Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inky Business

I have to tell you a little story about something that happened to me a few months ago.

Now, let me just tell you, I have tattoos.  Three in fact.  Two of them are rather noticeable, those two being the most recent ones I had done.  On the top of my left foot there is a big pink lotus flower.  On the inside of my right forearm, I have a kind of balloon heart with a string in pinks.  I also have a Gary Larson "Far Side" cow on my back, above my  left shoulderblade, but people don't normally see that one.  I do intend to get more tattoos in the future.

So anyway, about three or four months ago, I got in the lift at work, and there was a woman already in there.  For a moment she looks down at my foot, and I feel her look me up and down.  I'm wearing tailored navy pants, a turquoise top, low heeled court shoes and those fishnet "socks" (for wearing under pants).  No wild outfits, no wacky hair-do's, just you're average local government corporate worker.

So she looks at my foot again and says "Is that a real tattoo?"  I smile and say "Oh yes, it is." (she isn't smiling).  She replies "Did you get that when you were young and stupid." in a tone that implies only people who are young and stupid would get tattoos.  My smile is now gone, and I say in a flat tone "No, I got it three months ago." to which she replies "Oh..." and hurries out of the lift.

Unfortunately there are still people in the world that assume that having tattoos is either a massive mistake you have made when you're young, or you're some kind of trouble making rough neck.  People don't realise that just like clothing or jewellery, they're a form of self expression, only ones that are permanent.  Part of you.  They can't understand that a mature, hard-working, intelligent person would choose to get something permanently marked on their body.  They're also the kind of people that can't see tattoos as works of art.

When I was planning my two latest tattoos, I told a colleague (who has tattoos herself) that I planned to get the one on my foot done to cover most of the top of my foot.  She suggested that I opt for something smaller so that "You can cover it up."  I kind of wonder what the point of getting a tattoo is if you have to cover it up and hide it away from the public eye.  It's not like I have some pornographic or violent image tattooed on me, it's a beautiful lotus flower.  I'm proud of it, I love the artwork of both it and the one on my arm and I WANT them to be seen.

I understand wanting to have something tattooed in an intimate area that is special for only yourself and your partner perhaps to know about, but I don't understand tattooing the rest of the body only to cover it up because of what other people might think.

My tattoos are part of me, and they do reflect on my personality, but not in any negative way.  They're items of beauty, they're symbols that reflect who I am, and if people don't like to see the art on my arm or my foot, that is THEIR problem, not mine.  It would be different if the designs were something offensive, like sexual or violent images, but it's a flower and a heart balloon.  Get over it people - it's just INK!

Do you have tattoos?  Are they somewhere that can be seen in everyday wear?  Or have you got them somewhere that you cover them up?  If you cover them up, why?  And have you had any negative experiences because of other people's attitudes towards your tattoos?


tlcur107 said...

Well U have four tattoos, as you know, and mine are all in locations that are usually covered. The ones on my left arm are low enough to be seen in short enough sleeves. I didn't put them there in an effort to hide them, but merely just as my chosen location.

I am planning to get more. One will be on my back, towards the should on my left side. Other than that, I do want a tattoo on my forearm, but have not decided what to get yet.

I understand what you mean though. I've had the same looks about my tattoos, and the same comments. I just try to ignore their ignorance.

BTW hon, I love your tattoos! :)

Anonymous said...

I don't have any tattoos, but I want to get some. I've got some designs & locations (ony my body) picked out. Now, I just need to find a good tattoo parlour, ... and the courage. I'm ever so afraid of the pain!

Kath aka Sleepydumpling said...

Ask people who have beautiful tattoos that you really like where they got it done. Keep asking until you find a studio where you love a lot of their work. It's ok to ask strangers, inked up people love to talk about their tatts.

And if you're scared of pain, don't get your feet tattooed.

Danielle said...

I have a black star tattooed on my inner right forearm, so it's mostly on display. I get asked if it's real all the time, which just confounds me. Are fake tattoos really so popular that people have to ask? Do they think I've just been drawing on myself? My second biggest pet peeve question is some variation on "What is its significance?", because (a) there isn't really any, I just like it, and (b) if there were some really personal meaning attached to it, why would I share that with a stranger?

I don't understand the idea that we should cover our tattoos, either! I like having mine right where I can see it and I think it's fairly innocuous. I think I'm fairly sheltered though, because casual social conservatism always shocks me. (It turns out that there are still people who think nose studs are a bit out there, too.)

Also, I like the idea that my tattoo is part of me and will grow old with me. Every now and then someone will smugly inform me that it's going to get wrinkly as I get older and, uh, I know. It's not meant to be a symbol of my protracted adolescence, I didn't get it on a whim and I don't have a problem with ageing. I suppose the only problem I have with unhidden tattoos is that random strangers are prone to seizing on them as a talking point.

I love the idea of your Far Side tattoo!

(And Brodhe, they do hurt, but only in the moment, I think - whereas a piercing will ache for a few hours afterwards, my tattoo felt fine as soon as they took the needle away from my skin.)