Saturday, February 21, 2009

My first Mexican tattoos

One of my all time favourite songs is 'In These Shoes' by Kristy McColl. One of the lines is: "So I'm sitting in a bar in Guadalajara" and that's how my experience starts...

It's about 4am and I've been drinking heavily with my new Partner in crime, Vic. I'd met him online 6 months earlier and now I was two-and-a-half weeks into my new life - 7000 miles from home, training to be a teacher and loving every damn second. We started talking about tattoos and I mentioned that I'm itching for a new one under my right breast to match the one under my left. I just didn't have a clue what I wanted it to say. The one on my left side is a bit of a joke between me and Vic, it says *Frode*. Frode is the guy who introduced me to Vic. Vic started joking around saying he'd love to have words with Frode for introducing us and how miserable his life has been since I'd been around. I gave him the look of death and said "Vic, you're a cunt". Vic stopped laughing and looked at me. I couldn't understand what was going on; maybe I'd really insulted him, until Vic said "that's it, that's what your tattoo can say!" It was a done deal.

We stepped out of the bar at 8am after 2 more buckets of beer. I was due to start class at 1:30pm, plenty of time to sober up. We walked along Chapultepec and I spotted a tattoo shop. Living in a new country I had no idea about the reputation of any tattooists in the area. Vic isn't from Guadalajara originally and so he didn't know either. We decided to go have some breakfast to give me a chance to think about things.

11am arrives and after a lot coffee and too many cigarettes I decide to go check out the tattooist. I warn Vic that if I'm not happy I'll walk out and he'll have a long day trawling the tattoo shops with me. We go into Modificarte and Juan greats us. He notices my 'sleeve' and starts talking to me in Spanish. I think the look on my face lets him know I don't understand a word; he starts chatting to me in excellent English and shows me his portfolio. I show him the tattoos I have and tell him what I'd like. We sit talking for about an hour and when I'm totally relaxed with him I give him the go ahead to start drawing up the design and asks me to write out the words. I feel embarrassed about the word cunt staring at me from the page and when Juan asks what the word means I want to die as I try and explain that it's a really, really bad word. I turn to Vic with a look that says 'do I have to do this?' He looks at me, nods and says "You won't regret it kiddo". I know he's right.

Juan finishes up the design and takes me through to the studio. We discuss the placement and I remove my bra and vest. He gives me a tiny towel to cover my modesty and attaches the transfer. I take a look in the mirror and it's perfect. I lie down and Juan shows me all the sterile packages. He explains to me that the arrows on the package change colour when they are opened and that if at anytime I'm not happy with something to let him know. I'm impressed, really impressed. I lie back and try to relax. My *Frode* tattoo was really painful and this one was going to be bigger. Juan asks if I'm ready, I nod and he starts to do his work. The pain was totally bearable, I was amazed. It hurt as he neared my side and when he actually tattooed my breast but other than that I was fine. It seemed to be taking ages, at one point Vic popped his head through the window and told me he was going for a coffee but I could tell Juan was just taking his time to do a job well done. After that, all I could think about was if Vic seen my bare breasts!

After about 45 minutes the needle stopped, I was relieved, none of my tattoos had taken so long and it was starting to wear me out a little. I also had to get to class. Then Juan asked what colour I wanted my stars. It wasn't over just yet. I told him black and pink in reverse of my other one. We had to check which way round the colours are as I couldn't remember then he set off again. 10 minutes later he stopped, for good this time. I got up and looked in the mirror and as always I was totally in love. Juan had done such a beautiful job. This guy never failed to impress me; he had made my first tattoo experience in Mexico an awesome one. I asked him to get Vic so I could show him before I was taped up, the piercer joined us too and everyone stood nodding their approval. I was taped up and headed out into the shop to pay. I thanked Juan for his excellent work and he advised me on aftercare, reminding me not to use tap water - it's not even safe to drink it here in Guadalajara). Then I headed off to school. I arrived to class late but my teacher was fine when I explained I'd been getting tattooed. He thought I was totally crazy but I think he'd already been debating on the idea that I was anyway!

7 months on I don't regret my tattoo at all and love any opportunity to show it off. Some people think I'm crazy for having such a harsh word permanently inked on my body but I'm happy with it. It all comes down to personal taste at the end of the day. When I went home at Christmas my mom asked to see it. I had mailed her telling her I'd got a new tattoo but I didn't think she'd approve. She took one look, shook her head in disbelief and hugged me with a little sigh of "Oh Gem, you're just like your dad!" One of the greatest compliments I've ever received.

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