A few weeks ago, I was refused a tattoo. At a tattoo parlor. By a tattoo artist. At 1 p.m. on a Sunday, prior to consuming any Bloody Marys. I’m approaching 40, self-employed, and am generally used to doing whatever I want with my own body. (That last one was a joke.) This is my story.
A brief historical aside: I got my first tattoo on my shoulder at age 19—my goddaughter’s name, about one inch long. (Yes, I was a godmother at 19. I’m from a special place.) My friend Jeff Zuck did it and he did a nice job and my dad is his dentist so he actually had a (lame) reason to turn me down, but chose not to. Thanks, Jeff.
My second tattoo is on my right wrist. It’s a curly little letter “C” which stands for Carl, who was the kitten I adopted during my divorce in 2007. Another buddy, Maxwell Brown, gave it to me and was nice about it but he was just starting out and was a little nervous about defiling my un-tatted arm. He powered through. Thanks, Max.
My third tattoo is on my left forearm and it says “ownlife” in tiny script. Yes, it’s newspeak from the book 1984. I used to date El-P. Everything makes sense now, yes? For that one, I walked into a parlor near my house in Manhattan, East Side Ink, where I’d heard Rihanna had gotten a tattoo. I don’t remember the artist’s name, but I received the tattoo without incident in 2009.
Now, fast-forward a few years. I gave birth to a human female (through my vaginal opening! Get the joke now?) in 2013 and have wanted since then to get her awesome name tattooed on the side of my neck like dream weaver Freja Beha Erichsen. I’ve also wanted an Aquarius symbol for quite some time but couldn’t figure out which style or where to put it, until my friend Sasha agreed we’d share the tattoo and each get one half of this version. One Sunday afternoon, we walked into New York Adorned, perhaps the hipster-est tattoo parlor in New York City. Whoops!
As soon as we arrived and told the woman at the counter what we’d like, she said, “You can discuss it with the artist’s assistant but I’m not sure they’ll let you get a neck tattoo.”
Okay, here’s where I admit that this response didn’t entirely surprise me. This was the third time I’d been told that: once at a parlor where I just immediately walked out—granted, I’d had a few wines, so I don’t feel like putting them entirely on blast for that one—and once by my cousin Josh, but it was more of a hypothetical refusal since we were just sitting in my yard and not in his tattoo parlor. But the folks at New York Adorned did some next level shit, which is why I’m telling you about it. It is my job.
After a brief wait, this Kyle Mooney on “Inside So-Cal” looking (and sounding)-ass dude named Josh walks up. I show him the Aquarius tattoo. Even though this will be my friend Sasha’s very first tattoo and it will be visible on his wrist, Josh doesn’t bat an eye and we move on to talking about the tattoo I’d like in honor of my only child.
Josh: “You’re gonna have a hard time convincing Dan (at this point I have no idea who ‘Dan’ is, especially not by first name only) to do that. We just don’t do neck tattoos on people who aren’t already completely covered in tattoos.”
Me: “Huh, really? But I do have tattoos and all of them are visible and I’m old.”
Josh: “Would you consider moving it here?” Points behind his ear.
Me: “Um, no, that’s where my 22-year-old nanny hid her tattoo. No, I want it to be visible.”
Josh: “You’ll have to talk to Dan.”
40 minutes later, Dan walks up:
Dan: “Okay, so you’re both getting this one on your arms, yes?
Me and Sasha: [In unison] “Yes, please! About this size...” blah, blah.
Dan: “And then you want your daughter’s name... on your neck?” Shakes head left to right.
Dan: “Not gonna happen.”
Me: “Wait, what? Why?”
Dan: “It’ll look tacky. It’s just tacky.”
Me: “Wait, you’re telling me what will look tacky on me? Don’t I get to decide that?”
Dan: “A neck tattoo on someone without a lot of tattoos is like lighting a birthday candle on an unbaked cake.”
Stunning analogy, right? I wonder: Does Dan know what an analogy even is? And then suddenly I’m fighting back tears because, as Dan has already correctly assessed, I’m just a feeble-minded, hysterical girl. And then I ask the next thing that pops into my head.
Me: “Would you say this to a guy?”
Dan luh-hiterally paused, looked askance, and said with a slight nod, unconvincingly, “Yeah.”
Then he asked if we were ready to get started on the other tattoos, and I was so infuriated I cannot remember exactly what I said but it was something to the effect of, “Are you fucking kidding me? I’m not going to give you money after that, let alone have you touch me or put art on my body!” And then we walked out.
Sasha, to his credit, remained calm and let me handle it myself, although I’m sure if I’d just broken down sobbing he would’ve verbally skewered the dude. I did break down once we got outside.
So, whatever. I mean I guess Dan is an artist and artists are a) not exactly known for not being dicks, and b) they can do whatever art they want just like I can ask for whatever tattoo I want. But man, Dan, you must work on those analogies.
When I calmed down a few minutes later, we hopped in a cab over to East Side Ink where I’d had a respectful experience in the past. Mel, the assistant, greeted us and just had a few words of warning for me. She said that neck and hand tattoos were “game changers” and that if she had it to do over, she wouldn’t have some of her hand tattoos. I was still pretty upset, so I’m not sure if I told her about the advent of lasers or just thought it. I think I said something like, “I get it. I still want it.”
So she smiled politely and asked me to scroll through some fonts and then introduced me to Caesar Bacchus, a delightfully soft-spoken gentleman artist who made my dreams come true.
I bet for a second you thought that was the end of this piece, but let’s have some fun, shall we? Here, directly from Dan the Man’s Instagram account, are a bunch of perfectly un-tacky tattoos he’s given people. Mostly people with dicks. Descriptions are all Dan’s.
Walk-in Saturday stories. Chris was thinking of covering his old tribal barbed wire with a black band until he talked with Brad and I about how barbed wire is actually fucking badass and he’s a better man for it tonight. Cheers!
Throwback to a few years ago in Boston when I tattooed two different bears taking very different drugs.
Yarn guy. Thanks
Eye walk-in done @newyorkadorned yesterday. Thanks for looking. (Get it?)
Ever see a human brain? Ever see a human brain... On Weeed?
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