In 1885, my great-grandmother (Arrie Irene Laird) was 15 years old, and living in Atlanta, GA. She walked to school with her next door neighbor each day. One day, on the way home from school, the girls noticed a new business that had opened up along their path-- a tattoo parlor! Now, Arrie was brought up in a Southern Baptist home and she followed all of the rules that her parents and preacher had mapped out for a proper young lady. Yet, she was intrigued by the tattoo parlor. Every day, she and her friend would walk past the parlor and gaze in the window-- dreaming of taking a walk on the wild side for once in her life. It was a fantasy and she certainly never intended on making it a reality. But, one day little Arrie and her friend were gazing into the shop window when the proprietor came out and spoke to them. They liked the man, and he invited them to come inside to look around the tattoo parlor. I can picture the girls looking both ways before entering- verifying that no one was watching them enter Satan's den! They only stayed for about an hour, but they had a nice tour of the facilities and a great conversation with the shop owner. They also left the shop with souveniers- they had each purchased a tattoo! Arrie's inkjob was a big "A" on her forearm (the "A" stood for her first initial; no relation to the "A" in The Scarlet Letter). Upon leaving the tattoo parlor, Arrie had a sudden realization of what she had done and felt shame. Of course, she didn't ever tell her parents about the inkjob- she started wearing blouses with puffy sleeves, buttoned at the wrist. For the rest of her life, no one but the man that she would later marry ever saw her naked arms until she was a senior citizen. She was in the hospital and she was wearing a sleeveless nightgown. My mother was just a child, but she was the first one to notice the huge "A" on her grandmother's arm. Of course, she asked about it and Big Mother (as she was known at the time) related the story of the exciting day that she had spent in the tattoo parlor with her friend in 1885.
This story came to mind today as I was sitting in the chair of the local tattoo parlor, receiving my own souveneir! The first two tattoos that I had done were small and took about 10 minutes each. I graduated to a larger tattoo today, and it took 2 hours to complete. It wasn't agonizing, but it wasn't pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. I can relate the feeling of getting a tattoo to that of getting a small electrical shock for minutes (or hours) at a time. You don't feel the needle going in and out- you just feel a very sharp vibration and at some points some accute pain. At times there were tears in my eyes, but I kept up a strong facade and no one in the tattoo parlor seemed to know that I was experiencing the least bit of pain. It's a good thing that the the arm of the chair didn't have a voice- I was squeezing that thing the entire time! It's all over and done with now, and I finally have the one piece of body art that I always wanted. (For some reason, I am not able to post a picture of the new tattoo... but, you can see it by clicking on "Brian's Photo Site in the links section of this Blog.)