I’d like to say I’m not an impulsive person. I’m typically thorough in my decision-making process and often too indecisive to place stake in any particular claim. But when my eighteenth birthday rolled around and a tattoo artist I liked had an available appointment, I put down the $100 nonrefundable deposit—hard-earned cash from my employment at a rock climbing gym, the kind of place where impulsive decisions are worshipped—and awaited the event.
Of course, I had to decide what I wanted on my body forever and ever before I placed the deposit. The process put me into a small crisis: what objects and events were important to me? Did the tattoo have to be something significant enough that I’d cherish it for my entire life? I jumped between ideas, knowing I wanted a relatively small tattoo in a discreet location. I decided upon a glow-in-the-dark Nalgene water bottle on my shoulder blade. The water bottle is significant to me in several ways, and I figured that if it was small enough and in a place where I couldn’t really see it, it didn’t matter if I loved it forever. Besides, I could always get it covered if I truly despised it. Make something permanent impermanent.
My tattoo appointment was scheduled for three days after my eighteenth birthday. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, but with the rise of Instagram, mainstream tattooing has become a practice blanketed in comfort and aesthetically pleasing colors and inviting studios. When I stepped into the studio that afternoon, the walls were pink and the floor was dotted with vintage furniture and lush green plants. The artist doing my tattoo, Kimber Fowler, showed me the stencil—it looked just like a Nalgene. Fowler asked if I had any questions, but I had spent hours watching videos on the Inked YouTube channel, so I said no. They led me into a back room, shaved and sanitized my shoulder, and placed the purple stencil onto my skin. After it dried, I was instructed to lie down on the massage table with my left arm dangling over the edge. Fowler told me that because it was my first tattoo, they would do a tester dot on my skin as an indicator for how the tattoo would feel. I prepared, but as the tattoo gun hit my skin, I was shocked at how painless it was. Earlier that day, someone compared the feeling to scratching a sunburn. I was impressed with how accurate that description felt as the needle worked its way around my skin. There were certainly times when I bit my lip or pushed my fingernails into my hand, but some of the time the tattoo actually felt relaxing and massage-like. The whole process took a little under an hour, and when Kimber announced they were onto the last color, I was ready for the pain to stop. They wiped down my skin and told me to have a look.
I peeled myself off the table and walked to the mirror. I loved it, but my skin was less enthusiastic. It was kind of hilarious to see a small, sea-foam green water bottle angrily drip blood. We took pictures, wrapped the tattoo in a second-skin bandage, I paid, tipped, and went on my way.
I still haven’t told my mom. My friends have responded with praise, teachers and coworkers with “it’s bigger than I thought!” I think my mom may murder me, but at least I’ve got a piece of consumerism on my body. I like the green color.