Here’s the thing about my first tattoo

My friend Jodi took some awesome pictures of my tattoos which meant it was finally time to update the My Tattoos page. I read recently in a How to blog post about boosting blog ratings. The author recommended streamlining the appearance and cutting down on clutter. So I removed the stories behind each tattoo and decided to instead, over the course of the next couple of months, share each story in a blog post.


I got my first tattoo almost TEN years ago. It was a month after I turned sixteen and to be honest I remember very little about the decision making process. I remember wanting a tattoo because, hello, tattoos are cool. Duh. Tattoos were popular at my high school and looking back that seems dangerous. A bunch of drunk 16 year olds putting permanent pictures on their bodies? Yes, unfortunately many of my classmates drank like fish. Also unfortunate were the tattoo choices many of those 16 year olds made. A lot of barbed wire tribal and initials were inked in those years. My Chemistry teacher once asked how many of us had tattoos and at least seven kids raised their hands, including me. And that was my junior year of high school.

I remember that getting a tattoo was an option because my mom’s cousin, Don, who has done most of my tattoos, is a kick butt tattoo artist. Both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family are cool, but my mom’s side is the kind of cool I can jive with. My dad’s cousins (I only have five first cousins and why I never see any of them is an entirely different blog post.. or two) have always intimidated with me with their cool. They are pretty and petite and able to make friends anywhere. I always felt bulky around them. But my mom’s side! They have tattoos and piercings and ride bikes (I’m talking motorcycles and BMX). They all are awesome cooks and ate vegetables before it was cool. I always feel inspired around them.

Here I am looking too fresh sporting that lip ring and some guy’s sunglasses my senior year of high school.

So it was my mom who drove me to the tattoo shop where Don was working at the time that fateful December afternoon. It had also been decided that I would get my lip pierced that day. Because if you’re going to get a tattoo at 16 you might as well also pierce your face. If I remember correctly I got the tattoo done first and I was surprised at how little it hurt. I was also surprised at the amount of prep work that goes into tattooing. (There should be a lot of prep work. If there isn’t a lot of prep work, get outta that shop, friend!). Everything had to be cleaned – the table where I sat, the equipment, and the to-be-inked area. Then everything else had to be freshly opened – the ink and the needle. Then comes the stencil, like a temporary tattoo, to be okayed with a look in the mirror by the customer. Then a first line and you’re off!

My first tattoo is a Jesus fish on my shoulder. I wanted something that would always be meaningful to me – Jesus, duh – and I thought that putting a Jesus fish on my body instead of on my car like all my youth group friends would really let the high school boys know what I was about.

I didn’t know this at the time but the shoulder, well, the back by the shoulder blade, is a prime choice of location for a first tattoo. It’s meaty back there, I guess, and what I mostly felt was a strong vibration. It remains to this day my least painful tattoo experience. In fact, getting a hollow needle shoved through my lip was exponentially more painful.

Some wrap-up questions:

  • When? December 2006
  • Where? Some shop in Akron, Ohio where Don hasn’t worked in years
  • By whom? Don Brown
  • Why? Tattoos are cool and so is Jesus.
  • Any regrets? I kind of regret never putting sunscreen on it because it’s pretty faded but I also don’t care because it’s just a line and it looks somehow cooler faded. I absolutely have no regrets about getting a tattoo so young. I certainly would not recommend that every 16 year old gets a tattoo, especially if their parents have forbidden it. Losing your parents’ trust and respect is not worth a tattoo that you could get with fewer consequences just a couple years later. The experience wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome (or sanitary, probably) without my parents’ support.
  • Pain level? Least painful by far

**Please check out my Psalm A Day series over on my Tumblr for some daily encouragement.

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