When I was 16 years old, sitting outside one of my art classes with my best friend Lauren talking about tattoos and piercings. Lauren told me that she would never get a tattoo and I told her that I would never get anything pierced. It’s funny thinking about it today because both of us have tattoos and we both had piercings at one point or another.
At 17 years old I went to Newport Beach with my oldest brother Chris and my friend Karly to a tattoo shop. I had been there a week earlier with my brother to see if they would tattoo me and they said yes as long as my brother was with me.
I have to admit that I am a little embarrassed to blog about my first tattoo because there are so many things wrong with this story. Let me break it down for you in a list.
Things wrong with my first tattoo:
1. I was 17 years old
2. I picked my tattoo off the wall at a tattoo shop
3. The guy tattooing me was high on some kind of drug
4. My tattoo is a dolphin with waves inside of it
5. I got the tattoo on my ass
So Karly and I were standing looking at all the flash on the wall thinking that we had to pick our tattoos from here, not knowing that we could get anything we wanted and it did not need to be from this wall. Karly said that she wanted to get some kind of flower and I said cute, but i think I am going to get a dolphin.
When it was my turn to get my tattoo the guy asked me where I wanted it and I told him that I wanted it on my lower back. I was standing in front of the mirror looking over my shoulder as he was trying to place the stencil on my lower back. I kept saying no! lower! lower! When got home and took a shower I realized that I just got my first tattoo on my ass!
The next 3 tattoos that I got don’t really mean anything to me. I kind of just got them because Lauren and I had nothing to do. We would be hanging out at her mom’s house dying my hair planning out our next move.
I have a star on the back of my neck, Chinese writing with stars on my left ankle and strawberries on my lower back. I got all of these tattoos at Six Feet Under in Upland, California. My tattoo artiest Obie was the brother of a friend in school, but now he is one of my really good friends. Obie did not do all of my first tattoos just the ankle, the strawberries and the writing on my belly. I came back a few years later and he did my pirate pin-up girl and pirate ship. (more on all of these tattoos soon)
It was just right after my High School graduation (June 1999) that I decide that I was going to move to San Francisco. Over the summer before I left I got a Japanese waves tattoo on my right ankle with my Nana’s dates in it (1935-1995). She meant everything to me and I really wanted to get her name tattooed on the waves, but my tattoo artist said that if you just get the dates it will be a little more personal. This tattoo might be the most meaningful tattoo that I have to this day. I am still going to get her name (Karen) tattooed on me one of these days, but for now I am happy with just having her dates. I also got the strawberries on my lower back. I can’t really say why I wanted this tattoo, but for some reason I did.
It was in February 2000 that I packed my bags and flew to San Francisco to live with my Aunt and Uncle. I had been living in San Francisco for two weeks when one of the girls that I worked with at Starbucks wanted to get a tattoo. Since I was the only person she knew that had any tattoos she asked me if I would go with her to get her first tattoo. I told her I would and off we went to Berkeley to find a tattoo shop. I am not sure why she wanted to go to Berkeley for her tattoo, but I just went a long for the ride. We ran into one of her friends at this tattoo clothing shop and her friend told us to try this other shop (I can’t remember the name of this shop) and ask for Mr.O (not using his full name because of privacy). When we arrived Mr.O was booked and could not do her tattoo. I ended up talking to him for a bit begging him to tattoo my fingers, but he said he could not because of the shop policy. I am so thankful that he would not tattoo my hands because I am happy to have tattooed free hands today.
By the end of the conversation I had set-up a different day and time for him to tattoo my belly. A few days later I was in his chair getting my belly tattooed. There is a funny story about getting my belly tattooed it goes something like this... It was about 10 minutes into my tattoo when I told Mr.O that if he did not ease up on my belly, I was going to pee in his face. You see, he was putting a lot of pressure on my belly and I felt like I had to pee the whole time. A month later I went down to LA to see Lauren and we went to go see Obie and he tattooed “Lulu” (Lauren’s nickname) under the star.
I did not get another tattoo until the New Year when Lauren came up to visit me in San Francisco. She was really touched that I got her name on my belly that she wanted to do something for me. we both decided that she would not get my name tattooed on her, but the meaning of my name in Chinese writing. At the time I was dating Mr.O and so I asked him if he would tattoo both of us. I wanted the same tattoo that Lauren was getting down my left side. That night Mr.O tattooed us at his apartment. Lauren and I both have two matching tattoos that I am so happy that I have. Since her death earlier this year I have been so thankful for having these tattoos. It was something that we got together and something that meant so much to both of us. She will always be my best friend and will forever be with me.
The next tattoo I waited to get for over two years. I knew that I wanted a pin-up girl and I knew that I wanted it to be a Sailor Jerry tattoo, I just did not know what girl I wanted or where I wanted to get it. I spoke with Obie on the phone a few times about this tattoo until we decided that I was going to fly to LA and get it done. Lauren and I went into the shop and I was ready to get this pin-up girl done on my right side (for the record: this was the most painful tattoo I have to date). We were about half way in when a guy asked the shop help if he could come look at my tattoo. The shop help came over to see if it was ok and I said yes. The first thing the guy said to me when he came over was “do it hurt” I looked at him and said “no, if feels good.” I laughed and said “yes, it hurts like a S.O.B.” He told me that his friend was getting a tattoo in the same place and when we took a little break I look over at his friend and noticed that he was crying. I felt really bad and really tough at the same time. Another 2 years went by before I went and got the Pirate ship behind my girl. I only got the outline and some shading done. To this day I never got it finished because I can still remember how painful it was. I am not looking forward to ever getting it finished.
In 2004 I got a swallow with and envelope in its mouth. The story behind the envelope came from a story that Mr. O told me once and I loved it so much that I got this tattoo done. The story goes... Back in the World War I and World War II the military guys would send love letters by swallows to their loved one back home. How cute is that story?
In 2006 I came across a French graffiti artist named Miss Van and she blew my mind. I started to become obsessed with her. I went to shop where Mr.O worked at the time and asked him if he could tattoo one of the girls on me. He told me that it was going to be a little hard, but he would do it.
I have always been super private about my tattoos and all of them can be covered up so that no one knows that I have any. When I first started getting tattoos I got a lot of negative responses about them and people would tell me their opinions without me even asking. A lady once told me that I would go to hell for having tattoos and that god is upset with me for defacing my body. I once was on the bus and I had to stand because there was nowhere to sit and this guy could see a little bit of my tattoos and decided that he would lift up my shirt because he wanted to see them all. Those are just a couple of things that happened to me.
I just stopped talking about tattoos and telling people that I even had any. I was set on never getting tattoos that were super visible up until a year and a half ago.
My first visible tattoo says “Omphroy” with an anchor on the back of my left arm.
I wanted to get a tattoo that represents my family because without them I am not whole. Even though my last name is Arroyo (Dads name) I am an Omphroy through and through (Mom’s name). I don’t know my dad or his family and I will never know them, but I was stuck with their name. This tattoo reflex who I am... I AM AN OMPHROY!
On my inner left arm I got “This too shall pass” tattooed. It is a reminder for me to breath and remember that this will pass. I live with anxiety everyday and sometimes I need to remember “this too shall pass.” Its calming to me to read my own tattoo when I can’t control the anxiety.
On my 29th birthday my friends took me out to dinner and bought temporary tattoos for everyone to wear. I don’t have many friends with tattoos and they know how much I love them and wanted to show their love. I picked the cyclops octopus for my tattoo and I loved it so much that the next day I went and got an octopus tattooed on my lower left arm. I had one of the BEST birthday with some of my BEST friends and now I have a tattoo to remember it by.
After getting the last 3 tattoos I decided that I was going to get fully sleeved this year. About two weeks ago I got an outline of an Indian girl tattooed on my upper left arm and in about a week I will be getting her colored in. This coming Monday I will be getting a rose on my elbow and another one on the in my elbow dip.
to be continued...
Tattoos to come:
Another Pirate ship
Outline of California
Stars and filler tattoos