At certain points in my life, having a tattoo appointment has become as regular as getting my legs waxed or hair chopped. It’s such a time-consuming and expensive, yet pleasurable part of life that I would go as far as saying it’s now a fully fledged hobby. Given it’s prominence in my routines, I’ve created a bit of a ritual around tattoo collecting which makes the whole experience less about painful endurance, and more about having the most fun I can have. I’d say the most fun you can have whilst being attacked by a bunch of needles hundreds of times per minute for hours on end, that is.
Here’s the random routine I follow to help get me prepared for the chair:
- Avoid drink the night before
The first step in my tat day routine actually begins the night before – by staying aff the booze. Alcohol thins the blood, making it a rather messy affair if you get tanked up before a tattoo. This only makes the process take longer, feel sorer, and ultimately damages the quality of your ink as it’s harder for the pigment to stick in the skin. I’ve done it before and can verify, through painful experience, that these aren’t just things that tattooists say to scaremonger, so I lay off my poison 24 hours beforehand.
- Confirm the appointment
You’re a busy person. Artists are busy people. It’s sensible to just check in with your tattooist/tattoo shop the day before to confirm a) the appointment is still a go-go b) the artwork is finalised and c) the total time you’ll have. Some artists can be a bit vague on the latter, which can be rather stressful depending on the state of your own finances, so I find it’s comforting to just clarify the price directly before the appointment so everything is transparent. Paying a deposit can seem like a pain in the tits when booking months in advance, but it sure feels good when you get a hundred quid knocked off your total when it comes to the day.
- Get supplies
So many tattoo shops haven’t cottoned onto the fact they could be raking in extra cash through upselling. The amount of times I’ve been sat for hours on end and could’ve done with a few coffees and a sugar hit, and would’ve happily paid extra for it. I usually arrive with a hot drink, and have a can of red bull in storage for an energy kick part way through. A bar of chocolate to stave off a rumbling tum is good, though be sure not to get a messy kind because moving ain’t gonna be too easy. I’ve been known to suck on a lolly or munch some jelly beans too.
- Prepare your body
I attempt to create a better canvas for my artist by exfoliating and moisturising regularly a week in advance. I attempt to be less of a squealer in the chair by popping a couple of ibuprofen, and I attempt not to being that annoying customer who needs to stop 10 minutes into the appointment to pee by going to the loo right before we get started.
- Eat something
Your body does all kinds of weird things when you’re in that chair. The worst I get is ice cold and start shaking like I’ve got the DTs, but some people can vomit or even faint. To counteract such extreme reactions, having a small but energy-filled meal or snack just before the appointment can help. My go to is a peanut butter crumpet with a pink lady apple, sliced. No idea why, but it’s a tasty combo and will keep those glucose levels stable. .
- Distract yourself
The fad of ‘mindfulness’ doesn’t really fly when getting tattooed for me. Some people enjoy it. I enjoy the outcome of it way more, and relish the opportunity to be completely distracted from the pain. I’ve usually been really chatty with the artists I’ve gone to, and therefore conversation has killed the desire to run out of the room, but should you not really fancy a chinwag, there are many ways to whittle away the hours. Your choice of entertainment will depend on where, on your body, you’re getting tattooed though. If your arm will be other wise engaged during the session, pack your playlist with upbeat tunes or read a book one-handed on your iphone. If you’re sprawled on your front, perhaps a movie or a blog binge would take you away from reality, so come with your ipad stocked. Or do life admin, if you’re that way inclined (that one for me would be more painful than getting inked!).
- Get connected
Ask your artist for the wifi password to enable some of the above.
- Eat something (again)
Sometimes the last thing I have after an appointment is an appetite, but take it from me, you should eat. Your blood sugar will be low, you’ll be in shock, and you’ll need fed. And what better pain reliever than a giant bar of toblerone (and a nip of whisky).
- Self-care kit
Bepanthan is my new bestie at this point. That, and luke warm, soapy water on kitchen roll 3-4 times a day. Heed the advice from your artist though, as they’re the industry expert. Just make sure your favourite sheets aren’t on the bed, unless you want a not-so-pretty pattern of crustiness