with my body.  I hope my folks read this post to help them understand why I wanted to do this & I hope it's somewhat comforting to know that I do value your opinion SO much, but this is just something I had to do for me. Love you guys!

So those were my big 4 reasons not to get a tattoo.  Would I still get a tattoo if any of these issues weren't able to solve themselves? I think so, but it certainly does help silence some of my concerns.
OK, but now what was I going to get? Well, this was actually the easiest part of the whole process.  I've had my dog Duke for almost nine years & he has been with me through some huge milestones. He came  into my life when I was single, living in Chicago & heartbroken.  Duke was just the bundle of unconditional love & puppy kisses that I needed to bring me out of my slump.   Duke was there through boyfriends, miserable jobs,  a move across the country, the purchase of our first home, an engagement & a marriage.  He is by far the most well behaved dog I've ever known & has the sweetest personality. He is so much of my heart & means so much to me...how could he not be what I get?
Pre tat cocktails
I reached out to Melissa Martell at Earth Altar Studio after a friend recommended her.  I did my research on her & her style & it felt like did exactly what I wanted.  The studio itself is like no tattoo or piercing joint I've ever been to.   It is ridiculously adorable on the inside & looks more like a boutique than a tattoo parlor. The studio is owned & run by all women artists (except one) & that in itself had me hooked. I shared with Melissa some inspiration images ahead of time & when I arrived (after consuming a cocktail with my friend Katy) the stencil was already drawn & she NAILED IT.  It was exactly what I wanted.  Small, delicate & perfect. An hour later, I walked out with this AMAZING tattoo & a huge sense of accomplishment/relief.
Now that it's been a few days, every time I look at my wrist I can't help but smile. This was a big deal to me & am so proud of myself for taking the plunge & making this happen. Plus, now that Duke is getting a touch older, I will always have a piece of him with me.  I'm gonna go stare at my wrist some more...

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