Tat Removal at the Free Clinic
The following conversation took place on gchat, and has been edited by both parties for punctuation, capitalization, general readability, and intent. Some failed jokes have been taken out (some have been left in).
Logan Sachon: Jill. First of all, I’m not using your last name because you asked me not to, but the deal was that you had to explain why I can’t use your last name. Why don’t you want Google to know you are getting your tat removed at the free clinic?
Jill [Redacted]: Um, because it’s been a real pain and process to get this thing off my body, and I don’t want it permanently associated with me on the Internet now that it’s finally going to be gone.
Logan: Okay, I’ll allow it. So You used to have a tattoo, and now you almost don’t have a tattoo. How did that happen?
Jill: Well I got the tattoo when I was in law school. It is/was a huge celtic knot on my lower back. And I think I researched laser tattoo removal a few years ago, and found that it was way cost prohibitive. It was something like $400 per session and would take at least ten sessions.
Logan: Which is $4,000 total.*
Jill: Right. Which was way too much.
(* For cost comparison purposes, I called up The World’s Most Famous Dermatologist Who Has Incredibly Tasteful Ads On Every Subway In New York But Who I Am Not Going To Link To, and queried about the cost of tattoo removal. The lady was totally nice, but said she’d have to see it to give me a price, and to see it would cost $100, but that if I did get it removed there, that $100 would go towards the treatment cost. Which, fair. She didn’t want to give me any numbers without seeing it, but I begged and told her about “my celtic knot the size of a baseball on my lower back” and she said that if she had to guess, she’d say that it would be between $475 and $575 per session. Which. Is A. Lot. Of. Money. Obviously.)
Logan: Do you remember how much it cost to get the tattoo itself?
Jill: I got it when I was twenty, so fifteen years ago. I think it was between $75 and $100.
Logan: After you figured out it was $4,000 to get the tattoo removed, what’d you do?
Jill: I just forgot the dream for a few years. And avoided looking at my lower back.
Logan: Until ….
Jill: Until I found out about Project Erase. It’s through Outside In, which is a Portland free clinic, and it was originally started to help ex-gang members get their tattoos removed.
Logan: Did you front that you were an ex-gamg member to get your tattoo removed?
Jill: Nooooo. It’s open to the public now. It it did feel kind of weird, but it’s totally legit. You pay on a sliding scale depending on your income, $25 to $50 an appointment, which is WAY more affordable than other clinics or doctors or whatever.
Logan: Did you tell the truth about your income?
Jill: Yes, and that’s when I felt weird being at the free clinic.
Logan: Because you make a not-small amount of money.
Jill: Right. But they were very cool.
Logan: That’s good. Usually when I think of the free clinic, I think of STDs.
Jill: Oh this clinic has those services, too. It’s one-stop shopping.
Logan: Take care of all your mistakes in one visit.
Jill: Yes. So I have had seven appointments so far.
Logan: At $50 a pop, I’m assuming.
Jill: Yes, exactly. And I think I have four more to go. It HURTS, so I had lidocaine prescribed to me to help with the pain.
Logan: Oh fun! (Fun?)
Jill: Well, I put it on two hours before the appointment and cover it with saran wrap and tape it up so it really soaks into my skin. I have someone at work help me, and I always feel shady going into the bathroom with saran wrap and a co-worker. No big deal!
Logan: AWESOME. But not for recreational use, really. No resale value.
Jill: It’s true. Not in this case anyways.
Logan: And did your insurance cover that?
Jill: My insurance covered it except for $10 out of pocket. But maybe I shouldn’t say that because I doubt my insurance knew it was for tattoo removal.
Logan: So: Does the tattoo look $350 plus $10 in drugs gone?
Jill: YES. I am soooooo happy knowing that it will be gone soon. The other thing is you can only schedule an appointment every six weeks, so it takes over a year for it to be totally removed. And it really hurts. People ask if removal hurts more than getting the tattoo, and it does waaaaaay more.
Logan: What does it feel like?
Jill: Like tiny hot needles stabbing my skin really fast. And it smells like burning.
Logan: Oh yikes. Do you go to the bar after? Or to bed.
Jill: Bar. Bar bar barrrrrrrrr. But now with the lidocaine it’s not so bad. And it’s fast. It takes about 1.5 minutes for the doc to go over the tattoo.
Logan: OMG that’s it? That seems like nothing.
Jill: That’s it, but it feels like an eternity when it’s happening. I have to squeeze stress balls, and remember to breathe.
Logan: So if you could go back in time, would you still get the tattoo? Did you get your original $100 worth out of it?
Jill: NO. NONONONONONONONOOO. NO. Def no.
Logan: But you liked it for a little while, right?
Jill: Ha, I mean, I guess I probably liked it for awhile. But I have hated it for so long it’s hard to remember the good years. And then Wedding Crashers came out and “tramp stamp” became part of pop culture and ughhhh. And I have to say that I DO like some tattoos. Just not mine.
Logan: Will you get another one?
Jill: Duh. I’m getting a butterfly on my ankle.
Logan: You like getting your tat removed so much, you’ll get another just to keep going. Which, I bet there are totally people that have done that. You know, for like, the attention.
Jill: OMG I hope not. They are sadists or whatever for pain if they do that.
Logan: What’s that disease called? (It’s called Münchhausen Syndrome — ed ) Where you go get medical stuff done even if you don’t need it? I saw it on House. And Grey’s Anatomy.
Jill: I think I saw it on Nip/Tuck. No, I’m thinking body dysmorphic disorder.
Logan: Which one is that?
Jill: When you are constantly getting plastic surgery because you think you are ugly.
Logan: That costs more than $50 a pop, for sure. Unless the one-stop clinic covers that too? Cheap nose jobs, but only if you don’t actually need it.
Jill [Redacted] is a soon-to-be-tattooless lady in Portland, Oregon.