Apr 24 2008

Tattoos Four & Seven: Lightning Bolts

Published by at 4:01 pm under My Daughter's Tattoos

This story of Yo-Nenny’s fourth tattoo is one (in her own words) of pain and vanity. We don’t get to see it since she’s since covered it up with another tattoo. Like tattoo number three, it was hand-done by a friend.

“Does it hurt more to get a hand-done tattoo than a machine-done one? Every jab must hurt.”

Uh huh. Somebody who’s not skilled possibly has a heavy hand. There’s a way the tattoo gun, the droning, is constant enough that you’re forced to zone out. When it’s by hand you feel it each time. Each one is a distinct thing of your skin being punctured. How do I stand the pain? I don’t know. I just do. I think we were just chatting, drinking beer and listening to music. It hurt like hell but it’s fleeting. It wasn’t unbearable. I just wanted my tattoo. And it was only an outline. Vanity is a very powerful thing.

“How does this relate to vanity?”

It just seems so obvious. That’s the only reason I get tattoos. The point is that people see it, which is also why I started getting ones that could not be covered up. You want people to look at you. Why else get tattoos?

“What’s it like to give a tattoo? It must be creepy.”

You want to be steady and slow. You don’t want to push too hard. It is creepy. It’s creepy hearing the skin pop. Every time you put in the needle you’re opening up the skin, I guess. It is what it is. They asked you for it. I’m not particularly squeamish. As long as they’re being mellow it’s not that unpleasant.

“So tell me about your fourth tattoo.”

It was a small jagged lightning bolt which could double as a runic “S”; neither of those things mattered to me but I did kind of like the shape, the pointiness. It was homemade by an old friend. It wasn’t anything detailed or creative. He did it himself. We can’t see it any more because it was ugly so I got it covered up. It was teeny. About an inch.

“You didn’t like it?”

No. Not at all. Never. Not in the least. But it was a tattoo and it didn’t matter to me. I wanted a tattoo on the inside of my wrist and I got it. I have no idea why I wanted it there, except that I wanted it to be visible. That’s the only reason I can think of.

“I don’t understand why you’d get something permanent that didn’t mean anything, and that you didn’t like.”

It’s the only one I’ve ever gotten covered up. It was ugly. It was stupid-looking. I was aware of it. I was self-conscious. Maybe a month later I got it filled in with green professionally. A bright green. I don’t know why I chose green, either. It was a feeble attempt at making it a little more tolerable. It turned out to be a lot less appealing than the original. I went on to get other tattoos before getting it covered up two or three years later.

“What did you get it covered up with?”

[Laughs] A larger black lightning bolt. It’s a little incongruous. It’s black and my other tattoos are colored. I only have one lightning bolt. I thought I might get another one on my right arm but I changed my mind. I mean, I’m not Wonder Woman. I don’t embody lightning: quick, having an acute sense of things, a barbed wit. But maybe I’m a little thundery.

“You’ve talked about symbolism not mattering when you pick a tattoo, but now you’re suggesting that symbolism is important.”

It’s not that symbolism isn’t important but that it wasn’t that well thought-out with the lightning bolt. It wasn’t creative. It might as well have been picked off the wall, like a panther or cherries or stars or anchors. It seems like my other tattoos could be interpreted by an outsider as having private or sacred meaning. But the lightning bolt could have come off the wall. I don’t want to look as impulsive as I am. I don’t like being someone with stupid tattoos. It’s embarrassing. But I am impulsive.

Artist’s rendering of where the old tattoo is hidden in the newer one:

Want to get your name written in runes?

Yours truly,

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