To put it simply, I enjoy art. Music consumption is arguably one of my primary hobbies, whether it be traveling for concerts or actively investing in my favorite artists. I look forward to spending days exploring museums in unfamiliar cities. I decorate my walls with posters, paintings, graphic art, and tapestries. I find beauty in how people arrange plants and flowers in their garden. I love the rebellious nature behind graffiti and street art. I have always had a fascination and adoration for body art.
Even as a child, I remember seeing people with tattoos and piercings and finding appreciation in it. I can’t exactly pinpoint when that went from childhood curiosity to something I actively wanted for myself. If I had to guess, it was around the time I was into emo music and seeking more outlets to express myself. Luckily for me, tattoos aren’t legal for angst-y teenagers. Though my parents are not nearly as enthusiastic about body art as I am, they have come to terms with me wanting to express myself in such a way. Or at least I hope they have, several piercings and tattoos later… Have I mentioned how wonderful my parents are for putting up with me?
I have only personally entered the tattoo world this year. After realizing I was losing autonomy and control over my body, I had a real “screw it” moment and got a tattoo after brunch. I was just as surprised as everyone else was. Because I have always wanted tattoos, I have always been prepared for when the moment happened. I got the latin phrase from my dad’s family crest inside my left forearm. The quote reads “coleum non animum,” or “sky not soul.” The longer Horace quote essentially translates to “climate may change but never the character.” Its facing me so I can remind myself of it whenever I need it. This was quickly followed up with symbols from my mom’s family crest inside my right forearm, including an arrow and a hand. I feel much more balanced with both.
Much like other tattoo enthusiasts, I have automatically associated Friday the thirteenth with tattoos. I cannot attest to a correlation between those who feel they experience regular stints of bad luck to those who have tattoos, but the tattoo industry must have realized there was some connection there. This article from The New York Times showcases this “holiday” tradition with personal anecdotes from participants along with explanation of the history, stemming back to Oliver Peck. Oliver Peck is probably most recognizable from his time on Ink Master however he holds the world record for the most tattoos given in a day, which was on Friday the 13th. We can thank him for this tradition.
Beyond having an appreciation for tattoos, I also believe I have bad luck. I jokingly cite Murphy’s Law on a regular basis. I’ve learned to embrace it and find humor in my misfortunes. Of course it becomes frustrating when I experience multiple spells of bad luck in a short time span but I am learning to ride the wave. This bad luck is in balance with all the good aspects of my life. At least it provides me with funny stories. At any rate, this lucklessness has translated to a fascination with superstitions, including the number 13. I like to find the good in the number instead of assuming something bad will happen in association. My current apartment is number 13. I rescued my cat Pixie in 2013. I like to offset the good and bad.
A couple of weeks before this past Friday the 13th I was having a typical conversation with my friend Claire. If I had to guess, the conversation consisted of catching up on our current melodramas, discussing our individual wellness or lack thereof, and thinking of ways we can do everything we want in life while still maintaining responsibilities. That’s what friends are for, right? I remember divulging how I wanted more tattoos but how I really shouldn’t be spending my money on that at this point in time. She then lovingly reminded me that Friday the 13th happened to be two days before my birthday. I automatically rationalized my ability to get myself a cheap tattoo for my birthday. I deserved it. I was going to treat myself. Unfortunately it really is that easy for me to justify the decisions I make.
Once I realized I was definitely going to do this, I scrolled through the Instagram #fridaythe13thtattoo tag to see if any somewhat-local shops were celebrating. I then came across some cute tattoos posted by an artist at Jersey Devil Tattooing & Body Piercing from Friday April 13th and asked if they were doing the same specials and designs for July. The artist, Tracy, quickly and enthusiastically confirmed they were and I was set. Nothing works more for me than immediate feedback and positivity. I was sold.
The thirteenth rolled around and I had a lot of energy. I prepared my playlist for the car ride. I made sure I had enough fuel to support my mini-adventure. I am very aware of making sure to eat, drink water, and relax before tattoos. I also had about an hour-15 minute drive each way, which is taxing for the said lack of control over my body. I left around 10:35 to give myself enough time for traffic in assumption of the shop opening at noon. I arrived a few minutes early and met with an artist outside. I stretched my legs while he asked if I was there for a Friday the 13th tattoo. I verified those intentions. He told me to go inside and the dude at the front desk would get the stencil on me. It felt like I had impeccable timing.
I walked into the shop to be greeted by one of my favorite Thrice songs blasting through the speakers. It was another affirmation that I was in the right place. I originally went into this experience wanting an alien head tattoo I saw on Tracy’s Instagram however thought I saw a genie lamp in the story she posted the previous night. Once I looked at the flash sheets, I confirmed I did in fact see a genie lamp. I was torn. I couldn’t decide between the two. The alien head was perfectly adorable. At the same time, I have always wanted a genie lamp tattoo. The “see jay” in my blog name is a play on my first and middle initials, CJ. My middle name is Jean, given to me by my mother, Jean. Jean goes by Jeannie. Jeannie, Genie. I had the genie lamp stencil placed on the outside of my right forearm. It was perfect and in close proximity to her family crest tattoo.
I then told the guy I was going to go gander at the flash again and contemplate the alien head. He told me he was going to take care of something quickly and instructed me to add my name on the list. I noticed I was next in line and felt another twinge of excitement. Apparently the shop had opened at eleven but this was better for my timing anyway. I looked at the stencil again while checking my wallet and the prices. I realized I had enough cash to get both. When he returned I asked him to put on the other stencil “just to see.” Once it was on I knew there was no turning back. It was my most serious “¿Porque no los dos?” moment to date. For those who don’t speak Spanish, it means, “Why not both?” Its another weapon in my arsenal of reasons I use to make decisions. I highly recommend incorporating it into any decision making process. I was directed to go outside, next door, and upstairs to see Tracy for my tattoos. I came outside to Turn Me On by Kevin Lyttle casually playing through the outside speakers while two heavily tattooed men sat at the bench smoking. We exchanged hellos and I went upstairs.
Tracy was finishing up a couple’s tattoos and told me to relax for a few more minutes. I walked around to explore the artists’ various sketches and flashes to pass the time. I noticed her playlist consisted of great hip-hop, which I later complimented after the couple left. She thanked me and explained how the other artist in this part of the studio usually controls the tunes as he as subwoofers. This was her chance to command the music while he was running late. I was glad she did. It helped listening to artists like Lil Wayne for that moment of ink bliss.
She set up her station and got me situated for the genie lamp. She and I confirmed that we spoke previously on Instagram and I explained how her response helped me decide on 1) getting the tattoo and 2) going to her. I also divulged it was my birthday present to myself and she was even more excited to tattoo me. While completing the genie lamp, she said she felt it needed shading though I had just asked for an outline (for financial reasons). She then said she wanted to shade it for me for my birthday. In hindsight I am so happy she used her artistic authority and gifted me the shading. I would never stifle an artists’ process and I was reminded of this rule. After my first round of tattooing she cleaned and covered the lamp then sanitized her station. Even though I was her “next” customer, this provided reassurance on how thorough and clean she was.
This allowed me an opportunity to reaffirm I wanted the alien head. I looked at it in the standing mirror to make sure. She noticed me checking out the stencil and double checked if I was happy with the placement as I would have to go back down for a stencil if I was not. I checked the placement and decided to go for it. I liked how she styled the alien head. I liked the placement. I loved the price. I was ready to go again.
I’m not sure if it was the placement or the shading of the eyes but that little bugger hurt more than the lamp despite the size difference. Luckily it took only a few minutes to finish. During this time I noticed she decorated her supplies with Lisa Frank stickers. I pointed them out and we discussed our love for the artist. I told her that someday I would be interested in getting a Lisa Frank-inspired cat tattoo since Pixie looks exactly like one of the cats. She voiced interest in doing a tattoo like that. I told her once I was ready for it I would hit her up. When she was cleaning the alien up, I genuinely got excited to see the end result. Without thinking I expressed my adoration with an, “Aww, little fuck!” (side bar: I eventually named her Hailey the Alien because I love to personify inanimate objects). Tracy laughed as she was wrapping my left arm up. I thanked her for the tattoos and the bonus present. We firmed up finances then I was on my way home.
See? Sometimes we have to find new ways to take back ownership of our bodies. Not that I’m necessarily suggesting everyone go get tattoos but I’ve found it to be a small way to have some autonomy. If my body isn’t going to perform the way it used to, I can at least embellish it with beautiful art. This has also opened me up to a new, welcoming community of people, whether it be from the interactions I have with tattoo artists or people coming up to me to compliment my body art. My genie lamp in particular has gotten so much love. I don’t typically seek out attention but these praises hold a place in my heart. I am happy I chose to do something for myself for my birthday and participated in a tradition I’ve admired from afar. Let’s see what I get into on Friday December 13th, 2019!