one of the single ladies…

Something I’ve really wanted to do for a while is get a tattoo. I can’t put my finger on exactly when it happened – when I decided I wanted to permanently mark my body. Regardless, it was kind of a big deal for a few reasons. Let me explain:

First of all, I am well aware that in order to get a tattoo, you must undergo repeated, methodic stabbing by a tiny needle. I am terrified of needles. In fact, at twenty-something years of age, I still ask that whomever is administering my shots count to three before sticking me. (Yes, I’m that girl.) When giving blood or over the years when I “donated” my plasma (which really isn’t a donation, as they actually pay you to give it to them), I have never looked at the needle – when they’re inserting it, once it’s in my right arm (because my left is impossible to prick for a good vein), when they take it out – I will literally have a near-passing out experience. It happened once when I accidentally saw the damn thing in my arm…

Secondly, while I do have a notable fear of needles, perhaps I have an even bigger aversion to pain. I don’t deal well with pain, which is precisely why I’ve decided that perhaps childbirth isn’t for me. Little things make me feel somewhat queezy… I can’t bear to listen to people talk about things that just sound like they hurt. I can feel the phantom pain in whatever body part they’re describing and it’s too much to handle. Once, in the fifth grade, I accidentally stabbed myself with a pencil in the skin between my thumb and forefinger… I nearly passed out. And looking back on it, it really didn’t hurt that much. But I stabbed myself. That, in itself, was enough to do me in. Long story short: I have the world’s lowest pain tolerance. (Except for that one time when I had kidney stones and waited until a couple of hours later to drive myself to the ER… Whatever.)

And finally, we all know that tattoos are, basically, permanent. I know that people can get them removed these days, but I hear that’s a rather lengthy, expensive, and painful experience. (And we know how I feel about undergoing avoidable pain…) But essentially, if you get a tatt, you’re marking your body for the rest of your existence. It’s kind of a big decision. Or at least, it should be. We’re talking a pretty serious decision. I mean, one could argue that tattoos are more permanent than marriage. You can’t divorce body ink…

I knew when I decided I wanted one that I wanted it to mean something. I wanted it to stand for something and I wanted it to be… cool. Meaningful. Epic. It’s own story. Yet subtle. I didn’t want to cover my body in some kind of canvas-worthy piece of art, but I wanted it to be something that someone could see and ask me about. And it didn’t take me long to know what I wanted it to represent: my independence as a woman. But how do you depict feminism and independence?

I’m sure there are plenty of ways, but I didn’t know how. I Googled and saw nothing that I liked. And then, randomly one day, I knew what I wanted. I wanted just a single, thin line around my left ring finger, maybe in white or gold. The line would signify that I was married to me first and that I didn’t need a ring on my finger to get through life and be happy. I started asking around and reading up on white ink and heard that it could potentially turn yellowish (and probably not the yellow I was going for, because that’s just my luck) as it aged. Apparently, if the tatt is exposed to more sunlight, it will fade faster. Ring finger? Hello, constant sun exposure. So, those ideas were out.

And then I had a stroke of genius: I’ve always loved the look of old-school, antique skeleton keys. I have always wanted one of those Tiffany key necklaces that are lightly dusted with diamonds. And then I realized – what better way to express my independence than to etch a key on the finger that is meant to show dependence and partnership with another human? I could do it in black and as it aged, it would look awesome. It was perfect. And so, I decided that I would ask my KBFF to take me somewhere to get inked the weekend before my birthday.

The place seemed super sketchy. It took us a good ten minutes to find it because KBFF couldn’t remember which building it was in. She had been there once previously in the summer to get her own first tattoos and called ahead to make us appointments. When we finally found the place, we had to wait to be “beeped” in. The door was locked and there was no sign to show that it was a legit business. (I told you, sketch!) Apparently, tattoos are “illegal” in Korea. (Or at the very least, frowned upon.) The place we went to was basically a concrete upper office space in an older building downtown. There was nothing special about it – it was literally a shell of a business with a single computer, a giant space heater, a few dilapidated sofas and a separate room where the artwork took place. Had I been with someone else, I would have been worried about getting Hepatitis or something. I trust KBFF wholeheartedly, though, and if she was comfortable, I knew it was fine. She’s the world’s biggest germaphobe.

I wish I had taken photos of the whole experience. Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal. I went into the back room with the tatt artist by myself and he was very nice, but spoke very little English. I am proud to say that I didn’t make a single peep whilst he jabbed my delicate finger with his inking machine. I did, however, squeeze the living shit out of the belt I was wearing. I also breathed heavily through my nose and tried to control my potential outbursts of pain. I’m sure he thought I was a big baby, but at least I didn’t cry.

moments after the job was done...

moments after the job was done…

He did manage to ask me if I had a boyfriend, to which I laughed and said, “No.” I didn’t bother to try explaining that the reason for the tattoo was to signify that I didn’t want one. (Insert chuckle here) He seemed to be concerned about my lack of significant other (like so many Koreans) because when he took me back to my KBFF, he told her something in Korean. I knew exactly what he was telling her: that I was fat and that I should lay off the carbs and white flour. Seriously. He told her that. That if I thinned out, maybe I’d have a boyfriend.

Guess what? I don’t care. Thanks for the unsolicited advice, buddy, but I’m doing just fine with all my white-flour and carb-infused curves. I’m not worried, so you shouldn’t be, either.

And so there you have it. That’s the story of my birthday gift to me this year: I got inked and crossed one more little thing of my Life List.  I’m one happy little independent, single lady.


  1. Dan Antion says:

    I gave blood one time. I passed out when they did the finger prick for the quick test. I have never made the attempt again. No tatts, but I’m OK with them and what people eat and wear and most of what they say. Until they offer stupid advice. Congrats on scratching one off the list.

    • Ugh, I HATE that finger prick thing! Though I can’t say I’ve ever passed out from it… I do know, however, that my blood pressure rises just before they’re about to prick. Haha!

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