Dead Man Walking

That is exactly How Thomas acted.  For at LEAST a month.  Never mind that HE is the one who made the appointment with the tattoo artist.  Never mind that HE said it was going to be a birthday present for himself.  Never mind that HE has wanted one for decades and just couldn’t get around to getting one.

To be fair, I wanted a tattoo for awhile before I finally got one, too.  I knew the thing was going to hurt like hell and I knew it was permanent.  That permanent part never bothered me.  Unlike many people, I never had the concern that when I get older, the tattoo will look funky.  Who cares?  It’s me.  And I will have had decades to enjoy it until that time.  So that was never an issue.  The PAIN, on the other hand, was the biggest deterrent ever.  And it didn’t help that my early tattoos were on very tender areas of the body where tattoo drills were probably never meant to go.

However, that was almost twenty years ago.  Recently, I decided it would be good to get some of the earlier tattoos augmented, to both reflect changing values and passions and to “update” my canvas.  The new tattoo artist I went to, Charon Henning, (at Cirque du Rouge on H Street in Washington, D.C.) was the personal referral of another tattoo enthusiast whose recommendation meant something.  So I made contact and went in prepared to get re-inked.  The first tattoo she added onto was beautiful by the time she was done.  AND the tattoo, even though it was in a very sensitive area, didn’t hurt as badly as I remembered the original one hurting.  So I went back for another.  The second augmentation hurt, but that was not unexpected considering where it was.  That tattoo also turned out stunning.  So much so that I’ve gotten effusive compliments on it every time I show it off.  That brings us to the last one.  I had met and begun dating Dead Man Walking and he wanted to accompany me for this one so he could talk to Charon about getting a tattoo of his own.  Sweet.  Charon talked to him, figured out exactly what he wanted, negotiated a price, and booked a date.

Then the Big Day comes.  No, wait, back up a month.  I started getting comments in person, via phone, and via texts from Dead Man Walking questioning if he could go through with it.  My first responses were very patient, reassuring, and complimentary.  Then came Week Two.  He seemed to change; he acted strange, and why I definitely knew.   Er, wait, wrong song.

T – two weeks: the texts became more worried, urgent, and doubtful.  My head was thinking, “COME ON!  Get the thing or don’t, but stop obsessing!!”  But, being the supporting, courteous, loving person that I am, my frustration didn’t come out.  Much.  It all came down to asking what he wanted and why.  He decided on a classic three-masted ship with billowing sails on roiling seas, birds flying in the distance.  The ship is personal to him, being a sailor at one time and who continues to love water, boating, and the accompanying sense of freedom.  So when he started getting seriously stressed out about it, I would ask what tattoo he was getting and why he wanted it.  Ok, that worked.  Or so I thought.

T – one week:  “OMIGOD!!!!!  What am I doing?!?!?!?”  Ok.  Expected. I don’t think it was the prospect of pain that stressed him out so much as the idea of actually getting a tattoo.  He is not a young punk anymore and has family members who have voiced disdain for things they consider “below” them – this would certainly qualify.

T – few hours.  I was getting all kinds of texts about, “Can I do this?  I’m hyperventilating!  My heart’s beating out of my chest!”  What went through my head:  “I’M DONE!!  I’m not dealing with this anymore!  Cancel the friggin’ appointment and leave me alone!!!”  What came out in text:  “It’s ok.  You’ll be fine.”  I’m such a good actress.  After verifying he wanted to get the thing, I told him it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as he was making it out to be, and he’d figure out very soon that he’d been making a mountain out of a molehill.  Charon’s process is to get everything ready, and just before she starts drilling, she says, “Touching you in 3, 2, 1…”  JUST to make sure there’s no surprise.  He kept stressing that it would be “3, 2, 1…HOLY CRAP!!!!!”  Ok, well, his terminology may have been a bit more vulgar.  So I told him, he would hear the “3, 2, 1” and feel the drill and say, “That’s it?”  Charon told him the same thing.

T – few minutes.  We’re in the tattoo parlor waiting on Charon to come get him.  He looked like he was going to pass out.  I told him he was not walking the plank.  He said, “FEELS like I’m about to!”  I’m thinking, “I’m gonna bitch-slap you!”  I say, “You’ll be fine.  I promise.”  And for the next half hour, I try to make him think about something else; to talk about something else.  He wasn’t having any of it.  Thankfully, Charon’s shop was still pre-official-opening and they allowed me to accompany him since it was his first and I was a repeat customer.  And Charon knew I was the only thing keeping Dead Man Walking from freaking OUT.  Charon sets up.  Dead Man Walking acts, looks, and sounds like  he’s walking to the gallows.  I tell him he’d relax after she started drilling.  He looks at me like I have three heads.  The expected line comes:  “Touching you in 3” (Thomas squeezes my hand) “2” (hard) “1” (SON of a….).  Small line drilled onto skin.  Dead Man Walking says, “That’s it?”

I bitch-slapped him.  Well, in my head I did, anyway.  He held up like a champ, almost falling asleep while Charon’s drilling, and when she was done, he looked like he does after a long day at work, but no worse for wear.  AND, the best part, he TOTALLY loved the finished product.  I give Charon serious props for taking such good care of a tattoo virgin and doing such an excellent job at it.  The finished piece of art:  TomShip



  1. For someone who was nervous scared and freaking out like going to dentist before my first tattoo, I can understand how he felt but wished had someone like you to be there for mine. As someone who has had the pleasure to know you in person, I can understand the joy he had with you there for this. Maybe when I get my second, you will be there for me like you were for him. Your amazing and caring woman, so jealous of this Thomas, glad your happy.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts and glowing praise! I will convey your sentiments to Thomas. Let me know when you get yours and I’ll see if I can be there to document your experience!

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