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Guys who get ink want you to look

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Guys who get ink want you to look

Jason Campbell is shown getting a tattoo.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED June 21, 2014 1:21 a.m.

Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. 

Getting multiple needles that are vibrating at high speeds dragged across your raw skin is not a pleasant experience. 

It hurts. And the best thing that you can hope for is that your skin actually goes numb from the trauma and that numbness radiates out throughout the period of time that you’re sitting in that chair because otherwise, it can be downright unbearable. 

I’m not talking about a star on your foot. 

For whatever reason, after getting my first tattoo – which hurt – I got caught up in all of the “ink addiction” hoopla that commonly gets people to come back. The first one simply wasn’t big enough. 

Adding something to it would make it stand out more. Maybe throwing something on top of it would add a little bit more flair. How about doing something around the inside of my arm to kind of pull everything together?

I rationalized and I explained and I came up with reason after reason why this was a good idea. 

And so here I was, with my arm extended above my head – an intricate pattern of my family crest inlaid on the delicate flesh on the upper part of your arm with a guy using a very fine needle to go over the very thin lines swirled across the top – thinking that at any moment I was going to pass out. 

Why am I doing this?

Because it looks good. That’s the only reason. The tattoo on my left arm stretches from the top my shoulder to the bottom of my shirt sleeve, and stretches all the way around. Every part means something to me and I wouldn’t necessarily say that any of them, gotten in pieces, were impulse buys. 

But I l went to great lengths to make sure that I didn’t go below where a standard dress polo would show. A t-shirt doesn’t quite cover up the bottom portion, but I wanted to make sure that in a professional setting, nobody would be able to tell that I had ink embedded beneath my skin. 

Was I ashamed? No. Maybe it was societal – despite the sweeping popularity of tattoos, they’re still frowned upon in some settings. But here I was, lying back in this chair in an uncomfortable position getting subjecting to an obscene amount of pain for something that I was going to make every effort to hide from the world. 

Webster’s dictionary describes vanity as “excessive pride in one’s appearance” and for the most part, nobody could say that I wasn’t vain. I’ve gotten better in some aspects over the years and worse in others. I’m more conscious of what I wear but less willing to do the sort of routine upkeep – gym, etc. – that was second nature to me in the past. 

Does that mean that when I’m not at work I still don’t let my left shirt sleeve ride a little bit higher or stretch my arm out the window a little bit further so that the person next to me can see the fruits of my willingness to accept pain? Of course not. The first thing I do is hike up the sleeve. I know at all times whether my tattoo is visible, and in every single appropriate situation I want you to know that it’s visible too. 

You can’t turn around in a public place anymore without seeing somebody that’s tattooed. Full-sleeves have become quite popular with the younger crowd, and you’re not likely to find the guy with ink all the way down to his fingertips wearing a long-sleeved shirt when he’s out in public. He wants you to know. He wants you to look. 

I covered a few UFC events years back – I’ve only ever seen one fighter without tattoos, and that’s Stockton’s Nick Diaz – and I was astonished when I saw that ringside commentator Joe Rogan had a full sleeve on his left arm. You simply don’t ever see it when he’s wearing the button-down shirt that he wears on every broadcast. Away from the live broadcast, however, and it’s on full display.

We’re vain. Maybe it’s peacocking and maybe it’s just the desire to win the approval of others. 

But to go so far as to have somebody drill into your skin so that other people will stop and pay attention? That’s a lot further than an offbeat haircut or a bright pair of shoes or trendy sunglasses. 

The length that people will go to never seems to amaze me. 

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m late to an appointment. I hear that the guy does good work. 


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