My doctor was not taking my endometriosis pain seriously, and it was time to advocate for myself.
“Wait one more year,” my mom kept telling me. I was 18 and like every other person “coming of age,” I wanted my first tattoo. I wasn’t particularly rebellious or whatever you want to call it. I was just young, and to be honest, I thought it would be cool to get a tattoo. I wanted a meaningful Bible verse on my ribcage. Total cliché, I know.
I decided to wait a year, for my mom, because she asked so nicely and was so concerned about my wellbeing. What’s one more year anyway, right? During that year, I finished high school and started my freshman year of college. I had gone with many friends as they got tattoos, and it always took a bit of self-restraint to not just say screw it and get one myself. When I went with friends, I was always the one holding their hands and taking photos. I couldn’t wait to be the one finally getting one.
I scheduled an appointment for Christmas break back in my hometown, and my best friend was coming with me. I was excited when we got to the shop. The tattoo artist was this burly, bearded man who didn’t say much but was polite enough for me to trust him. He had done some my friends' tattoos, and I was completely basing everything about him off referrals.
He drew up different fonts for me for my verse, all in varying sizes and formats. I picked one I liked and checked the spelling a billion times. Finally, I got on the table and lifted my shirt for him to start.
He sat behind me as I lay on my left side. My friend sat in front of me holding my hands. He tested the machine on me just to show me what it would feel like. Not so bad! Even though it was a relatively large piece, I thought it would go over pretty quickly and not hurt too much.
He started outlining the letters. My thought progression went something like this: OK, it’s getting worse. It’s a constant pain that isn’t going away. Geez, how many letters are in this verse?!
Anyone who has a tattoo on their ribcage knows the pain and discomfort I'm remembering. It seemed like he was working forever, when in reality it had only been about 10 minutes. I had seen so many friends get tattoos in the past — I didn’t want to be a baby and ask him for a break or to stop. I just needed to buckle down, clench my teeth, and wait for it to be over.
What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t only clenching my teeth. I was squeezing my entire body. After what seemed like an eternity, the artist paused and said, “OK, quick break. You can relax.”
I let out a breath and felt all the air I was holding inside of me come out of my mouth.
And then it happened.
As I relaxed my body, the loudest, longest fart escaped. It was one of those farts that you hear on TV and think, No one actually farts like that. Or better yet, think about sitting on a whoopee cushion slowly and having the fart come out really loud but seemingly never-ending. That’s what came out of me.
To make things worse, my tattoo artist was still sitting right behind me, his face at my butt level. I looked up at my friend to see if maybe I had imagined it. There were tears forming in her eyes as she tried not to burst out laughing. Nope, I definitely did not imagine it. I slowly turned my face over my shoulder to see if maybe he was facing the other way or had somehow miraculously missed the huge fart that just came out of me.
“Did you just fart on me?” were the first words out of his mouth.
According to my friend, I answered him right away. But in my head this moment seemed like forever. I thought about maybe just running away. What’s a half-finished tattoo anyway, right? I can get someone else to finish it. Then I thought about lying or blaming it on someone else. Thank goodness it didn’t smell or I’d have a whole other issue to worry about. I just nodded my head in embarrassment.
He started to chuckle. “In 20 years of tattooing, I’ve seen some ridiculous things, but you’re the first to fart on me.”
My face was getting hot, and I could feel the red blush spreading. I started apologizing over and over, but was also trying to keep still because my shirt was half off and my tattoo wasn’t done. Then this tough-looking man, with tattoos all up and down his arms, told me to take another deep breath and actually relax. He calmly told me he was going to start tattooing again and to keep breathing.
As he tattooed, he started telling me a story about how he passed out while getting a tattoo once. He was just sitting there getting inked, and the next thing he knew people were offering him water and asking him if he was OK. He told me another story about how one of his friends threw up during a tattoo because of the pain. I started to think about what it would be like to vomit during this experience, the mess and cleanup, and how that would have really delayed or stopped the process. The stories continued throughout the next hour and a half, all about embarrassing things that have happened to him or people he knew while getting piercings or tattoos.
Although I wasn’t sure if any of this was true or if he was making it up to make me feel better, I was so thankful in that moment. I was able to get through the time and forget about what had happened for the time being. When he was finished, I looked in the mirror and admired the verse. He asked me if I was happy with it, which I most definitely was.
Then he told me, “Hey keep ripping those things out! Your body does such cool things — farting is one of them!”
I think about my body now, with a couple more tattoos, and look at everything I’ve accomplished because of the body I am in. It’s true, my body does some pretty incredible things. Who cares if I let one rip every now and then? As least I’m going for it, and things could always be worse than a little nervous gas.