Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
By Hannah Guay
The day I decided to get a tattoo was rather spontaneous. The idea, of course, wasn’t. I had planned on getting one for almost two years before I finally went through with it. Some of you might be thinking, “Who let her do this, doesn’t someone have to sign for you?”
The answer is yes. My dad did.
Most parents might not do that, but after losing my mom, the decision was easy. I just needed a little help from my sister. Sunday morning I woke up around 10:30am and texted her. She called Freak Show Tattoo and made an appointment for 6pm. The rest of my day consisted of getting ready and sitting around impatiently until 6 o’clock. As soon as it seemed an appropriate time to leave, my dad and I piled into the car.
I had the note my mom had written me clutched in my hand, next to my wallet, which held my ID. After a car ride that felt like forever, we stepped out into the rain. I put my belongings under my coat to prevent them from getting wet. We were greeted by a stout bald guy covered in tattoos and piercings.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
We told him we had an appointment for 6, which was minutes away. When you walk in, the counter is parallel to the door and raised on a platform like a stage. The platform also holds two massage table-type seats. The table farthest from the desk was occupied by a man, probably in his early 20s, getting a tattoo across his entire shoulder and right side of his chest. I watched in awe as his face stayed painless and blank. The table closest to the front desk was open, awaiting me.
They handed us a clipboard of waivers and sent us over to a deep red couch in the far corner. The longer we waited the more I realized this would be on me forever. My sister arrived and made sure we had checked in multiple times. The man who greeted us would be doing my tattoo, and soon enough he called us over to see what I wanted.
I showed him the letter my mom wrote me and told him I wanted the words, “I love you to the moon and back!” in her handwriting, on my back shoulder. And I wanted the heart exclamation point as well, exactly as she had drawn it.
He seemed pleased with my choices and told me he would go to the back to get everything sorted out for the stencil. I looked at my sister nervously, and she mirrored my expression. She is no stranger to tattoos. She has six. My family is pretty big on tattoos. My grandma has three. My grandpa has one. My aunt has one or two. My cousin has five or six – she’s 18. My dad and brother don’t have any. Everyone who has a tattoo has at least one to remind them of my mom.
Our tattoo artist returned shortly with his stencils laid out. He asked me to pull down the shoulder of my shirt, and I did so. He would stencil the tattoo first where he thought it would look best. When he finished, my sister took a picture and showed it to me.
In all honesty, it looked kind of weird. It was all in one line, which was too long for my body, so it was awkwardly slanted up toward to my neck. To be fair, I didn’t have a certain vision in mind when I walked in, but I knew this wasn’t it.
We talked a little more about placement and decided cutting the sentence into two portions was the best choice. He made a few cuts to the stencil and rubbed off the previous one with a wet paper towel. Then he placed the new stencil on my back, and my sister took another picture. I knew this one was the one I wanted. I knew I wouldn’t mind having it on my body forever.
What happened next moved quickly. Before I knew it, I was laying down on the table, feeling as vulnerable as ever. I had no idea what to expect because I’d never gotten a tattoo before, or anything other than piercings. When the needle finally broke through my skin, I was pleasantly surprised. It felt no more painful than a cat scratching you. He asked me how I was.
“I’m doing good,” I could confidently say, without it being a lie. The buzzing of the needle seemed to get louder as he worked. Maybe 10 minutes later, it was done. I had officially gotten my first tattoo, and it would be there for the rest of my life. I couldn’t have been more excited when my sister showed me the picture of the back of my right shoulder.
Walking out of that tattoo parlor I had a new-found confidence in myself, and I was content knowing a piece of my mom would forever be with me.
Hannah Guay, 16, is a writer and artist in Colorado. She loves her family and friends, her dog Millie, and her new tattoo.