I have wanted a tattoo since I was a ‘tween listening to grunge rock and metal in my bedroom with my cousin/best friend. We used to buy magazines and watch MTV and we really thought we were cool. You would think that as soon as I turned eighteen, I would have been in the tattoo shop getting inked up. But I didn’t.
The reason I didn’t is because I saw so many of my friends getting fairies and butterflies and not really putting any thought into what they wanted or the fact that this is going to be a permanent part of your body for the rest of your life. I wanted my tat to be special. I wanted it to represent something. I felt a need to really put some thought into my piece.
I’m from Texas and lived in Oklahoma for a long time. I thought about getting something to do with the Texas flag or a yellow rose. Nix that idea when I realized that I would really look the redneck part (even though, deep down inside, I probably am a bit of a redneck). Then I thought I would get some sparrows after looking at flash online for hours. After I had settled on that, I started seeing everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, getting the typical sparrow tattoo, so that idea also went out the window.
Five years went by and I realized that this was something I really wanted to do and wanted to do soon. About that time, I moved back to Texas and got engaged to my boyfriend of five years. I thought perhaps I should wait because my old fashioned parents would inevitably freak out and wasn’t sure how great a tattoo would look with a white wedding dress. Then everything went crazy and I almost broke up with my boyfriend and called off the engagement. I decided it was time for a change.
With this decision, I settled on the piece that I wanted. I love traditional tattoos. I like sparrows but didn’t want the traditional one because everyone and their dog has one. I knew whatever my choice was the colors had to be vibrant and bold. Growing up in West Texas, I am also a lover of all things Mexican. Their food, language, literature, and art are all things that really make me nostalgic. One thing that always intrigued me was the Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead). This is a Mexican holiday celebrated typically on November 1 and 2 of each year in which the dead are honored and revered by family and loved ones.
I’ve always liked the laughing skeletons and sugar skulls often times placed on graves as a symbolic offering to the deceased on the holiday. I understand that to some this may seem morbid, but to me what better way to honor those that have gone on before us than with a great big party. Often time celebrations take on a humorous tone and I think that this make it easier to move on with ones life after losing someone that is near and dear to you. I decided the tattoo I wanted was a Dia de los Muertes skull. These skulls are often adorned with bright colors or flowers and since I love this type of art, I felt this was perfect for me. I went online, found three examples that I really loved, and printed them out.
Now all I have to do is find someone I trust enough to put a permanent piece of art (or piece of something depending on how good the artist is) on my body. Not only do I have to decide who, but where am I going to put it? I just moved back to Texas so I didn’t have a lot of friends yet to turn to for references. Luckily there were a few people at work who had recently gotten work done. A couple referred me to one place but I thought their tattoos were mediocre at best. I looked up one of my friends from high school and bingo! She recently had work done and found a guy that not only did a nice tat for her but had also fixed some botched art she’d had done by some not-so-great area shops.
I decided to have it put on my back on my left shoulder. I rarely wear sleeveless shirts and this would be easy to cover and not noticeable when at work. So I went in to make an appointment. This is when I started to get nervous. I starting second-guessing myself. Luckily, when I talked to the artist (Randy) all my doubts and fears disappeared. He was confident and told me what would look good and what would not. He made suggestions, got my input and drew up a custom piece of art. I originally thought I might want a butterfly but after drawing it up, Randy advised against that particular incorporation. I agreed since it really looked out of place. Without my asking, he incorporated a sparrow and a rose, two of my favorite traditional tattoos. I let him know how important color was to me and that I wanted it to be as vibrant as possible.
I was impressed with the sketch and excited. He asked me what my favorite colors were and I let him know that red and orange are my faves, but I loved purple, green, and blue in tattoos as well. Time to get started. He got all set up and had me straddle a massage type chair and sit up straight. I braced myself and prepared for the pain. I knew it was going to hurt so I was ready for the pain, but it was more annoying than actually painful. It felt like if you had a bad sunburn and someone scratched you in one place over and over. It was worse when he got to the sides and over my shoulder blade but I just breathed really deep and thought to myself this does not hurt. That did actually help as silly as it may sound.
After finishing the outline, we took a break. It looked really good and I was excited to see how it would look with the colors. We started back up and it really didn’t hurt as much as the outline. After three hours, we finished up and he got me cleaned up so I could check it out in the mirror. It was love at first sight and I’m thankful to say I cannot stop looking at it! Another surprise is that getting this tattoo has bolstered my confidence. It has a yellow rose (the state rose of Texas) and beautiful red, purple, orange and green colors. It is bold and vibrant - I couldn’t have asked for more! To make it better it is one of a kind, I’ve never seen another one exactly like mine.
I’ve always been very modest and I don’t like the way my arms look because they aren’t toned. After getting this tattoo, I bought several new tank tops and wear them all the time. I have gotten tons of compliments and all the guys are really impressed because it is so big and it is only my first tattoo. I’m so glad I didn’t compromise and get something smaller or more demure. It only took me five years to decide on this one and after getting it, I’m already thinking about the next piece I want. My ultra-conservative younger brother has even discussed getting matching tattoos of a cross that he designed. My boyfriend went to the same artist and has started a Phoenix that he has been talking about getting for years. I know that change is hard but sometimes it is good. Even though I’m sad I’m not engaged, I’m working on my relationship and listening to my heart more than before.