I’m about thisclose to my next tattoo, so that means that I’ve had them on the mind a bit.

Just a bit.

And by “a bit” I mean “a lot”.  It’s the same thing that always happens whenever I get the itch – I catch up on threads within the Rav tattoo board.  I browse Flickr groups.  I obsessively scan my artist’s online portfolio.  I sketch my intended design over and over.  I text my mom about it.  I text my husband about it.  I text my friends about it.

In short, I become a real nuisance (moreso than usual, I mean).

So rather than be even more nuisance-y to my loved ones, I thought today I’d let you guys into my scary, crazy brain and show you what happens – for me – in the days and weeks leading up to getting inked.  I guess you’d call this my Tattoo Philosophy?

And please remember, this is just me.  If you’re so inclined to adopt this philosophy – or a variation of it – as your own, by all means feel free! But I’m in no way judging or condemning those who make or have made different choices.

The first step is always an idea – the “hey that would be a cool tattoo!” moment.  From there I subject the idea to rigorous (no, really!) testing and envisioning and imagining, before I even begin to consider adding it to my skin.

I’m not sure what you would call these – rules? Guidelines?  A credo?  But here they are:

  • Must feel organic; natural.   Like it’s already part of me and I’m just “bringing it to the surface.”  Must be able to feel it before I have it.
  • Must have personal significance.
  • Must be completely unique to me – no flash from the wall or direct copies of anything I’ve seen elsewhere.  Inspiration/stylistic ideas are fine; copies aren’t.
  • Must have physical balance and symmetry, and must work with my body’s shape and curves, not against it.  Must feel as though it fits with my body, not like it just sits on it.
  • Must not be trendy or pop culture-y.
  • Must not rely on photorealism at all. Be careful with “necessary” straight lines.
  • Must be designed by me; must have clear sense of purpose and meaning before taking it to the artist.
  • Must maintain lifetime significance; nothing there’s even a shadow of a hint of a thought that I might regret in 10 or 3o or 70 years.
  • Must be “mature” – easy to display or hide at any time, whenever I wish.
  • Must completely trust artist and his talent; must not have any reservations whatsoever.

OK, so once I’ve got the idea, and it meets all of the above standards – then what?

Here’s the real nitty-gritty of my planning process:

1)Mull it over for several months, quietly and to myself.

2)Decide if the tattoo would be a really good thing, or if I should just let it go  (this step is the reason I don’t have a Dark Side of the Moon tramp stamp right now.*)

3)Once I’ve decided on the tattoo, decide again.  Make sure decision hasn’t changed.  Decide for a third time, just for kicks.

4)Mull it over for several months more.

5)See if I start to “feel” the tattoo on the intended area.  If I feel as though I already have it, if I look down at my wrist/shoulder/whatever and am surprised when there’s no tattoo there, then I know it’s a good plan.

6)Tentatively, slowly tell others about my idea.  Solicit honest opinions (my mom is really good at these) (most moms are).

7)Develop the particulars of the design, planning in a way that embodies the tattoo’s the meaning and inspiration.

8)Wait several months more.  Visualize the tattoo everyday, as part of my life.  Can I see myself at a friend’s wedding with this tattoo?  Washing dishes?  Reading in bed?  Eating at a fancy restaurant?  Gardening?  Playing with my grandkids?  If the answer to any of these is “no”, then I don’t get it.


…and then after a bit, begin the process all over again 🙂

This plan has never yet failed me.  It has saved me from great stupidity, it prevents me from being impulsive, it forces me to be contemplative and introspective.  It’s the most thorough system of accountability I could imagine, and has saved me several times over.

So…after all this – how many tattoos do I have?


(And an appointment for another)

(And tentative plans for a further 6 or 7)

I realize that tattooing isn’t for everyone, and I realize that for those who are tattooed, your planning process may look very different than mine (or be nonexistent altogether!).  So here’s where I ask – how about you?  Do you have tattoo(s)?  If not, would you?  If so, how do you plan them?


*Can I get a HALLELUJAH?!


11 responses to “Freakshow

  1. I’m thisclose also…I like your rules. I thought about my foot, but I’m thinking it’ll just go and get added to my back one. I’m getting an American Traditional Swallow I think…

    NO TRIBAL. That should be on your list.

  2. Did all this come about because I used to let you stick colorful stickers on yourself when you were a kid? Just go back to doing that, okay?

  3. Nice rules. I’ve wanted one of a while, but have only recently decided what to get and where to put it. I’m having “answer.” (inspired by the following poem: placed on my leg. I’m still on the third deciding process though.

  4. I have enough fun putting designs on t-shirts and wearing them. but if i got a tattoo it’d probably be one that nobody but my husband ever saw. Because i’m just weird about that.

  5. I have none, but I think they can be cool! I can’t wait to see the next one you get!

  6. Wow, you’ve thought this out WAY more than i have. I thought about getting a tattoo for a while, but nothing ever became of it. I didn’t make an appt for either of my tattoos. My Baker friends and I went to South Padre and I kind of said, Damnit it’s now or never. I didn’t know what I wanted at all, went into the shop, looked around, liked this particular picture of a pink flower, talked to the artist, and got it done. I thought a little bit more about my arm, but I still looked around a lot and tweeked it a little bit as I saw what the artist did. He drew it out, it was bigger than I initially thought I wanted it, but I thought it was bad ass so I just went with it. I had a plan without having a real plan… I am WAY less type A the older I get. I like to go with the flow.

  7. I’m also thinking about getting a tattoo. My process looks similar to yours. I wait at least a solid year from idea to tattoo. Actually, the one I’m about to get has been planned and evaluated for over 6 years. I’ve consistently wanted it, so I think I’m safe. My problem comes in the form of my husband, he doesn’t particularly like them, so I have to plan the placement very carefully.

  8. **cooler older WISER friend chimes in**

    NO WAY. I think some are so beautiful, but not for this girl. I’m too ascared of needles, and when they start to fade and sag, its pretty unattractive.
    This is not to say that when we all start to fade and sag its unattractive, in fact getting older is somewhat beautiful in the whole process of the process…ya know?

    **be ascared if you understood that**

  9. So nice to see that someone else has the same reservations about tattoos that I do! And I have none – working towards my first, which I’ve been thinking about for the past two years, but not serious. I told myself I’d get it when I finish grad school in a few months… but I’m still not envisioning it on my body, so I know it’s not the right time. Maybe in about 5 years, I’ll get there.

  10. I think your first tattoo is awesome. I haven’t ever met anyone else who tattooed themselves with an image of a scratch across their calf. It’s brilliant and it looks so real! I can’t wait to see what you come up with for the second one.

  11. Pingback: Oh crap does that say “THIRVE?!” « KateOhKatie blogs

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