What to consider for your first tattoo in Charlotte

A couple of my girlfriends have been making noise about getting their first tats. About how they want one but haven’t taken the plunge — partially because they don’t know what to expect and partially because they don’t know where to go or when to make time.

I got a tattoo right before I turned 25. This was strategic: The voice of my quarter-life-crisis (irrationally) told me that if I waited any longer I would get too old and boring to get inked. But I also had plenty to consider.

This is how you know you’re ready for your tattoo:

You’re committed to a design.

I wanted the same word for two years (“shanti,” which is “peace,” in Sanskrit), so I was pretty set. But you could also consult a tattoo artist about a concept you have.

You know exactly where you want it.

This phase is good for considering whether a neck tattoo or a less-noticeable placement would be preferable based on your place of work. Do you work in a cubicle at Bank of America, remotely in a nook at Smelly Cat Coffee or in the exam rooms at Novant Health? I categorized myself as “a creative” so I could get away with one in plain sight.

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If your design includes a word, you know how to spell that word.

I Googled the written form of “shanti” one bajillion times in “image search” and translators, plus emailed it to my Jivamukti yoga teacher for expert confirmation.

[Related: 29 Heartbreakingly Misspelled Tattoos]

You know where to go.

I collected recommendations from already-inked friends. Meaning I could trust the artistic competency and general sterility of the place. This seemed important.

The three Charlotte spots that were recommended to me:

– Tattoo Bill’s on Monroe Road. Their tagline: Ready when you are.

– Fu’s Custom Tattoo in NoDa. Their philosophy: Tattoo art is a craft that requires immovable faith.

– 510 Expert Tattoo in NoDa. Their goal: To create custom art.

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You made an appointment.

I basically treated this like a doctor’s visit. I made an appointment three days in advance, by phone, at Fu’s in NoDa. That neighborhood felt the most familiar, and Tom Michael (better known as Ugly Tom) at Expert had a one-month wait or longer. He’s known for taking on crazily intricate projects.

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I’m not patient. I emailed the design to a tattoo artist at Fu’s (shout out to Matty for dealing with me).

Then I just went. I provided my driver’s license, signed a form and let Matty stamp my wrist with the design I sent him. He asked me to stand in front of a floor-length mirror and make sure I was satisfied with the stamp. I asked him to hold on a sec while I Googled the design on my phone one more paranoid time.

Twenty minutes later, I had fresh ink.

Last step: listen. Ask every dumb question that pops into your brain about letting your skin heal — because your design is about to start peeling like a sunburn. Then send me a photo of your tattoo if you happened to get one of the Charlotte skyline because I’d really like to see that.