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Does it hurt? Part III

January 14, 2010

So, we’ve established that getting tattooed hurts.  It’s self-evident that it hurts.  What other sensation could possibly result from being repeatedly stabbed by a needle at 1,000 or more RPM?  If the answer to the question is so self-evident, why bother asking in the first place?  I have a few ideas:

  1. People are stupid? I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong, people are most assuredly stupid, but I don’t think stupidity is the reason people ask this question. Several people whose intelligence I hold in the highest regard, have asked me this question.  I believe it is often the result of some ulterior motive.
  2. Friendly small talk?  I think on the surface, this is certainly the simplest explanation and owing to Occam’s Razor, I am inclined to put stock in it. In all likelihood, people who do not have tattoos and have a limited knowledge and understanding of the tattoo process or the psychology of getting a tattoo simply do not how to begin a conversation about it.  Genuine curiosity combined with lack of knowledge leads them to ask about the most immediately obvious facet of tattoo in a somewhat inarticulate manner.
  3. Some people are hoping for a particular answer?  There is probably a subset of who are curious about getting a tattoo and have never been able to walk the plank so to speak.  They can’t decide what to get, they hate needles…both.  I think perhaps these people want to be reassured.  They want one of the psychological obstacles removed for them.  Ideally they would like to be told that it’s all hype and tattoos are pretty much painless, or at least, if they are living in reality, that it’s not that bad; which, fortunately for them, it isn’t.
  4. Corollary to #3.  There is also probably a subset of people who want to find a way to distance themselves from the possibility of tattoo.  Perhaps somewhere deep down they are curious about getting tattooed, but social pressure, fear of needles/pain, inability to commit or concerns pose an insurmountable road block.  These people probably view the entire process with an inherently skeptical, if not cynical eye and in all likelihood view confirmation of their preconceptions as a get out of jail free card.  Maybe they want a tattoo, but as long as the pain is ostensibly too much, they don’t have to worry about it.

In the end, in most cases it probably comes down to simple friendly banter, but I don’t doubt at all that there is a psychological component at work. I’d be interested to here some opinions of my readers on this topic.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carahe permalink
    January 16, 2010 1:59 am

    One of the things I think about a lot when it comes to tattoos is the somewhat bizarre disconnect between how tattoos are applied and what they (usually) look like. Most tattoos, finished and rested, look like one 0r both of two very divergent things: 1) a picture painted onto skin, and/or 2) an image naturally growing from skin (like a sort of exotic birthmark). Regardless of the image chosen, there is a flat quality to a tattoo that seems to belie the truth of how they get there – that they are etched not ONTO, but INTO the skin. Most tattoos do not look like what they are, colored scars.
    This fact seems to make it difficult to process the reality of tattooing, because in a very visceral sense, tattoos don’t look painful in the way that a straight out scar does. They don’t automatically evoke the concept ‘pain’.
    I find this distinction important because I actually do have a tattoo that was done with intentional ‘scarification’ – it looks very different than most tattoos do, because the needles were pressed so deep that they have actually permanently raised the lines of the tattoo. Where most tattoos feel like any other area of skin – smooth – this one feels like what it is – a scar – and can be traced blind.
    Given this, I have been able to notice the difference in the responses I get to showing people my tattoos. Unlike other tattoos, no one ever asks me if that one hurt, because it’s so blatantly a scar. They don’t have to process a disconnect between appearance and reality.

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