Almost 19 years ago, I got my first tattoo. It was Halloween night, Freshman year in university. I asked a friend, who I'd gone to high school with, to go with me for support as a I got a flower tattooed on my lower abdomen.
At first I felt a little silly, even at 18, about getting something as super feminine as a purple lily. But then I saw that the woman in the next chair over was getting a "tramp stamp" of Calvin peeing on Hobbes. And I immediately felt better about my choice.
It didn't hurt. And it only cost me $35. I loved it. And best of all, no one know I had it unless I showed it to them.
Since then, I've wanted a second one. Really badly. But what to get... And where?
I was 18 when I got the first one. I waited a whole 'nother lifetime to think about the second one. And back on the ship in Antarctica I discovered exactly what I should get.
My friend J. (a gentlemen in his young 50s) had been traveling the world for seven years (short trips taken on his work vacations) to touch the seven continents. I told him how I was trying to do it in seven months.
"That's seven in seven," he said. "You should get a tattoo like I am going to get."
His tattoo plan was a compass with a seven in the middle. Seven is a special number for me, and I knew once he said it that I had to do it too. I told him as much. And he was great about me doing it as well, copying him.
My original plan was to get it when I returned from my last European trip in April. The following day was my 37th birthday, and a friend wanted to take me to Harvard Square and get it done at the place everyone seems to go.
Well, we went there... And I was very turned off by the place. I appreciate that they are good, and very popular. But the staff very much gave me a "oh shit... here's another 30-something yuppy female who wants to live it up and get something so not legit.. but instead something 'empowering'" kind of vibe. And normally, I could give two shits about what someone thinks when they demonstrate it with such an uppity attitude. But when it involves me laying out money, the typical nice Heather will "shut it down" and say, "Hmm... Thanks. I'm all set."
The more I thought about it, because I did consider going back to the place on a less busy week day, I realized, "If I'm going to get this tattoo... It sure as hell isn't gonna be in an uppity 'we're far superior to anyone' tattoo place in the middle of an elitist college town." (Even though I really like said elitist college town. It's actually very cool. And has good restaurants. But I was on a rant, see.)
So I figured that maybe someday I'll get around to it, not giving it much thought as to when I would.
I have spent the past five weeks traveling in Europe. I've walked past many tattoo shops in that time... In Amsterdam. Bordeaux. Madrid. Prague. Budapest. I always went in and looked at their books of options.... Never finding anything that appealed to me.
But it wasn't until this afternoon in Santorini that I decided to go into one I passed on my walk.
It was a very clean and sterile place. I looked at their books and found exactly what I wanted. But before I mentioned it to them, I asked to use their bathroom.
It was spotless. Very clean. Actual soap. Paper towels. This was a good sign.
I came back out and showed them what I wanted. They drafted it up quickly and showed me the placement where they thought it would work best. They quoted me a price.
It all felt right. So, naturally, I went for it.
I let them clean my wrist area, and place the stencil on...
Then they unwrapped the needle from the packaging, as well as sterilized gun part. They plugged it into the machine, took out the ink... And began.
And 15 minutes later, I had my tattoo...
They cleaned it, rubbed the ointment on it, and wrapped it. They instructed me to keep it wrapped for two hours. They wrote out the name of a special cream and pointed me in the direction of the pharmacy that carried it.
"Not hot yoga. No swimming. No going into the sea. All for two weeks," they said.
I did as they instructed. I bought the cream. And two and a half hours later, I removed the wrapping, cleaned the area with just water, and rubbed the cream on it.
I am very pleased. It's actually very discreet. You don't notice it unless I put my elbows on the table. my watch and bangles cover up a good portion of it.
It is exactly what I wanted...
It is a compass, representing the directions I have traveled in for the past seven months. And the seven, obviously, stands for those seven months AND for the seven continents.
Seven also, for me, represents my numerology "day." And it represents the year in which I was born, "77."
Maybe in another 19 or 20 years I will get a new one. But I am content with the two I now have. For the time.