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Up until a few months ago, I always thought I’d never get a tattoo. I couldn’t imagine anything I loved enough to etch permanently into my skin, except perhaps my little sister’s name, but she would think that was super weird, and frankly, so would I. I’m also notoriously cautious about making any sort of change to my appearance–the only hair dye I mess around with washes out in the water, and I haven’t really changed my beauty look in a long, long time–so to get a tattoo would be very out of character for me.

But still, I’ve always admired tattoos on others and wondered how I might look with one myself. When my sister and I went to Florida on vacation this past April, I started thinking a lot about my grandparents–who spent twenty-five winters living in the same Floridian town we were vacationing in–and how much I missed them.

When they were alive, my grandparents filled their homes with kitschy seashell decor, and my grandmother always wore a bracelet made of gold seashell charms. While sitting on the same beach she and my grandfather loved so much; I realized that I finally had it, the perfect tattoo idea: a seashell.

Given that there’s a huge difference between liking the idea of a particular tattoo and actually getting it etched onto your skin, I decided that buying a temporary tat would be the best course of action. I could try my tattoo on for size, see how I liked it, and then go from there.

After sifting through a sea of triton, tulip, conch, and clamshells, I finally found a temporary tattoo of the scallop seashell I was looking for. The tattoo was by Etsy shop BunamiInk and cost $3.99.

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This is what my temporary tattoo looked like when I opened the package from SomaArtTattoo.

The tattoo was very beautifully drawn and very detailed. If I were to actually get tattooed, I’d go for a simpler design, like Ariel’s super cool seashell top:

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed to see how small my tattoo was. Judging by the picture on Etsy, I thought it would be a lot larger, but I guess I seriously underestimated the size of my forearms (#WhatCanYaDo?!) Regardless, the tattoo was very pretty and very well made, and applying it couldn’t have been easier.

All I had to do was peel off the clear protective seal, place the tattoo on my arm, wet the back, and press down on it for 30 seconds. When I peeled away the backing, I was happy to see that my tattoo had transferred perfectly, and it looked really cool.

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I put the tattoo on my forearm so I’d have no choice but to stare at it all of the time.

A few hours after applying the tattoo, a total stranger stopped me in a cafe to tell me she thought it was beautiful and to ask “what it means.” I know that question can really irritate people who are actually tattooed, but because I was a total newbie (and a total fraud, let’s be honest), I was happy to answer her. Leaving out the part about the tattoo not being real, I told her about my grandparents, how much I loved them, and how seashells reminded me of them.

During my first day with the tattoo, I couldn’t stop staring at it. The seashell seemed so conspicuous and just, well, strange on my arm. It wasn’t until the second day that it seemed to blend in with my body and become a normal part of me.

By the third day, I hardly noticed it at all, except I could see that it was starting to shrink and lose its shape.

By the fourth day, my tat looked less like a seashell and more like a black birthmark, so I knew it was time to part ways. With a bit of baby oil and some vigorous rubbing, my tattoo was gone.

I really thought that having a temporary tattoo would make it clear to me whether or not I wanted to get a real one, but the truth of the matter is that my scallop shell made me feel all sorts of confused. On the one hand, I thought the image itself was beautiful, and I loved that it reminded me of my grandparents and our shared affinity for being by the water.

But on the other hand, I wasn’t sure how I felt about having a shell on my arm for all to see. Sometimes it felt weird, and I didn’t care for people staring at it quizzically. Other times I just straight up didn’t like it.

But then, this morning, I looked down at my arm and felt a little sad to see nothing but my skin. I missed my little scallop tattoo. But do I miss it enough to replace it with a permanent one? I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.

In the meantime, I’m curious: What thoughts and feelings did you have about getting your first tattoo? And if you’re not tattooed, do you ever think you might get one? What’s holding you back? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments!

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