The first tattoo, Part I, 1993

I had wanted a tattoo for two years. I had been designing the tattoo for the same amount of time. It had to be had to be had to be, well, me. I had the design...I had the drawing...all I needed was the location....

I was nineteen years old and a sophomore in college. I had wanted to get a tattoo since I was seventeen, the summer before my freshman year. The drive to get a tattoo was so strong that I thought about it every day....what to get it, where to put it, the color it should be. When I finally figured out the design I was euphoric. I had the inspiration, I had the perfect piece for me.

But believe it or not, that was not my first tattoo.

A good friend had a leather jacket. She wanted desperately to paint the back of it, but couldn't figure out what to put on it. I started mumbling to her one day about really wanting to have a tattoo but not knowing where to get it, when she said, "Why don't you get a different one first?" I considered this. It had never occurred to me to stop agonizing over this perfect design and just get another tattoo in the meantime. "But... what the hell would this one be??"

A devious smirk came across her lips. I could see an idea was brewing inside her head. Or it could have been the rum and cokes we had just devoured; I wasn't entirely sure. "When I decide what to paint on my jacket, I'll paint it and then you get the same thing as a tattoo."

It only took about a minute of thinking before I said yes. We made sure to agree that the jacket painting had to be reasonable; if I hated it I would not get it imprinted on my skin for life.

And so the deal was made.

Sophomore year ended and the summer began. Me in New York, my friend in Boston. The thought of the tattoo stayed idle in the back of my mind. School started, and the day I moved in I got the call: "I painted my jacket." The next day she was in my apartment with the jacket. The day after that we were on the subway with the design transferred on paper in the exact colors, and next thing I knew I was sitting in a tattoo parlor discussing the position and colors with an artist in SOHO.

The design and colors had to be modified a bit, due to some restrictions of tattooing. The jacket has gold and silver, but tattoo inks don't come in metallics. I chose red instead of gold, and a very light gray for the silver; which turned out to sparkle as if it was metallic (I must humbly thank the artist for his talent in this respect). We chose a bright orange for the sun and a deep blue for the moon. A line or two had to be ommitted; as the above picture shows the jacket is enormous and the tattoo is small. But all in all, it is obvious that the work on my shoulder is the same work on the jacket (incidentally, I also let her choose the location on my body).

This tattoo holds great meaning for me. It marks my 20th birthday (my friend paid for the tattoo, also), the beginning of my junior year in college (which was monumental...but that is an entirely different story), and the close bond of friendship with this woman I have now known for fifteen years.

Click here to read about the redo, completed in December, 2000.

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