Beauty is no pain for body art junkies

August 28, 1999
Jinx Proof Tattoos & Piercing
12 p.m.

His body is a canvas for millions of mini masterpieces.

Like a visitor to an art museum, I note the intricate detail and kaleidoscope of color. My attention coasts from a spider web on his arm to characters on his knuckles the same way I would walk between framed portraits at the National Gallery.

Sean, the twenty-something man who stands before me (and won’t say his last name), is a walking advertisement for Jinx Proof, at 3306 M St., as much of his body is covered in a rainbow of artwork. He is a piercer at the store that offers body piercing and tattoos to a diverse clientele.

Sean offers no philosophical explanation for the tattoos canvassing his upper body.

“I just always wanted them,” he says matter-of-factly.

He carefully maneuvers the shiny ball on the tip of his tongue as he devours Domino’s Pizza. As he eats, random young people stop to look at the wall, which is covered in framed artwork, artwork that could become a permanent mark on one of their bodies.

These days, everyone – from the pretty boys of 98 Degrees to hip-hop rockers Limp Bizkit to the epitome of “suburbanite,” my Uncle Tony – has a tattoo.

Sean cites television as the number one reason why getting pierced or tattooed is trendy.

Tony, Sean’s colleague, interrupts the conversation. One of the regulars is asking about a pet pit bull he is interested in attaining. Sean says the dog has a big head but makes a great companion.

Soon, the gentlemen return to the conversation at hand.

“The light is shining upon us,” Tony says, referring to the widespread acceptance of tattoos and body piercing. But he admits such acceptance comes with a price. The men agree that competition is fierce between rival stores.

“We’re the best on the East Coast,” Tony shouts.

Sean and Tony know their trade. Both participated in traditional apprenticeships, and they say they have mad skills.

Tony says those interested in acquiring a tattoo should look at the clip book of the artist they are hiring and make sure the parlor is clean and the equipment is hygienic.

Sean adds that people should make sure they want the tattoos, because removal is expensive.

The two swear that anyone who wants to get pierced or tattooed should not let fear stop them because the pain is minimal or non-existent, depending on what one gets done.

A few minutes later, a young woman, who seems to be a regular, stops by and mentions her nipple ring. I cannot hear another word she says because, quite frankly, that’s got to hurt and the mere thought of such agony distracts me. More importantly, who would want a hole there?

Tony and Sean, my new buddies, continue to preach that the pain is minimal.

Now the time comes to put these claims to the test and actually get something pierced.

No, no, no. I refrain from participating. I am not wild, impetuous or brave enough to let someone else poke a hole in my flesh. My friend Margaret is there to serve as the guinea pig. I’m no fool.

“I’ll do it for the story,” she says.

Clearly, she is a far braver person than I.

As Margaret fills out paper work and looks through the jewelry case, Tony and “poster boy” (the guy Sean says should be in all the pictures advertising Jinx Proof because he is the most attractive and available) start wrestling like boys on the playground.

We walk through a black curtain into a little room that resembles a dentist’s office. Margaret takes a seat in the big chair as Sean puts on his plastic gloves like a doctor preparing for surgery. He continues to swear this will not hurt. I cannot help but wonder why a poster of the Last Supper is hanging on the wall of this room; is it some sort of strange sign?

Margaret motions for my hand, and Sean pulls a needle from a sealed plastic bag. Within seconds, Margaret has a new hole at the top of her ear and she never even flinched or squeezed my hand.

We bid a fond farewell to Sean, Tony, the regulars and “poster boy,” all of whom say they feel pretty good because they proved the pain was non-existent.

Margaret leaves feeling empowered. I leave thinking I will put off getting that nipple ring until some other time.

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