Chances are that if you get a tattoo, it won't be a spur-of-the-moment thing. (Unless you get drunk in Vegas and wake up with Britney Spears tatted on your bicep, in which case, awesome.) You need to do some serious self-interrogation before you step up and get inked — and it's not all about whether you're ready for the pain. Because there is pain. Trust me, I have a foot tattoo. But there are other considerations to be thought of in a tattoo decision-making process, and some of them may not be what you thought.
The aim of these questions? To avoid getting a tattoo that you fall out of love with, is bad quality, entailed a bad tattooing experience, or makes your life worse rather than better. Tattoos should always make things better, but you need to be at the right place in your life — financially, emotionally, professionally, sartorially — to get one, and misjudging that could end badly.
There's also a common rule that you should be told by your tattoo artist or tattoo-possessing friends: wait at least six months after your first tattoo. The adrenaline and endorphin rush of being tattooed may hook you on the experience and push you into poor decisions; give yourself a while to cool off, and you won't end up with a hastily-chosen Betty Boop on your inner thigh.
1. Do I really want this permanently on my body, or do I just like it a lot?
Try something out: put the design on a t-shirt. Or on your wall. Or as your computer backdrop. Wearing something on your skin is an incredibly intimate act and requires a very particular kind of attachment to a design, and here's the kicker — unless it's on your arms or legs, it's likely you're actually not going to see it all that much. If you're satisfied with having it in full view somewhere else, consider whether you really need a tattoo, or whether this is enough.
2. Will it fit with the style of clothing I like to wear?
This seems shallow, but we're talking about body modification here. In the first weeks and months of healing, you're not going to be able to put the tattoo in the sun, and will have to keep it under very loose clothing. After that, it also has to fit into the bits of your body you like to show off. Is your chosen placement going to look absurd with the particular neckline you love? Is it always going to be covered up? Give this some thought.
3. Am I prepared to do the proper amount of maintenance on it?
Tattoos are not an easy experience. The pain's one thing, but the after-work is another thing entirely. I should know: my own tattoo's slightly faded because it got too much sun in the healing phase, and I've had to have one (very painful) top-up already. Foot and hand tattoos in particular require a lot of care when they've first been done — diaper cream, a lot of disinfecting, lots of bandaging — and if you're about to go on a vacation, or have too much other stuff going on, you may want to reconsider.
4. Do I know enough about tattoos and styles to be specific about what I want?
Educate yourself before you step into a tattoo parlor. Familiarize yourself with the different schools of tattoo style, and identify the specific ones you want. Is it blackwork? Color? Japanese? American? A good tattoo artist will ask a lot of questions and require proper design consultation, so make sure you know all the answers before you turn up — or at least as many as you can find out beforehand.
5. Have I saved enough to be sure I'll get a good job?
Good tattoos are expensive. They're worth it, though; a cheap tattoo is not worth it is in the long run, because they'll require the additional expense of maintenance and fixes, plus a potential cover-up or removal in the future. You need to have enough to cover a top-quality job; don't lowball this one and give yourself an ink headache instead of an awesome showpiece.
6. Have I really selected my tattoo artist carefully?
Artists can be awesome, baller people, but they can also not be specialists in what you want. Every tattoo artist has their own particular style and training, and generally speaking you'll want one who has a waiting list, some very good testimonials, and a large portfolio of work similar to your design. Don't be afraid to ask around and look for alternatives. And do not get apprentice friends to tattoo you. Bad.
7. Am I prepared for people to potentially react poorly to it?
This is the big one for some people who move in conservative circles: you may love the tattoo, but are you prepared for some people in your life whom you potentially love and respect to hate it? I know, it may be completely irrelevant — but even if those conversations are totally expected, be sure you're emotionally prepared for it. Having your mother tearfully ask how you're going to get married with that thing may not be worth it for some people.
Images: Lismay/Flickr, Giphy (7)