Baxter's Blog

LETTER FROM HAGERSTOWN

Posted in Human Interest by misterroadtripper on January 24, 2011

FINISHING MY DARUMA

Daruma

My wife, who is not a fan of ink-clad bodies, but accepted (with much reluctance) my desire to get a tattoo ten years ago, recently requested that, once my current “in progress” tattoo is completed, I not get anymore. She asks for very little from me but, in return, keeps our household and family wrapped with love and in check like a well cared for machine, so who am I to challenge this request? After all, I can try to suppress my appetite through books, magazines and blogs… or so I hope.

This upcoming week will mark the last session with my tattooist, and the bittersweet sensation is already present both in my mouth and gut. I look forward to seeing the completion of the past years’ many sittings coming together. I look forward to seeing my Daruma spring to life with color, and I look forward to witnessing the expression on my tattooist’s face when I present him with a Horiyoshi III book that I purchased for him as a final gratuity, as an offering of appreciation for the lifelong artwork he has etched into my skin.

But what I can’t seem to shake is the awful feeling of going there, knowing that I may never find myself on the receiving end of the needle again. As with other tattoo enthusiasts; I completely enjoy everything about tattoos, from the anticipation of planning and beginning a new piece to the prep of each session, to the “at times” eye-wincing pain, to the proud showing of my latest piece of work. This will be missed greatly as will the therapy of the tattoo sessions themselves. I can’t think of any other activity (besides adult intimacy) where the time devoted is completely and utterly all about oneself. After all, no one else is feeling the scraping of the needles across the skin. It’s all about you at that moment, and I think that’s one the reasons tattoos become addictive. How often do any of us truly have “me” time in our busy lives?

In an effort to satisfy the void left behind I will have to comfort myself by wearing sleeveless shirts for the unforeseeable future, to expose the two almost half-sleeves I wear daily as a reminder of my personal journey (albeit brief by many standards) into the world of tattoos. I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to become a member of the marked. It has opened my eyes and mind in ways I never imagined. For this I am forever grateful.

—Steve Bradford
Hagerstown, Maryland

8 Responses

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  1. mr.p said, on January 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Eloquently said! The things we do for love… Mine insists we get tattooed together! C’est le vie.

  2. Eleanor said, on January 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Really, really well said, especially the part about “me time.” That really resonated for me and must be why I’m so looking forward to my appointment on Friday. Between holidays and other people’s birthdays and busy season at work, I have had zero “me time” since my last appointment back in November.

  3. Steve Bradford said, on January 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Thank you both for the kind words. The tattoo “experience” is one which cannot be duplicated, I think. I absolutely love the actual process of getting tattooed. Everything is so totally focused on the receiver that even the pain is enjoyable.
    Who knows, maybe one day my wife will come around and decide she, too, would enjoy a little color added to her canvas…..maybe….

    Steve Bradford

  4. the mediator said, on January 25, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Well said, and the more I think about it, actually kind of interesting – When I hear this situation the other way around, i.e. a man tells a woman that he doesn’t want her to get tattoos, then the backlash is almost instant: ‘he doesn’t control you,’ ‘it’s your body,’ ‘leave him!’ etc. But if its the other way around, I guess it’s ok?

    To each his own and as long as it works for you and you are both happy, then that’s what matters! Marriage is a partnership and both sides make sacrifices, and I am not disagreeing or arguing with what you’re doing at all, but I just wonder what the comments would be like if it were him telling her not to get tattooed. I’m a female so it’s nice these things work in my favor 🙂

  5. Steve Bradford said, on January 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

    You raise a good point, how dare her for trying to control me!
    Just kidding. For me, I knew going into this, over 10 years ago, how she felt about altering the body, but I did it anyway. I still knew how she felt about it each time I added onto the first arm, and I hadn’t forgotten how she felt about it when I decided to move onto my other arm. She has never “demanded” that I stop getting tattooed, but rather has asked me to please stop. I guess it comes down to picking your battles. She has been plenty forgiving of me on many levels over the past 26 years, so her request is not the end of my world. I am and will remain tattooed both externally as well as internally. After all, being part of the tattooed community is as much of an internal feeling as it is visual.

  6. the mediator said, on January 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

    That’s sweet! sounds like you two have a good balance. And I hope there was no assumption I was criticizing you guys, I just think it’s funny the reaction that happens the other way around!

    Cheers!

  7. Steve Bradford said, on January 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Nope, never thought that at all. It’s all good.
    That being said, you’re absolutely correct about the other way around. 🙂

  8. Uncle Tim said, on January 27, 2011 at 12:02 am

    I, for one, am a type of person who is repelled and the very hint of my partner trying to control me in any way which does not concern her. I am also the type of person who does not try to control my mate as well. My current girlfriend, Betty, is Japanese and does not have a mark on her. During the course of our three-year relationship, I have not said one word to her about the fact that she is “sans ink.” I have been a professional tattoo artist for the last 15-and-a-half years. She has worked as many as 15 tattoo conventions or more with me over those three years and is fully immersed in the tattoo culture. She knows all my friends and none of them really care whether she is tattooed or not. All I have ever said to Betty about the subject is: “Whenever you are ready, I would love to tattoo you or I can refer you to any of a number of great artists.” I respect her for who she is and she accepts me for who I am. I am heavily tattooed and I continue to get tattooed on occasion. It’s none of her business, anyway, but I am willing to answer any question she might have, and she is becoming very knowledgeable and even attends conventions by herself. The tattoo community accepts her for who she is.

    All of us have various reasons for getting tattooed. All of us have interior and exterior boundries that may prevent us from making the decision to enter the “realm of the marked.” I would venture to say that ALL of those are mental hurdles are based firmly in the fear of the unknown or reinforced my misinformation about our craft. But those of us who are privy to the truth about our clan know that the most difficult thing about getting tattooed is what to get next or who to get it from next, after we are initiated. It’s an addiction that begins not with the first prick of the skin, but when we first walk into a tattoo shop and smell the green soap mingling with music, chatter and buzzing. We are bombarded with colorful, scary images framed on the walls in between demonic masks and bizarre unfamiliar Art. This is very primal! Although there no beating drums and melodic chanting, the reality hits us in the face when we walk in. This is dangerous and mysterious, these people are hard and tough and I want to be part of it! Where do I sign up?

    All I can add to this is a simple timeless saying: “To thine own self be true.” ——-Uncle Tim


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