The buzzing needle stung my alcohol swabbed skin with a wicked kiss of painful pleasure. I cringed. Tensed up. Eyes closed. The pain felt so damn good. My girlfriend stared at me. Her turn was next. It was our nine-month anniversary and we wanted to do something meaningful. Something we both would like and enjoy. I had thought about it for a long time. Then it presented itself. What better way than celebrating our love by getting matching tattoos. It was obvious because I knew her too well; besides, I was desperately craving the next fix. Yes we are addicted to tattooing ourselves. This one would be her tenth tattoo, while I, recently introduced beginner, am on three. Tattoos are very addictive. The rush your body goes through is a high nothing could really come close to. The pain is immense but in a very good way. I watched as the tattoo artist used my body as his canvas. It was liberating. The art of tattooing has been around for many millennia. All the way from prehistoric icemen to wrapped up mummies and numerous tribes, spreading all over the world. Now some of you might say that’s crazy. How could you permanently scar your body with someone else’s name? What if it doesn’t work out? Let me stop you there. It wasn’t her name I tattooed to my body, but a symbol of our love: ‘the infinity sign with a heart’, love forever. Mine on my forearm below my elbow. Hers on her ribs just to the side of her chest on the left hand side. People in love do stupid things but for me it was smartest first step to a long life with her filled with more and more to come. Many people get tattoos for many different reasons: Almost every culture around the world throughout history has a prescription to forms of body art or manipulation and for many it includes tattooing. The indigenous people of Japan traditionally had facial tattoos, as did African tribes and the Maori of New Zealand. Pre-Christian Germanic, Celtic and other central and northern European tribes were heavily tattooed. A various amount of other cultures have different tattoo traditions that range from rubbing cuts and wounds with ashes, even hand pricking the skin to be able to insert dyes. My girlfriend is a religious woman and it is no surprise that she has marked her body with the beliefs she holds close to her heart. She is Hindi like me and proudly displays the Sanskrit word Aum on her inner left wrist. Aum is derived from the root meaning ‘all’ and conveys the concepts of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. It is also another word for pranava, which is derived from the root ‘nu’ meaning ‘to praise’. She then has ‘Aum Namah Shivaya’ a popular Hindu mantra in Sanskrit at the base of her left shoulder, along the collarbone. It is the adoration for Lord Shiva, one of the many Hindu deities. Lastly she has a big intricate tattoo of a Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and deity of intellect and wisdom, portrait that covers her entire right hand side, over the ribs, from her chest down to her hip. This sort of tattooing shows a dedication and spiritual knowledge to the religious faith and beliefs of someone’s culture. It demonstrates worship and proudly displays it for all to see. Do you know thy self? Everyone in the world has his or her own identity. A uniqueness no one else can have. Tattoos can prove to incorporate a fair share of misunderstanding. Seen as illegal standards of society being banned in numerous work place environments and frowned upon. Yet, they are wonderful pieces of individual art. People get tattoos to identify themselves. To mark significant aspects of themselves or their life. A very common form of identity marker can be that of ones zodiac sign. My girlfriend is very strong willed, has a magnetic charm, ruthless, loyal, loving and has a very powerful sting of wickedness. She wears her Scorpio tattoo on the back of her neck, almost like a warning, as a symbol that she does know who she is and is proud of that. Or the anchor she has on her left thigh. It is big and bold yet strewn in flowers showing a gentle, calming and sensitive nature. The anchor means stability. My girlfriend has recently entered a part of her life where she works full time and continues to study. Where we have reached a pinnacle milestone and have vowed to be together forever. Her world was not always so steady before but now she has found it. She has most certainly steadied me. Grounded this twenty five year old boy who needed a strong, stable figure in his life to show him the way. Word of advice: Make sure you understand what you are doing before getting a tattoo. Understand the meaning behind getting it. Put as much time and effort into designing it as this piece of art will be on your body for the rest of your life. Yes there are ways to get it off but it comes with a risk of hideously scaring your body. At least with a tattoo it is scared with art and not a mess. Just be sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. As I mentioned before people get tattoos to honour their loved ones. Those alive or those that have sadly passed on. They do this by inking their skin with a black and grey portrait of their significant other or family member. The black and grey are most popular in a realistic tattoo style. Other ways of paying tribute to your loved ones can be with verses, script (using their handwriting) or names. My girlfriend is a huge animal enthusiast and lover of all creatures. Her dearly departed best friend, Sandy, her dog, name is etched into her right shoulder just above the collarbone with a paw imprint. She will forever be missed but will always have a place in my girlfriend’s life. Did you know? Ancient cultures have for a long time carried the remains of their loved ones through body ink as one could use the ashes of the deceased mixed into the ink you use for your tattoo. This way you shall always have them close to your heart. Well as close as one would get it. Getting a tattoo, carved, slinging ink, pounding skin, tatted up, stamped – which ever preferable slang your mind feels comfortable expressing – is a bold and brave fashion statement. It is a great way to define your own individual style. From sleeves – full arm artwork – to little adornments are ways of expression. Other tattoos my girlfriend has are the playboy bunny on her lower back, the butterfly on her hip, and the cherries behind her left ear. These may not seem meaningful to outsiders peering in, but every tattoo she has gotten comes with one. That’s her way of doing them. She won’t unless they have significance to her life. To her it is not just a fashion statement but also a way of life. So that’s ten in all if you count them up. Tattooing can become addictive. For example what began as a bid to cover up a nasty skin condition has resulted into a Guiness World Record for an American who has been named the most tattooed woman in the world. Julia Gnuse – nicknamed the ‘illustrated lady’ – has 95 per cent of her body covered in ink, ranging from jungle scenes and cartoons to her favorite actors. Miss Gnuse, from California, started getting tattoos on her legs after developing a skin condition called porphyria, which causes the skin to blister when exposed to sunlight. She then turned her attention to her stomach, arms and back and before long was addicted to body art. I haven’t even mentioned my other tattoos. It’s hard to compete with my girlfriend let alone the illustrated lady. My miniscule three is just a third of what my girlfriends beautiful body has on display. A mere spec compared to the lady. I have a tribal two-headed dragon on my right shoulder. It was just my first and doesn’t really have a meaning to it at all but being my first. I got it just after I finished matric. Tip: Don’t drink any alcohol before getting a tattoo. It bleeds more. My third tattoo and far from my last is the badge of my favourite football team. Not NFL crap! Not soccer stupid! But the proper English Premier League. The way FOOTBALL is supposed to be played. I am sure you are stereotyping by now; I am an Indian so it has to be Manchester United or Liverpool – I take offence to that firstly but laugh and succumb, it is true. I wear the proud Liverbird of Liverpool on my right ankle – my shooting leg (I am a very, very big fan). These tattoos show great loyalty and support to your team. I have seen patriotic fans displaying their countries colors on their bodies from head to toe. I will never walk alone and my team will finally win the season after 24 years. I have had faith all along and having the tattoo only strengthens that faith in them. The dark side of the tattooing world stems from misguided roots and bad seeds. Prisons and gangs have used tattoos to associate themselves with different gangs either in jail or on the street. The most commonly known dark tattoos are the black teardrops inked on inmates’ faces. Showed how they were mad someone’s b*#$h. That they got “turned out”. Yet it spread to people not in jail and gangs used it to signify killing other people. The more drops the more deaths. Showing that they are not afraid of consequences their terrible actions bring. Yet if they went to jail it made them a target to be humiliated and to feel pain. I guess karma is the biggest b#$*h of all. This is not a good way of tattooing. It is disgusting and ruins the whole reputation of the tattooing tradition. It makes me sick to think people would want to permanently remember the loss and grief of others proudly. She gripped my hand hard. Squeezed. I felt the love we share pulsate as the needle dug into her. Then she smiled at me. The fix was satisfied. Our hearts were rejoicing. Our wallets might have depleted sobs – tattoos can be really, really expensive – but we both knew at that moment while staring at the ink on our bodies that we would always be together. For infinity and way, way beyond. So think hard and long before getting a tattoo. I know I did. Do it in a good headspace or else you might end up regretting it. I will never regret it! And while the reasons people get tattoos are many and different. There is only one end result… … It is PERMANENT!