To Tattoo or Not To Tattoo…That is the question
October 29, 2014
As I was on my way to work one morning last week, I was listening to one of the local radio stations. They were talking about a man who was saying that he had been discriminated against for a job because of his tattoos. I didn’t hear the exact situation that the discussion came from, so I don’t know if this was an editorial piece that was in a newspaper or magazine, or if this was just something that one of the DJ’s had run across and decided to talk about that morning. I do know that some of the comments that he made “rubbed me the wrong way” so-to-speak, and got me to thinking about the whole idea of having or not having tattoos. The DJ made a statement that people who get tattoos do so to set themselves apart from others or to show their individuality. He went on to say that those people shouldn’t be upset when that individuality is recognized and they’re deemed not a team player because of their apparent “individual demonstration” in having the visible tattoos. The DJ also made some comment about how there was no such thing as discrimination against someone for a tattoo. He said discrimination was based on denying someone something based on their race, religion, creed, sex, nationality, etc., not based on a tattoo. After hearing the DJ talk on the radio, I immediately flew into a defensive mode – for myself, for family members, and for many of my friends that have ink and are proud of it. I wanted to call or email that DJ and give him a big piece of my mind, but decided that would only exacerbate the problem and not offer any help, what so ever. After much thought, I decided that this would be my route of voicing my opinion and open it up for discussion and thoughts from you, the readers.
My Papaw was my first experience with anyone with a tattoo. He served in the military in World War II and while enlisted and abroad, he got his first tattoo. I remember seeing it, tracing my fingers around it, and asking him about it when I was little. His response was always the same, that he thought he’d made a pretty stupid decision in getting it and that he didn’t ever want to see any of us grandkids with one. Papaw has been dead now for a little over 17 years, and unfortunately, I don’t clearly remember the design of the ink in his skin. I do, however, remember that over the years it had faded and some of the lines had blurred a bit, but I always thought that it was interesting and imagined that when he’d gotten it, that it looked very good.
Since then, I’ve met many different people with tattoos. Some had tattoos all over both arms and up the sides of their neck. Some have had dainty butterflies on their ankles, or flowers on their shoulders, or tribal designs on their biceps. I’ve met people that you’d never know had a tattoo. I’ve met people with tattoos who were proud to show off all of their art work – within reason of course. I’ve met people who keep their tattoos covered up. And I, like some of you I imagine, have made a split second decision about a person based on the ink that is visible on them when I first meet them. I’ve also been completely and 100% wrong about many of those people who I’d judged, simply based on their outward appearance. In fact, one of the sweetest, most caring men that my husband and I have ever met had full sleeve tattoos on both arms and multiple tattoos up his neck and behind his ears. I will never forget how bad I felt for prejudging him before I even knew who he really was.
Most all of the people that I know who have a tattoo, got that ink on their body for a reason. Ask anyone who has tattoos about a certain piece of ink, and they will tell you what it means to them or why they did it. I’m sure there are people out there who got inked as a young person and now they regret it. But most of us, who pay money to an artist to have something put permanently in our skin, have a distinct reason, memory, meaning, or feeling behind it. I liken it to collecting art. Some people choose to collect paintings or sculptures and have them displayed in their homes. Then there are others that choose to carry their art with them, and these are the ones of us who decide to get the art put on our bodies. I’ve known people that get a tattoo as a memorial to a loved one that has passed away. I’ve known several women who have fought and survived breast cancer and have gotten the pink ribbon tattooed on their body as a sign of their victory. I’ve known people who have had their favorite Bible verse tattooed on their body to carry it with them all of the time. I’ve known men that have had full sleeve tattoos because they simply like the art and the look of it. There are usually stories behind someone’s tattoos; a reason why they did it or where they got it done or what it was like to get it. I’m sure there are people out there who have gotten a tattoo to show their “individuality,” but in my limited experience, I really don’t see that as any kind of issue with tattoos. I have two, and I didn’t get mine because I wanted to be set apart as an individual. I got them because they both have personal meaning to me and I wanted to remember that meaning always.
I don’t know where the stigma or prejudice against people with tattoos came from. I don’t know how long ago it started or even why it started. I do know that it does exist, and no matter how much people want to deny it, it is there, at the surface, and as I’ve said before, I’ve been guilty of it myself. I also don’t know if this particular DJ has any tattoos himself, but from the tone of his comments, I highly doubt it and I wonder if he’s not one of those people who truly judges books by their covers and doesn’t change that opinion. As I learned from my very tattooed friend, the cover doesn’t always represent who the person is inside. That is true not only for tattoos, but for judging someone based on the clothes that they wear or the vehicle that they drive. I understand that some companies might want to project a specific image with their employees, and if that is the case, then be specific when looking to hire someone. Don’t immediately assume that just because I have twelve piercings, two tattoos, and have been known to ride a Harley complete with the full black leather Harley gear, that I’m not worthy of your time or your good opinion. I also realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion of matters, and this DJ was entitled to his. He voiced his obvious dislike of tattoos, and in some ways, those who have them. Likewise, I am entitled to defend people like myself, my friends, and my family, who are happily inked and have no problems with them. I am an individual, not because of the holes in my ears or the diamond stud in my nose. I am an individual, not because of the tattoos that are inked into my skin. I am an individual because I am me, and there is only one of me. There will never be another me, and that, in and of itself, sets me apart.
To get a tattoo or not to get a tattoo is a question many people have asked and may ask themselves at some point in their lives. If you are one of us that choose to get inked, then do be proud of your art. Get it done from a reputable artist and carry that art with you gladly. If you are one that chooses not to ever get a tattoo, that is totally your prerogative, but don’t be judge, jury, and executioner of those of us who have them and decide what kind of person I am based on your perception of me and my ink.
So, what are your thoughts on tattoos? On having them or not having them? On people who have them? What is your opinion?