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"Know Enough to Prepare and Prepare Enough to Know"

For as much effort as I put into getting my first tattoo, I have to say that I would not have it any other way. Doing the research and asking the questions means peace of mind as well as clarity of the situation. As I embarked down "First Tattoo Blvd.", a mess of things happened that taught me one thing; know enough to prepare and prepare enough to know!

For years, ever since I did the genealogy on my family and discovered that I have a family Coat of Arms, I have wanted it tattooed on my body. However, I waited. It was either that I didn’t have the money or the balls. Either way, I was making excuses for three years. When I came home the Summer of 2000, I was ready. I decided that it was now or never, time to move on and move up!

The first step was finding a shop. This was not an easy task mind you, but there were a few benefits. Many shops are open until very late hours on weekends which allowed me to schlep the picture I had to different shops (9 at least) after work. Let me tell ya, I was amazed at many of the responses I received. Some shops were great, asking me in, showing me artwork, basically making me feel comfy, welcome and right at home. (Which made a big difference to me). They would give me a price quote and tell me about their sterilization policies. This was the personal touch I was looking for.

On the complete other side of the body art spectrum, some of the shops I went into merely glanced at the pictures I brought them, and just told me to get in the chair. If I was not going to get it THAT DAY, they were not interested in speaking to me. In one shop, two artists actually had this wonderful conversation about how getting a Coat of Arms was a bad idea and tried to talk me into one of THEIR designs. (Jerks!) Ultimately, I narrowed it down to three shops. It was not an easy decision to pick only one. However, I made one decision that day, which was the only way I am going to get inked was if the atmosphere of the shop and the personality of the artists were to my liking. Ever since then, through all of my tattoos, the overall experience has become a top priority.

Now that I had a shop in mind, and I already knew what I wanted, now it was just a matter of getting it! I was anxious for weeks! You know that feeling you get in your gut when you are on a rollercoaster, right before you go down that first big hill? Well, I had that feeling for three days until I went into the shop. My good friend Jackie, a veteran collector of tattoos, joined me to hold my hand and such. (I can be such a pussy!) Before I knew it, I had the outline on me and my artist was ready to go. I held Jackie’s hand and hoped for the best. As the artist began the outline, I felt a sudden wave of relief come over me. "WHAT? This is IT?" All that pain was in my head. Sheesh. Now, I cannot speak for everyone, but I can say it was definitely not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Since then, I have added two tattoos to my collection, bringing me up to a total of three. I plan to have more done, but I am trying to take my time. My mom wonders why I get them so big, my dad thinks they are cool and my sister thinks I am a tattoo freak. Oh well. If there is one point in this memoir, it is just do the homework. Check out the shop, ask questions, ask to see sterilization equipment and make sure you are where YOU want to be. At the same time, be respectful to the artist; remember it is their business. Put a lot of thought into it - it’s your body! You’ll be glad you did.

-Alex

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