There are many times in a person’s life when they look forward to hearing the words “you’re my first”. Since it’s Valentine’s Day one that comes to mind if “you’re my first real love”. I’m so looking forward to (but also scared to death) of saying “You’re my first” to that special guy down the road.
This post will not be about those special times.
“You’re my first professional client”
The words rang out over the dull buzz of the needle as it pushed into my shoulder blade. Trust me when I say, that no one wants to hear those words as they are getting ink permanently injected into their skin. Even more so when it’s happening in a place you can’t even see.
This wasn’t my first tattoo, in fact it wasn’t even my last tattoo! Although the procedure did scar me for life. I had just turned 22 and was working on my 3rd tattoo (now I have 4). You can read about the meanings behind them here, this isn’t the place to go over that again.
So like I was saying, I was 22, getting my third tattoo. I had imagined it was going to be my last. I hadn’t been consistent with my artists up to this point, and I knew that my shoulder tattoo was going to cost me way more than the other two super small ones I had previously gotten ($50 each).
My friend posted on Facebook that her dad was looking to “grow” his business and that he was looking for new clients. If the design was simple and one colour, he’d be doing it for $20 and a social media shout out.
SCORE! I knew her dad personally, they had started going to my church about 10ish years before. He was an amazing artist, both in paint and music, so I knew I could trust him. My shoulder tattoo was a very simple word in Thai, and I had already researched and found what I wanted. I made an appointment, printed out my design to be the correct size and set off for their house.
I went on a Saturday morning, and was so excited to be hearing the buzz and feeling the (tolerable) pain once again. I love getting new tattoos!
I got to their house and was greeted warmly by the mom of the family.
The dad was setting up in the dinning room, so we went in to see him. I showed him my other tattoos, in an attempt to calm his nerves – he didn’t want my parents to be mad at him for “corrupting” their daughter. After showing him the two I already had, his concerns were clearly put to the side. He wouldn’t be the first to tattoo my skin, so he wouldn’t be disappointing my dad (they were semi-friends).
He traced the design on his transfer paper, like is normal, put when he pulled it off my skin, it hadn’t transferred. He tried again with the same results. In a panic he realized that he had bought the wrong kind of paper. No big deal – his wife and I took some ice tea onto the patio with some magazines while he ran off to the store.
He got back, and again the transfer paper wasn’t working. Now a reasonable person would have just been like “ya know what, it’s fine! Let’s just reschedule?” Well at 22 I was far from reasonable. So he drew the design on my shoulder with a pen. A blue, bic, ballpoint pen. Yeah I know….I know…..
So we get the design on my shoulder – like I said he is an amazing artist so it was no big deal to copy the few characters onto my shoulder. He showed me in the mirror and we agreed to continue.
Ahhhhh that familiar hum of the needle. Like most tattoo artists I’ve had, he was very chatty while inking. He talked about the tattoos I already had, and the ones he had. He was telling me how he was just back from Florida where he was certified as a tattoo artist.
“Ya know, you are actually my very first professional client”
UM WHAT!? Yeah maybe he could have mentioned that before starting a process that would end up with a permanent design etched into my shoulder. I tried to brush it off, but the rest of the time I was having a mini-panic attack! I couldn’t stop half way through. He would just have to finish and I’d have to hope for the best.
Well, he was finished and he showed me in the mirror the final product. It wasn’t that bad (what I could see of it through the blood – apparently my shoulder was a bleeder?) He cleaned it up, patched it up, and refused any type of payment. I tried to insist but then he brought out the first client card again. “For that tattoo, it’s free for life. Any touch-ups, any additions – no charge.” Well….that kind of makes up for the bomb he dropped on me?
We parted, and I told him that we’d revisit it in about a month to see if it needed any touch ups. That was in May. My shoulder healed up nicely. It was the biggest design I had up to that point so the itching was torture! But after a few weeks of black flakes in the bottom of the shower, I was back to normal. However, it was very obvious that it would need some more work.
In August, I finally got around to making another appointment. My regular artist would have charged at least $120 to do something that size, and to touch it up would have been more. Most artists that I know of won’t work on someone else’s design (unless it’s a complete cover up) so I decided to go back for my free touch-up.
My friend’s dad had lots more experience now, his business was getting a lot of attention from a lot of people. He had renovated my friend’s bedroom into his studio (she was in college in a different province) and was all ready to go when I arrived. This time it was in the middle of the week and I had to borrow my mom’s car for the appointment.
Since I had to drive my mom to work first, I had eaten very early. For those who have had tattoos done, we all know that you need to eat before you go! Your body goes into shock sometimes. Which is exactly what happened to me. With the heat, and the pain of going over already scarred tissue, I passed out. Thankfully it was after he was finished – he went to get a bandage from the bathroom and I stood up. I knew I was going to pass out, so I wanted to sit on the couch, not a stool in the middle of the room. Well, I stood up and saw stars. The next thing I knew I was on the floor with him standing over me. I hit my head on the wall AND the floor on the way down. Had a nice little goose-egg to show all my friends.
Even after the touch-up, the tattoo is still blotchy. Thankfully, being true to his word, the touch-up was free. I half want to get it touched up again, but by my regular artist. When I got the butterfly on my foot done, I asked him how much it would be to do the work. He looked at it, crossed his arms and just sighed his disappointment at me. I know….I know…..
He said he would do it for $50. That was 5 years ago now though so maybe it’s changed? I really have no desire to do anything about it right now. Thankfully it’s on my shoulder so I don’t have to be constantly reminded of it.
Needless to say, I have learned my lesson and will only be going to my regular guy if I ever decide to get it touched-up again, or if I decide to get another tattoo.
This post brought to you by The Daily Post’s prompt: Never Again