The image came to me in a dream and stayed with me for more than 40 years, emerging fully formed, without warning or explanation: a snake, rampant, wrapped about a lightning bolt, fangs bared. It remained in the back of my mind for years. (I thought “What was that??!!” when I woke up). It wasn’t until somewhat recently – after a very long spell of very bad luck – that the image re-emerged in another dream.
I began to consider that this was a reminder that I had more strength in me that I realized or acknowledged (something many friends have told me but I didn’t take seriously).
Maybe it was time I own that with this avatar.
My brother, an artist, did a sketch based on my dream, and I took it with me for a meeting at Three Kings Tattoo with Caz Williamson, a tattoo artist. We discussed colors, placement, pain (yes, there would be some), and size.
I was easily the oldest person in the tattoo parlor and I found it a welcoming environment. Others in the waiting area (everyone had vaccine proof and wore masks, of course) brought designs they wanted, or browsed through the collections of tattoo designs (called ‘flash books”) on offer – some simple, others complex and colorful.
I put a lot of thought into the my own imagery and colors. Red snakes are considered lucky in Eastern cultures, and snakes are considered avatars of healing and of power, in a defensive, non-aggressive way. I took a lot of time thinking about a motto and decided on “Evinco,” Latin for “I prevail.”
Caz and I discussed the nuances of the design and the colors (he really is a tattoo artist). He mentioned that it takes a deft touch to put tattoos on older skin because it’s thinner…”like putting magic marker on thin tissue” he explained. He also said that over time the ink under the skin spreads regardless of the age of the tattoo subject, but my skin was in pretty good shape.
The price, a per-hour rate, was based on an estimate of the approximate length of time to design, prep and create the tattoo. I asked for colors with vegan ingredients (to lessen the chance of an allergic reaction); Caz told me he made most of his own colors (which is pretty cool). I was told to shave my upper arm, and eat something before my appointment the following week.
Caz showed me three color sketches he made based on my design – he made some neat enhancements and grace notes that made the design more compelling and elegant. We picked out the best solution and he made a template. I was pretty excited when I saw the template outlined on my arm It was getting real!
I stretched out on a table and he went to it. We chatted about colors, our histories, his work, and my work while he settled into a rhythm. It was 90 minutes of a buzzing sensation with pressure. I almost fell asleep. He kept checking in and I said “nope, no pain.” (I took an Advil beforehand but I’m not sure how much difference it made.) I was sorry when it was over. Everybody in the shop was amped about it. I heard a few “That’s beautiful, man” accolades from people in the parlor.
He applied some ointment, and a bandage, gave me aftercare instructions and told me to stop by again anytime. “Nice working with you” he said. Ditto!
I took the bandage off the following morning and started the aftercare regimen: two or three times daily I clean my hands with antibacterial, fragrance-free soap and gently clean the area, let it air dry, and gently pat a fragrance-free moisturizer with clean hands. (It’s got to be free from bacteria.) It will take up to four weeks to heal on the surface and up to six months to heal fully. (I did a lot of research on tattoo aftercare.) Meanwhile, no swimming in pools or the ocean, no submerging in water, no steam room, no loofah scrubs or rough towels, no scratching, and no sunburns. (Autumn is a good time to get a tattoo!)
I returned to the gym after a couple of days; light workouts only. (No sweating!) haven’t had any scabbing but it does itch from time to time; I clean it again and lightly pat on a small amount of fragrance free moisturizer.
So why’d I finally allow myself to have it? I wanted something to remind me, going forward, that despite pandemics, psycho landlords, health emergencies and bad breaks over the years (some real humdingers, too) or to come, I prevailed and will continue to do so. It was a way to own and affirm my sense of agency, so it had to be present tense: I prevail.
I’m waiting before getting my booster. I already had the flu shot and got my other vaccines up to date. From now on I’m only getting blood drawn and needles in my left arm.
I can’t quite explain it, but having it makes me feel better. I actually draw strength from it. Maybe it was that it was something I had thought about doing for myself and I finally did it. I finally took action and gave myself something I had wanted for a very long time. I finally did it and it feels great. Talk about Aging with Attitude!
But how about you? What have you finally done for yourself, or given yourself, after thinking about it or wanting it for a long time? Let us know in the comments!
Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at [email protected]