This will only hurt a bit 

So, you're getting tattooed what the hell's gonna happen to you?

The name tzi probably means nothing to you. That's all right. He was born more than 5,000 years ago and likely didn't care much about you, either.

tzi was murdered, buried under ice and snow for several millennia, and then dug up in the Alps by a group of mountaineers.

Among the things they found: tzi had tattoos.

You will soon have one.

You're 18, have been living at home your entire life and now feel determined to prove your independence. Forget that tzi was looking for relief from rheumatism, and you're hoping to gain a few sex-appeal points. The cases are strikingly similar.

The truth, according to Sailor Bill Johnson, is that no two people are alike when it comes to tattoos. Johnson (the "Sailor Bill" part is a trade name) serves on the board of directors for the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT) in Orlando, Fla. He says there's no way to know what to expect from your first tattoo experience. With this in mind, here are some of the things tattoo artists have learned over the past 5,300 or so years.

Before the tattooing starts, eating well will help ensure that your body's blood sugar levels are normal. Low amounts of sugar in the blood can lead to faintness or nausea.

When approaching a parlor, check for signs such as: "Going out of business sale: We'll tattoo anything!" These places won't care if you're drunk. Hopefully someone in your group will inform you that entering such an establishment is a bad idea. If you have ever awakened on Sunday feeling an urgent need to apologize to everyone you might have interacted with the night before, this is easy to understand.

"Having someone come in who has been drinking and wants a tattoo is just not what we are about," says Johnson.

According to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site, the most common side-effect of tattoos is often associated with intoxication: the "remorse factor." Beyond that, alcohol impedes the blood's clotting process. This leads to profuse bleeding and can diminish the fun you are having.

Regarding the question of pain, the APT has this to say: "The level of pain ... varies from person to person, but most people don't find it unbearable."

"You take 10 people, and some won't feel a thing, and one person will say it is the worst pain they have ever felt," adds Johnson.

Often, the differences are associated with the tattoo's placement and the number of nerve endings in that location on the body. The ancient Greeks tattooed the faces of their slaves as a means of identifying them. That, I think, would hurt very much.

The pain, which tends to subside during the shading process, is only one of the body's reactions to tattooing. Johnson reports that you might experience an adrenaline rush and the release of endorphins. For this reason, some people talk about feelings of euphoria while in the chair.

This being your first tattoo, some level of anxiety and excitement is unavoidable. It's important to keep as calm as possible, though. Tensing up or moving quickly might turn "Rob" into "Bob." Rob will certainly fail to see the humor in this. If you need to go to the bathroom or scratch your nose, let the artist know she is probably being paid by the hour and won't mind letting you take a break.

If you're anything like me, the appearance of blood might counteract your ability to remain still. Be advised: Some bleeding is to be expected.

"Lots of people will think they are bleeding more than they actually are," says Johnson. He explains that when the skin is punctured, it releases serum, which mixes with the blood, causing a trickle to appear life-threatening. This, again, is OK.

Now you walk out of the tattoo parlor with a swollen Chinese character on your right bicep that is oozing pus and feels like sunburn. You will probably wonder if it actually means "wisdom" or if the artist decided to write "gotcha" instead.

Caring for your tattoo for the next few weeks is essential, and your artist should tell you everything you need to know. Taking shortcuts in the aftercare procedure can lead to significant consequences such as a butt-ugly blemish, flesh-eating virus or death by arrow wound, as in the case of tzi.

Congrats on the new ink. scene@csindy.com


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