She had three metal studs in her chin and used a Lasylaser to remove my tattoo. We both wore glasses with red lenses to protect our eyes. The Lasylaser made a clicking noise like one of those things you use to light the gas.
There was a smell of hair and burning flesh. It hurt but nowhere near as much as getting the tattoo in the first place.
I grew up in England in the 1960s and 70s. Back then, the only people who had tattoos had been in the forces or merchant navy. Or they were bikers. People who wanted to make it clear that they didn’t give a shit.
Sunday mornings on our street, men with galleons and mermaids tattooed on their backs would clean the family car while Johnny Cash’s At San Quintin blasted out the open living room window.
When I was fifteen, a couple of the boys in my class had biker tattoos done on their forearms. One boy had his girlfriend’s name under a heart with a dagger through it. He’s still with her forty years later.
It was a big deal because back then a tattoo really was for life. (For the record, I’m only removing my tattoo because it includes the name of a former partner. I’ll cover it with something else. I’m looking forward to being a tattooed old geezer.)
You bet your ass it hurts
I had my tattoos because I love the way they look and I wanted to make some sort of statement by doing something permanent to my body. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pain.
This is, I think, a hidden truth behind why we get tattoos. We own our agony. And, in a world where we’re increasingly unsure if we actually possess anything - from our mental real estate to our homes – it’s good to feel in control. Even if it hurts.
You can’t tattoo your soul
When I asked my mate Ivan of Carnivale Finest Electric Tattoo in Palma de Mallorca what he thought about today’s inked-up world, he shrugged and said ‘So what if everyone has one? The question is why you have a tattoo.’
But, really, now that tattoos are another agent of conformity, we should be different not simply try to look it.