A few years ago, after a difficult relationship break-up, I decided I was all grown up and can get myself a tattoo.
No one could tell me I couldn’t, not one human in the world.
My mother, for one, can F*** right off. I was getting one.
So wide-eyed with my new trying-to-get-strong persona in place, I lofted through the doorway of the first store I came across.
Happy, warm daylight into weird silence, dark wooden desk, horrendous aggressive thrash music crackling out of a little battered stereo in the corner and some large skull drawings scattered over the floor and as I stood there, wondering what to do next, I picked up on an unfamiliar buzzing noise behind a partition wall…. buzz, silence, buzz a bit longer….. silence.
To be honest, at that point I was feeling anxious and I should have just retreated back to the safety of non-offensive, warm daylight.
My presence acknowledged, the tattoo artist, looking exactly as I imagined (yes I stereotyped) flew back on his wheelie chair and glared at me from behind a partition wall. No greeting, no welcome, no smile, he just sat there with his weird blue rubber gloves on, covered in red ink (I thought it was blood) poised in the air and what looked like (at the time) a Bunsen burner in his hand.
I rambled on about being “sorry to disturb him, sorry sorry ” and “looking for a new tattoo” and then blurted “I’ve got loads, I’m covered in them.”
Oh my, even as I am writing this, I do not ever want to deal with what he might have thought about the absolute guff that was coming out of my mouth.
He then jabbered off several blunt questions at me….the most important; “What did I want done, did I bring any artwork?”
The real answer to this was fuck knows…. I thought I could rock up, get 5 star treatment from a tattoo artist who will be able to draw me a picture perfectly (they must be able to draw right?) and get my first new tattoo. It wasn’t quite going anything like that.
He waved his hand (bloody, bleeding, weird hand) to the massive skull drawings on the floor and said… “What about something like that?”
“Errrrr no. Not this time around, maybe next time.” It was clear there was going to be no real help in designing me a picture.
By this point the man he was tattooing who was just a normal man (I know this now)….. peered around the partition wall, (I also now know) he was having his full sleeve done, in a civilised manner, just a normal visit by a normal man to a normal local tattooist.
What I saw at the time was a red raw bleeding monster who was going to gang up on me with the sneering, mad, grumpy tattooist, who hadn’t showered for weeks…. who else was behind that partition, the Monsters’ mates? Sniggering at me….. I really needed to leave.
I rambled further guff about my phone ringing, saying I’ll be back in 5 minutes and literally tripped over my own shoes trying to get back to the comforting smells of city air and familiar sounds of traffic, where I could melt into the crowds of humming afternoon shoppers.
Months later, I did get that first tattoo elsewhere, which was then spelt completely wrong… no joke……I’ll save that story for another day.
My point is, I do not think I would have reacted like this if the shop had been more welcoming or even accommodating, everyone has to start somewhere.
I suspect my weird gibberish was down to me feeling inferior against a world I knew nothing about…. shops like this do exist everywhere. (BEFORE YOU WHINGE, YES THERE ARE MANY GREAT WELCOMING BRILLIANT SHOPS OUT THERE.)
Even today when visiting some, I get that first feeling of panic…. its ridiculous but I can’t help it, he was rude and he made me feel bad about myself at a time I was trying to get strong.
So F*** you grumpy, rude tattoo man. You have burned a hole in my soul.
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