I recently went to my first laser tattoo removal appointment – five years after I’d first darkened the clinic’s doors.
Let me be frank: It is much, much, much worse than getting tattooed in the first place. I suppose it’s my penance for the decisions I made all those decades ago.
Five years ago, the nurse told me so many horror stories about the procedure that I decided to never go back there again – plus my boyfriend at the time had lots of ink so I hated mine a little less.
I’ve written about my tattoos before, so I won’t go over old skin ground, but I recently came to the realisation that I am finally done with my skin art.
The decision was partly helped by my “oh so hip” ’90s arm-band now looking nothing like its original incarnation. In fact, it looks like a stripe of blobby blackish ink coupled with a last gasp attempt at green and yellow.
When I first got it, I always wore sleeveless shirts to show off my 20-something version of “politically aware” artwork that was a resplendent mass of peace signs and sunflowers. Today, I usually buy clothes that hide it.
I never see the tattoo on my shoulder – so original it was chosen off a tattooist’s wall when I was 18 or 19 – so until the nurse took photos of it, I’d forgotten what it even looked like at all.
I’m glad I waited five years to start treatments, though, because technology has advanced so much that the pain level has “improved” from excruciating to merely agonising.
Because I’m an idiot, I decided to get both of my tattoos removed at the same time, which means double the dose of fun every six weeks for more than a year. It really does seem like some kind of cosmic joke – especially since it costs 10 times more to get them taken off than it cost to get them put on.
The nurse thought my “once was an armband but now looks like I’ve drawn on myself with a magic marker when drunk and delusional” tattoo would hurt the most – yes, there is a pain scale – so we started with the tattoo that I reportedly still had on my shoulder.
Unfortunately, her estimation was wrong because the pain was so intense that we had to resort to seven second laser bursts, while I helpfully kicked the wall and therapeutically said “fuck” quite a lot.
As it turned out, the mess that is my arm tattoo hurt much less but maybe I was in shock by that stage.
The odd thing is, once the laser is done with blasting the ink into smithereens back into your blood stream, the pain miraculously disappeared and unlike tattoos there wasn’t a solitary drop of blood.
The whole procedure, probably took all of four minutes.
That was five days ago and I know that the last time I spent so much time looking at my tattoos was when I got them in the first place.
The tattoo on my shoulder is miraculously one-third disappeared after the very first session but its lines were always fine and really quite dainty considering an outlaw motorcyclist probably did it.
My arm-band ink coagulation, well, if I look very hard (which I do often) has possibly and hopefully faded ever so slightly. That one, they tell me, will take many, many sessions to fade away, which really is wonderful news.
The weird thing is, if I could go back tomorrow and do another session, I would – even though it was as painful as an abscessed tooth.
Alas, they won’t let me because it takes weeks for your skin and your immune system to recover from getting hammered repeatedly by a laser.
It’s annoying to me that the one tattoo I never saw is the one that’s going to go first but at least I know that it works, right?
I know I had 20-plus good years of having tattoos and I still don’t regret having them in my life – unlike a number of my past boyfriends.
It’s just that once I made the momentous decision to wipe my skin slate clean, then I have to be patient for that to become a reality.
Perhaps it’s the latest evolution or metamorphosis of me, which of course takes time.
So until that day comes, after many more sessions where I’m painfully reminded of my adolescent folly, I guess I’ll just have to keep swearing a lot and kicking walls until I eventually come out clean on the other side.