Thu, Jun 25, 2009
The New Paper
If parents find out, I'm dead

HE DIDN'T have the money to get a tattoo, so his 14-year-old schoolmate offered to do it - for just $10.

Now Thomas regrets the ugly work that will scar his skin for life.

Thomas (not his real name) is a bespectacled skinny 15-year-old. With neat hair and trimmed finger nails, he looks like a regular secondary school student.

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You would never suspect that he hides a tattoo. Even his parents don't know because the tattoo is hidden near his thigh.

At $10, it seemed like a steal.

Professional tattoo parlours charge anything from $80 to thousands of dollars, depending on the size and intricacy of design.

Thomas said: 'At first, I didn't know that my junior was a tattoo artist, until I saw him showing off his tattoos in school.

'They looked pretty good, so I asked him where he did them. He replied that he had done them himself.'

The friend, who could not be contacted, had bought the equipment from an online auction for just over $100.

And he started offering his services to his friends.

Said Thomas: 'I don't have the money to get a professional tattoo done. So I thought this was a good chance for me to get myself one.'

Thomas, as he tells it, has been trying to get a tattoo for over two years now, ever since he noticed a stranger walking past him with a full sleeve of tattoos on his arm.

He and the student 'artist' discussed the tattoo design for a few weeks before Thomas finally decided on a lotus with his name in the centre.

Thomas told one person that he was getting a tattoo: his best friend and classmate, who wanted to be known only as Terry.

Terry said: 'He did tell me he was getting a tattoo. I wasn't supportive of his idea. I told him that if his parents found out, he would get into a lot of trouble.

'But I still kept him company while he was getting his tattoo done. I even tried to make him laugh to help take his mind off the pain.'

Like being cut by penknife

According to Thomas, the pain he experienced while being tattooed was similar to being cut over and over again by a penknife.

He said: 'I had my tattoo done at my friend's four-room HDB flat in Admiralty. His grandparents were at home when I was being tattooed.

'They didn't hear us, as the TV in the living room was on and the tattoo machine wasn't that loud.'

Wasn't he worried about getting a tattoo done by a boy even younger than himself?

'I wasn't very worried,' he said. 'My junior was confident enough of his own abilities to tattoo himself.

'Also, he has done a few tattoos for eight of my schoolmates already.'

According to Thomas, his junior changes needles after every tattoo and uses a lighter to sterilise the needle before each session.

But Thomas does not know where the inks come from.

He said: 'I was charged $10 to cover the cost of the materials used. He does tattoos only to make a bit of extra pocket money for himself.'

A check by The New Paper revealed that a tattoo machine can cost as little as $30, while a full tattoo kit can go for about $200.

The sellers offer to deliver the machines to your home. That is how Thomas' friend got his machine.

Did he regret getting a tattoo? Thomas said: 'Yes.'

'The tattoo didn't come out the way I wanted it to. It doesn't look very good. But then again what can you expect for just $10?'

Isn't he running the risk of being suspended or expelled for having a tattoo?

'Yes, one of my schoolmates had a tattoo and she was asked to remove it or risk being expelled. That's why I decided to have it done somewhere inconspicuous.

'It should be all right as long as I don't expose it in public. Right now, only my closest friends know I have it.'

Thomas had his tattoo placed on his upper right thigh so it would remain concealed even while wearing his shorts for his physical education class.

Another of his schoolmates, who wished to be known as Damien, said: 'There are quite a few in my school who have tattoos; about 10 people per level.

'Some of them even make their own tattoo machines using Tamiya car motors.'

He added: 'I still wouldn't want to get one till I finish school though. I don't dare risk my education.'

As for Thomas, his main concern is his parents finding out.

He said: 'I come from a traditional Buddhist family. If they find out about it, I may as well consider myself dead.'

Naveen Kanagalingam, newsroom intern

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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