Tune in today to see if she can … get a tattoo. (Yes, you read that right.)
I don’t know how many times I asked myself how I got there … wearing a cardigan backwards, negotiating the benefits of unbearable vs. extremely uncomfortable pain, as framed skeleton faces looked on in disapproval. I remember the playful banter and hypothetical happiness, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, some 3 months ago, somewhere between mojitos and margaritas, when it was confirmed that we would, indeed, get matching tattoos on this fateful day in late December. But here we were, 5 high school friends getting fresh ink on an otherwise mundane Wednesday. I came straight from work. I mean, I was wearing opaque tights for crying out loud. Who gets a tattoo wearing tights?
The shock some of you might be experiencing upon hearing that I went through with this is not lost on me. In fact, no one was likely more shocked than I, the tattooee, was. I am, after all, a mother of 3. And in my 30s. And a complete pansy ass. I have diapers and smashed goldfish crackers in my purse and I can sing the theme song from Jake and the Neverland Pirates like a baby-lovin’ boss. I take melatonin and tuck myself in at 9. I have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to Crockpot meals and I can’t remember the last time I was up past 2 a.m. when it wasn’t related to a baby’s fever, diarrhea or teeth. All of this would suggest I’m not a prime candidate for getting marked for life. But I guess, in a lot of ways, all of this was the argument for why I did it.
My hesitations – and there were many – were tied more to the actual act and placement. I mean, it’s gonna hurt, that’s a given. And I’m not particularly fond of self-inflicted agony. But also, how will I explain it to the girls when they see it? And shouldn’t I get something that symbolizes my family first, if I’m going to do this at all?
The design our group agreed on, arrows crossing, is a Native American symbol of friendship, representing the meeting of two different souls. That was the easy part. The bonds I feel with the great women in my life mean enough to me that I knew I’d never regret wearing a reminder of that love. So, about 2 weeks ago, I started mulling over the mark by having Hank draw different arrows on me in different places I was considering; my hip, my ankle, my wrist (a close second for the perfect spot) and my side, right under my armpit.
I must have had that poor man draw 50 pseudo tattoos on me. “Yeah … but smaller maybe.” “Do you think that looks trashy?” “Is that too noticeable?” “My fat is eating it there.” Always the patient onlooker and supportive spouse, he kept his criticisms to himself (and I’m sure he had a few he could have shared), and erased and replaced arrow after arrow, until finally I arrived at a spot, design and size I felt comfortable with.
The day of the appointments, still not 100 percent convinced I was in, I told myself I’d know what to do when I got there. Surely, your instinct kicks in in a situation like this, right? It was 2 days before Christmas and the Midwest was blanketed in thunderstorm warnings. I thought it might be a sign. In fact I mentioned that more than a few times to my friend Jackie when she picked me up from work. “It’s not a sign!” she urged. “You’re freaking out.”
And I was. When we walked into the tattoo parlor (a sentence I never thought I would write) I was relieved out how nice it was, but the tidiness was no match for my nervous stomach and rapid, racing pulse. I couldn’t stop peeing and pacing. My cool cucumber buddies, all of whom already had tattoos, were also sweaty and super chatty. ,Not a good sign. If I were to walk in cold of the street and assess the situation, I would deduct the group was recently exposed to an abundance of gases or 5 seconds away from meeting Sarah Jessica Parker (because people, I imagine, get ridiculously giddy before meeting Miss Carrie Bradshaw). We did not have our shit together.
Naturally, I was last of the five. I stood like a first-time dad in a delivery room, watching as they tightened their mouths and clenched their teeth, covered their eyes with their forearms and lied out loud, buzz after buzz. “It’s not that bad.” they’d say. “It’s an annoying pain.” Let me ask you a question, dear reader, does an “annoying pain” sound like something made up but tolerable to you? It did to me. They were selling crap and I was buying manure by the bucketful.
This is your badass move, Courtney, I told myself. You only get so many opportunities in your life to do the unexpected and make this kind of memory. Tomorrow is never promised. Get out of your head and live this moment. No regrets. No second guessing. Go grab this experience by the balls.
After sharing the illustration I unearthed in my exhaustive Pinterest explorations, I was told the artist wasn’t super comfortable making it as small as I’d envisioned (“The size of a nickel?”). He mocked up an alternative and I agreed. First blow to my plan and psyche. I walked over to the table like a death row inmate who’d just finished her fried chicken. The second blow came swiftly and shortly after I pointed to the spot where I wanted my arrows, a spot still red from my husband’s practice sketches. “Can I tell you something?” the nice man with the needle gun asked. “Oh gosh, what?” I said. “I only say this because I know this is your first tattoo and I can tell you’re a little nervous, but that spot right there is going to be pretty brutal. The farther down you go, the more tolerable it is.” He didn’t say painless, mind you, just more tolerable. So, we moved ‘er on down.
I assumed the position on the table and, sensing my sobering realization of the reality of my impending pricks, was joined by my friend Jackie, a nurse and all-around outstanding individual. This is a woman who has birthed 3 babies herself, stopped people from bleeding out and seen patients in their final moments on earth. She’s powerful stuff, is what I’m saying. And thank God she is because, in this instance, mama needed a life coach. She crouched down next to my face, held both my hands and talked me through it. “Acknowledge the pain. Now let it go. Acknowledge the pain. Now let it go. You are OK. You are going to be OK.”
“I’m going to do one line,” the artist said, “and then we’ll see how you feel.” A sweet gesture, but I didn’t come for a line, man. I think it’s kind of like peeing your pants. Once you start, you’re pretty much all in, even though it totally sucks. You’re getting a mark whether you finish it out or not.
The peanut gallery SnapChatted and verbally high-fived me for several seconds before … well … something terrible happened. I started to cry. In my defense, it really freaking hurt. Like getting stabbed with an epidural needle in your ribs for a stupid amount of time. And, like Jackie said on the drive home, “I think it was an emotional release, too. I mean, you were so nervous.” Whatever the cause, it was a release of epic proportions. It could not be denied that there, on a paper-covered massage table in a tattoo parlor on the outskirts of downtown, I, Courtney, aspiring bad mother shut your mouth, sobbed all over my rebel moment. Possibly my one shot at being a badass, and I drowned the whole thing in salty, sticky, mascara dripped tears, and the entire room got really uncomfortably quiet.
From the tip of the first arrow to the final stroke of a feather, homeboy had me wrapped up in about 3 minutes flat. Everyone erupted in over-compensating support, declaring how proud of me they were as I used a tough paper towel to rub off streams of mascara from my upper cheek. None of it was what I pictured; the tattoo, the pain, my ability to hold it together. But it was done. I had a tattoo. I even got a bent, broken tip to forever remind me that I jumped but fought through it. If I hadn’t seen a picture of the thing and felt a bit of a pin cushion tingle (what I would accurately describe as an “annoying pain”), I wouldn’t have believed it.
We paid the guys in time for them to, I’m confident, go meet their buddies to recall the side-splitting tale of the suburban housewife who just an hour ago cried on their table getting a one-color, three-minute arrow tattoo. They probably slapped their full-sleeved forearms on the table and wiped away tears of laughter with fingers intricately dressed in cursive letters and celtic symbols. But alas, who gives a shit, right? We too went for drinks. Shots all around with the clever caption, “First the ink, and now we clink!” And then, sitting there, I felt a little bit of the badass I’d imagined.
After 5 days of living with it, I’ve decided I really love my tattoo, and I think we’re going to get along just fine. The reactions have been pretty stellar, I must say. “What possessed you?!” my mom gasped with tears in her eyes. “I can think of so many other things to get …” my sister snickered. My dad just laughed nervously and walked away. Pretty positive otherwise. The kids haven’t noticed it yet, but when they do, I’ll just tell them that Mommy and her friends got matching pictures, and I’ll hope that someday they have friends who are as crazy and lovable and loyal as the ones I’ve managed to pick up along the way. And when the day comes when they ask if they can get one just like me, I’ll be sure to tell them, in great detail, what an “annoying pain” it really was.
Until next time … Badass, out!