Six Hours Of Tattooing (No Pictures)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So yesterday, I sat down with Jason Hager to do a tattoo portrait of my beloved goddaughter Rebecca, who passed away of brain cancer on her sixth birthday.  And I was nervous.  Because I’d never had a tattoo before, and this was a significant one.
What would the pain be like?
I have a weird relationship to pain.  When I bruised myself as a young child, I went shrieking to my Gramma, who scolded me and said, “Stop fussing!  We Lucases have high pain tolerances.”  Which struck me as being a really jerky thing to say for years, not at all comforting, until I walked around for four days with a burst appendix.
Well, no.  “Walking around” might have been an understatement.  “Moshing in the Rise Against pit with a burst appendix” might be more accurate.
So after I almost died because, well, I actually do have such a high pain tolerance that it almost killed me (cue ten days in the hospital after they pressure-washed my insides), I’ve been a little weirder about that.  Because I didn’t have a realistic clue of how I’d do with stabby-needles.
And my artist told me, “Yeah, some people pass out.  Usually in the first fifteen minutes.  They don’t go all the way down, they just kinda swoon.”  And since I’d been doing it for forty-five minutes at that point, I joked, “Well, I guess I’m a badass.”
The needle was actually not bad at all.  It hurt, but it was a manageable hurt.  As a beekeeper who gets stung two or three times a season, I’d liken the pain to about 5% of a bee sting.  Or, if I was to be more accurate, like rubbing scratchy sand up against a moderately-bad sunburn; I wouldn’t seek it out, but it’s tolerable.  I sat in the chair, pleased I was tolerating things so well.
But this was a long portrait – about six hours of sitting.  And around hour five, my body started to reject it.  Which was bizarre, because it wasn’t actually painful per se.  I wouldn’t have thought it, but the cumulative effect of the needle had triggered my body’s defenses, and now it was reacting like a swarm of insects coming to the defense.  People said it was the endorphins wearing off, but I never felt any endorphins; the pain didn’t shock me with adrenaline or anything.  It’s just that this constant irritation had heaped up, and my body was jerking in response to the stimulation against my will.  I’ve had far worse pain – ask me about projectile-vomiting twelve hours after the major abdominal surgery of having my appendix out – but my body had become hypersensitized, and every mild tweak in my left arm pulled focus, zooming my body’s attention in on that, going, “SEE THAT?!?? IT HAPPENED AGAIN!”
Fortunately, by the time my body started shivering – it didn’t help that the studio was cold – Jason said, “Hang on, just getting to the white highlights.”  And twenty minutes later, we were done.
I spent the evening incoherent.  We ran out and got scarfed some food, but I’m told this was akin to subspace, a BDSM phenomenon where after a beating the body drops into a pleasant floating sensation – but for me, I could not concentrate on anything, my attention jittering about.  I wandered around twitching from text to text, drunk on air, chemically unhindered but still jolted so that I said weird things to just about everybody.
(God help you if I had a crush on you and you texted me last night.  God. Help. You.)
I should have requested aftercare – another classic technique in the BDSM zones consisting of the careful application of chocolate, warmth, and cuddles – but a) my brain was an anthill, and b) thanks to bad scheduling issues, Gini had to drive down an hour to pick me up and then sit on an uncomfortable chair in the tattoo studio for two hours, so I was loathe to call in favors, and c) my arm was aching and I didn’t feel like I needed touch, even though when I sunk into her arms this morning it was like drinking water.  So things got worse.
It wasn’t bad – certainly less troublesome than a bad drunk night.  I’m mostly chronicling it because I haven’t experienced this before, and I don’t know if I’ll get another tattoo.  This was $550, an affordable artwork – but right now, Rebecca will be with me until the end of the days, and that’s good.
I’ll post pictures when it’s more healed.  And when I am, honestly.  But a part of her is with me now, and that’s good.

1 Comment

  1. NC Narrator
    Dec 21, 2014

    I got my tattoo about 13 years ago. It about 4 hours, although my husband (who had to sit and wait in the studio while I was having it done) would swear it was a LOT longer. Especially after looking at pictures of piercings in places he’d rather have not known someone would want to pierce.
    The pain wasn’t bad at all, although I had a few ouchy moments toward the end and I wasn’t expecting the blood for some reason. Which was kind of oblivious of me – after all, the guy was perforating my skin. Repeatedly.
    What WAS awful was listening to Eminem’s “Slim Shady” album on repeat for 4 hours. I don’t have anything against Eminem…OK, I didn’t before this experience…but seriously, 4 HOURS?! “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Please stand up? Please…” SHUT UP ALREADY!
    Next time, I’m bringing my own tunes. Lesson learned.

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