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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Tattoos no longer taboo

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tattoos on the back, similar to the one pictured above, are popular with women.
SIKESTON -- One thing Mike Groves has learned is that tattoos can be addictive.

When he got his first tattoo, he intended to get a few more, sporadic designs on his body. But now, 14 tattoos later, he said that he is "slowly but surely making it into one big piece, like a puzzle.

"You might as well connect the dots, I guess," he said.

Groves said some of his tattoos have meaning and others don't. His most recent one -- an outline of his two daughters' hand prints -- definitely falls into the former category.

"I wanted something of my daughters, but I didn't want to go typical," Groves said, explaining that most parents will have their children's names imprinted on them. "My wife has the same tattoo."

Having one or more tattoos seems to be becoming common. In fact, a recent study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 are tattooed. The most popular age range are those from 18 to 29, of which a whopping 36 percent have at least one tattoo.

That's a trend that Erin Thurman, owner and tattoo artist at Monster Tattoo in Sikeston, can agree with. "I'd say my main customers would be from 18 to 27 -- that would be the main crowd," he said. "But I do have 30 and 40 year-olds getting tattoos and I do have older people up in the 50 and 60-year-old range."

Legally, one must be at least 18 to get a tattoo, unless they have parental consent. But Thurman will not tattoo anyone under 16. "Generally they want something that they would regret later on," he said. Some parents have gotten upset with him for denying to tattoo their child, he added.

Having tattoos is not considered taboo anymore.

"It's no longer stereotypical," Groves said. "Just because I have tattoos doesn't me make a bad person or a criminal."

Jennifer Moore of Sikeston has also gotten addicted to tattoos. "Mine started out with one little bitty bear when I was 18," she said. "It was a graduation present."

Since then, she has added six more, including a butterfly, tribal symbol, feet as a sentiment to the daughter she lost when she was seven months pregnant and a four-leaf clover to celebrate her Irish heritage.

Back at the tattoo parlor, Groves is trying to hide the pain, but admits an "irritating" feeling on his rib cage, where the tattoo is being filled in. "It makes your skin crawl," he said.

The ribs, in addition to the chest and front and sides of the neck, are some of the most painful places to get a tattoo, Thurman said. "Any place where there's a bone that you can actually feel through your skin."

The amount of pain one feels is also a result of the size of the needle, which is usually proportional to the size of the tattoo, the number of times the ink must go over the skin and a person's pain tolerance, Thurman said.

When getting a tattoo, people often bring friends along to help take their mind off the pain, he added. Some, like Groves, are teased by their friends, but others need to have someone holding their hand.

For Groves, the pain is so bad that he is getting the tattoo in a two-part process. The size and amount of color in a tattoo, plus the type of skin also determines how long it will take.

"Most range from one-and-a-half to four hours," Thurman said. But larger tattoos, like a full back outline, take closer to seven hours and must be done in two appointments. That alleviates some of the pain and enables Thurman to do a better job, since his arms get tired after about four hours.

And while Thurman sometimes does walk-in appointments, he prefers to wait a week or so. "I try to turn all of my walk-ins into someone who thinks about tattoos," he said.

Thurman, who has an art degree from SEMO, likes for people to use the examples on his walls and other designs, such as those found on the Internet and work with him to formulate more unique designs. "This is a life-altering decision," he said. "It's gonna be there forever, so make sure it's meaningful to you."

Of course, tattoos can be covered up, but the new tattoo will "definitely have to be bigger and darker," he said.

For those who are indecisive, Thurman suggested checking out all of their options before making a commitment. "I encourage people to go to other shops and compare prices," he said. "Shop around for your tattoo."