And now to continue with my amazing tattoo experience:
So there I was at the corner of Wellington and Aberdeen, where I met Oliver and Doug. Doug went off touring in Stanley and then Oli and I went up to the studio.
The actual tattoo area was now revealed (there was a curtain covering up the space all the other times I’d been up to Sze’s) and I began to feel quite anxious. There a medical bed was ready, covered in the usual hygienic disposable paper tissue you will find in your doctor’s office, but this one had a pillow strategically placed in the middle for me to lie on. I saw the needles and a little cart ready with the necessary inks laid out. It was do or die time! It was one thing to put down and just forgo my deposit, quite another to actually have my dermus pierced with permanent ink!
I had worn a free flowing white dress — good for being so flowy, but bad idea for being white (so here’s a tattoo tip – where something black or something you don’t care about getting dyed, although Sze did not stain anything I wore), raised it up to expose the area I was going to ink and just laid out with apprehension.
When the needle first touched my skin, it felt very uncomfortable. I tried to keep my muscles relaxed, but I definitely felt my brain tensed – if that makes any sense. I begged Oliver to just talk to me, but nothing that might make me laugh, in order to keep my mind off the pain. Oli, who almost always makes me laugh, struggled with the request and felt under immediate pressure. He began to babble about the Sun Yat Sen museum he and Doug had visited in the morning, but then paused as he nearly said something funny again.
The pain varied as she used different sized needles and covered different parts of my body. Sometimes it felt like a searing burning, sometimes it felt like the tip of a compass scraping across my skin. Sometimes I could really ignore the feeling, and it was just some kind of buzzing on the surface, sometimes it was near unbearable — particularly towards the end of the FOUR AND A HALF HOURS it took me (that must give you some idea of the size). On the other hand, I think Sze did an outstanding job – because in spite of it being such a large and detailed piece, she had a quick and LIGHT hand.
I think that was another key — that Sze’s hand is so slight that you can really tell she is extra-skillful. I had read on other tattoo forums that folks had permanent raised scars. She guaranteed no such thing because of her good work, and I would say she can do that! She suggested that those with such scarring went to tattoo shops that are more like factories, where the artists are rushed to get your work done. My skin actually responded quite nicely too — most pics of recently done tattoos show a lot more redness and raised skin, but mine was barely pink in only some areas.
Once we were done, I couldn’t believe it! It turned out GORGEOUS. I was often afraid what would happen and how much it would or would not meet my expectations, but it blew me away! Sze’s artistry and understanding of skin/the human body was phenomenal. I love looking at it constantly!!! It definitely makes me feel joy, and hella sexy to boot. I love that I have this badass piece of artwork on my body that means so much to me, and nobody needs to know but me!
A friend of mine advised to take at least a year considering a tattoo before getting it, so that you are sure that you want it. I think that was good advice, and since I’d been considering it (varying in vagueness) since 2006, I think I met that requirement. He also warned me that the experience can be quite emotional, especially where a tattoo symbolizes something really deep, because as you go through this painful experience on that behalf, it is in a way “seared” into your memory in a new way. For me, I was too busy focusing on not feeling pain, and the end result just makes me feel a real joy. So, I bypassed that.
Right after we were done we headed straight for Lotus for some heady cocktails. I needed it. The tattoo site felt sore as if I just fell off a bike and suffered a broad grazing scrape across my skin. I felt raw and unable to jostle the muscles underneath the site too much. I walked gingerly and really needed a stiff drink right away. Woohoo to happy hour!
After three cocktails at Lotus, Oli, Doug and I hit up the races, but didn’t stay long. I had to get some work done and needed to rest. My tattoo was covered with a light jelly-like cream and plastic wrap. I was told I could shower that evening or next morning, and to take off the covering. Apparently the humidity in HK makes it an easy environment to heal, and I could even apply no cream if I wanted (on other websites, most clients are recommended some kind of cream) – just let it air dry and breathe. I was also warned that there might still be some ink leakage that night and not to wear anything I would not want stained.
That night I definitely could not apply any pressure on the one side where the artwork was located. I could sleep on my back and the other side, but being unable to sleep on both sides (and being a side-sleeper), I found I could not sleep long if I didn’t have access to both sides. For the next 4-5 days I really couldn’t get proper sleep (last night was the first time I slept on my right side normally!), and there was some kind of pain – akin to the aforementioned pain. It got less with each day of course, and now I have a light scab on it that is flaking off on its own. On occasion I feel it itch, but I’ll just put some lotion on it.
The colors will apparently get lighter, and I’m hoping they don’t change too much, as I love how it looks now. So let’s see. I’ve flashed it to a few friends, but otherwise, I feel it is a very personal piece, and when I started returning to the gym on Monday, felt a bit awkward about revealing it in the locker room.
Overall, I am really happy I did this. I really miss my Mom, but this gorgeous depiction of who she was and what she has accomplished in life always reminds me of really happy moments, and makes me a bit less sad actually.