I had to run for the bus. It arrived seconds after I got to the bus stop, and took no time at all to get into Earley. No time to get nervous, except that the tattoo parlour was still closed, the roller-shutters halfway down the door. I bought a cup of tea from a cafe across the road, and loitered outside until they let me in.
When I originally stumbled across the website, it was Hannah’s gallery that really attracted me, and I fell in love with one of the images of butterflies. I used to have a watch on a bracelet a bit like a charm bracelet, with little silver butterflies dangling off it. It sounds pretty but it was annoyingly jangly, and when I waved my arms around, as I do, it occasionally snapped. I got fed up of having it repaired. On the whole, I like bracelets but I don’t like either the jangly noise or the clunky interference between wrist and desk. Having seen Anna’s fabulous birds, tattoed on her wrist, an idea began to form.
It’s not my original tattoo idea, the one that has been brewing for seven years. No, that one is still in the kettle, as it were. It’s a sort of tester tattoo. At least, tester insomuch as I knew I definitely wanted this. I feel very safe, while at the same time somewhat living at least within comfortable walking distance of the edge, with my pretty little wrist tattoo of butterflies.
The thing I was most nervous about was the thing that makes me hate hairdressers. The feeling of being nowhere near as cool as anyone else in the building, in their opinion. I didn’t want to feel that. But I thought, you know, it’s taken me forty years to get really and truly happy with who I am. Forty years to know who I am, and be happy with it. If they don’t think I’m cool, I don’t think I actually care. I sit in front of groups of strangers several times a week, talking about breasts. I can handle one tattoo artist in an enclosed space, if I’m armed with a cup of tea.
And that’s why butterflies. Pete recently told me I was more socially confident than him, and that really surprised me. I don’t think of myself as confident, I’m not good with strangers, I get all tongue-tied and shy. Except I don’t anymore. I talk to strangers all the time. I listen to them, too. When I look at myself through the eyes of other people, I no longer see the person I was ten or twenty or thirty years ago. I see someone other people like and respect, and whether that’s cause or effect, I like and respect myself.
Hannah had a fab new tattooing device, and a new shade of purple she had never used before. She had also just returned from Borneo where she saw lots of butterflies, and claimed to have a head full of them. Her workspace also featured a lot of butterflies (and skulls, and octopi). It’s good when something as momentous as your first tattoo feels like it’s happening at exactly the right time.
As for the pain. Well, she did say the new device was more gentle than the standard needle thingy, and it’s an established fact that I’m no wimp; but I would not describe the tattooing process as excessively painful. Certainly no more painful than a nettle sting, with a nice after-buzz that has sadly faded now. Oh well, roll on the next one…