In honor of AJ McLean’s 36th birthday today, I dug up Backstreet Boys greatest hits album thanks to Google All Access (seriously, this program is crack like and makes Pandora look like the 90 lbs weakling. Anyway…). It was vastly entertaining to take a little trip back in time to my 14 year old self and what she was crazy about. In my head, I was having a dance party. You know, the trademark Jackson 5, boyband back step that’s recognizable out of the corner of your eye. Their music is the aural equivalent of a deep friend Twinkie. No nutritional value whatsoever, but tastes really damn good. Piggybacking off Carrie’s post, that was half a lifetime ago. Well before I knew much more than pop music, high school, new friends, and living in the dance studio. I had my first boyfriend and my first kiss that year. The worst pain I’d felt up to that point was moving away from the city I grew up in and all the friends who came with it. I would be dumped for the first time with the most ridiculous reason ever, but I didn’t see that at the time. It’s easy to look back at her and smile. If someone had told her where she would be almost 15 years later, she probably wouldn’t have believed them.
This month is the 3 year anniversary of when I finished my final tattoo. I had my first sitting in September 2010. With large pieces, it’s not uncommon to sit for multiple sessions. It’s a phoenix which I thought was fitting symbolism. Three years ago I gave up hurting myself. Quit it cold turkey along with sleeping around. I haven’t had a drink in almost 10 months, the longest I’ve gone since I started drinking regularly. It just took the right motivation that AA lacked. Maybe I just don’t notice it any more, but I get fewer and fewer comments about my tattoos. Maybe because it’s the winter and everything is covered. I don’t get defensive or angry when people ask. The silly questions still make me roll my eyes, but I don’t get angry like I used to. “Did they hurt?”, “Yes, there were needles involved”. “What do they mean?”, “They’re my self injury scars”. That usually backs people off fairly quickly. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I’ve entertained the idea of having some of them removed. Ultimately I decided to keep them. They’re part of my story for better or worse. Some days I hate them and want to scratch them off. Other days, I hardly notice them like I would hardly notice a mole or a birth mark.
The funny thing about the final sitting was how much it hurt. Up to that point, tattooing had been more annoying than painful. I could sit for hours without so much as a peep. Artists were always impressed with how long and how well I could sit. Up to that point, I’d only ever had a hard time sitting once while getting a tattoo. It was at a convention, they’d worked on me for almost 6 hours without a break, and my quads were about ready to die. It took a total of 8 hours and spanned the entire front of my right thigh. While finishing up the phoenix, I could barely hold still. I spent most of the 3 hour sitting trying to wiggle away. I’d had my ditch (the place where your elbow bends inward) tattooed on the other arm with no problem. Not so on this round. It occurred to me much later that it was a sign of healing. To an outsider, it seems strange that cutting or tattooing would provoke an emotional release. It’s all too true. Once I’d begun to heal the broken bits, the ability to withstand pain went away. I was, quite literally, able to feel again. And goddamn did it hurt. I walked out of the shop and never looked back.