I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

There are people with tattoos...

This is a break away from my usual gaming related subject matter but I thought in light of an upcoming event, I would amuse myself by discussing what is probably my other favourite pastime and one of the things that makes me recognisable. Tattoos.

For those people who don’t have many or perhaps any tattoos then I appear to be pretty covered. In fact I’m probably only 30% covered in tattoos. If I do a quick count – I have a full sleeve on my left arm, the front and back of my left thigh are inked, my left side and I’m in the process of completing a large piece on my right side. I also have a couple of small ones here and there, but hardly enough to constitute being what many people think of as covered. In fact, for many tattooed people I still have a long way to go!

I remember my tattoo artist saying to me once, “There are people with tattoos, and there are tattooed people”. It seems like a small distinction but it makes a huge difference. People with tattoos are content to get one or two small ones and then never get another. It’s a mindset, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m honestly not judging, but they don’t consider tattoos as a major part of their identity. 

Tattooed people on the other hand might start off with a small one here or there, but ultimately embrace the addiction (I can't deny this, but think about it, would you rather me be a drug addict or tattooed?) and accept the fact that they will end up with large pieces of art etched upon their bodies. It's also often about embracing the culture that goes along with tattooing, and socialising with like minded people who don't judge you (or at least not until they get to know you!).

Funnily enough, even though I had large tattoos before I started my sleeve, they were hidden, not because I was ashamed of them, I just happened to get them on parts of my body that were covered by clothing. My major wake up call to the attitude of many members of South African society’s perception of people with tattoos, especially women with tattoos was when I started my sleeve. All of a sudden in shopping centres people would look at my arm before they looked at my face. I was being judged before they’d even looked into my eyes.

Generally I don’t care what people think, I don’t do things because I’m expected to, I live my life in a way that make me happy and fulfills me as a person. And so, when people stared at me when I was out, I simply blocked it out. I stopped noticing when people looked and whispered to each other under their breath.

And then I fell pregnant. Suddenly, a pregnant woman with large, visible tattoos was obviously not fit to be a mother to a child. Even my mother noticed when we were out that people stared at me, judging, and took to glaring at strangers in the street. My husband is also what could be considered "heavily tattooed" so coupled with the fact that we are a mixed race couple we were definitely an object of controversy. For the first time I felt offended that people would think that I might be an unfit mother simply because of the way I look.

My tattoos have absolutely nothing to do with my parenting ability. No I'm not going to tattoo my child (seriously people that's child abuse), and I'm not going to force him to get one when he's older. It was MY choice and has nothing to do with him. I'm tattooed, not stupid.

Maternity Shoot // Photo by Nolan Lister, Makeup by Natasha Kruger, Jewellery by Duncan Stevens

For those of you who don't have any tattoos and are interested in mine, I'm going to answer some questions I get asked at least a couple of times a week.

1. Didn't it hurt? 
Yes, it did. Like a bitch. But only sometimes. Certainly it's painful but it's not unbearable pain, and if you're smart and do what your tattoo artist tells you to do, then you'll be fine. Eat beforehand to keep your blood sugar up, don't move around. The first 10 minutes are the worst and thereafter you get used to it. I can sit for quite a few hours by now, somewhere close to 5 depending on where on my body the tattoo is being done, and I can feel when I'm reaching my pain threshold, but this is different for everyone. The important thing is to recognise this and communicate with your artist. 

2. I suppose if I don't like it later I could just get it lasered off. 
If you're going into the process with this attitude rather don't get one. This is permanent. I haven't had laser tattoo removal, but from what I've heard it's way more painful than having a tattoo in the first place. Rather just don't get one.

3. Don't you get bored of them?
No. Well I don't anyway. After a while they become so much a part of your identity that you don't even notice them any more. I mean you notice them, but they're a part of your skin in the same way that a mole or a birthmark is. You might want to get it touched up but I've never thought, "Oh wow I'm so bored of that, I wish I hadn't got that picture". Maybe I've just made really good tattoo choices (for me anyway) but I don't regret any of my tattoos, even the first one. Yeah maybe it's not something I would get again, but I firmly believe my tattoos are a map of my life - whatever I've had done reminds me of what I was going through at the time, good or bad.

4. They look nice now, but what about when you're old and wrinkly?
Then I'll be old and wrinkly with tattoos. At least I'll be interesting to look at, you'll just be old. Do you think if I have this many tattoos I haven't thought about this? I DON'T CARE about that, I'm comfortable with my body.

5. Is it real? 
No I just spent hours painting it on because I thought it would be fun.

6. It cost HOW much?
Yes, it was expensive. It's going to be on my body FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE as you have already told me. I'm certainly not going to go to some guy (or girl) who doesn't know what they're doing just because it's cheaper. Save up, you're buying a piece of art that you have to look at every day. If you need more motivation to spend the money on a good artist, look here. Hopefully this will make you realise how important it is.

And then there is a gem I forgot which the Twitter community so kindly reminded me about

> What does it mean?
Response from Annie Brookstone> Like I have the time/inclination to explain them to a stranger.
Response from Charlie Fripp> Why I got it & what it means has nothing to do with you... 

By far the absolute worst though is THE TOUCHING! I don't come up to you and start poking and prodding at your body, why do you feel it's acceptable to come and touch me? I once had a guy standing behind me in a queue grab my arm and start twisting it around so he could see. It seems as if I am public property all of a sudden.

Photo by Adriaan Louw (We-Are-Awesome), Makeup by Natasha Kruger

Much as I sound grumpy here, there are some truly appreciative people, who politely ask you if they can take a look at your tattoos, compliment you on them, discuss the fact that they would like to get one (or not, that's fine too) and ask who did your work. And then I'm perfectly happy to discuss it with you.

If you're interested in looking at my tattoos, you'll find that being polite and respectful towards me will get you less hostility and I'll be more inclined to give you the time of day.

At the end of January, only a couple of weeks away, I'm once again going down to Cape Town for the 5th Annual Cape Town Tattoo Convention, also known as S.I.X or Southern Ink Xposure. My husband and I attend every year. I plan to be tattooed. Again.


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