Should You Get a Tattoo?
What my experience can teach you… or not.
Walking into the tattoo parlor felt like nothing I had ever done before. It was close to 11pm and there were only two other customers present besides my best friend and myself. Neon signs and vintage posters covered the black painted walls and all the employees were inked from head to toe, laughing as they ran their seemingly space-aged machines back and forth across their customers’ skin. With nervous excitement, my friend and I chatted and flipped through body art magazines while we waited for a chair to open up.
Even though I loved my tattoo, my family was not as thrilled. In fact, they still consider the whole idea of tattooing to be taboo. But going to a liberal arts college opened my eyes to a whole new world of self-expression.
Having experienced a place where tattoos are acceptable and attractive, it was strange and stifling for me to receive the backlash I did when word got out at home that I had one myself (oops). But I suppose that was good because it got me thinking. Where did tattoos come from and why do people’s opinions of them differ so dramatically?
Turns out, the purpose and perception of tattoos have varied throughout human history. First up we have the Iceman, carbon-dated over 5,000 years ago and said to be the earliest known example of a human with tattoos. We can then follow the ink trail (so to speak) from the ancient Egyptians to various native tribes to the Greeks and the Romans to the early inhabitants of Chile and Peru. They all had tattoos, and for good reason.
Back then they were used for therapy, to denote nobility or religious affiliation, or even to mark someone as a slave or a criminal. Seems pretty logical, right?
As time progressed, tattoos were seen as markers of deviant behavior, of bad taste and poor judgment (sounds all too familiar). But today, tattoos are meant to express individuality and creativity, commemorate experiences, and symbolize emotions. Ah, that’s better.
However, it’s never a smooth transition from taboo to normal. Although progress has been made, there’s still a ways to go.
It seems to me that the outlook you have on tattoos stems mostly from your surroundings and your generation. Your friends, your coworkers, and your general environment all greatly influence your outward identity and how you view yourself and others. Because let’s be real, you’d still be rocking those denim overalls if you had the chance.
And how could we forget the media?! For one, it’s not uncommon to see celebs tatted up nowadays. Granted you don’t see the likes of Arianna Huffington or Condoleezza Rice walking around with half-sleeves, but you do see stars like Angelina Jolie and Miley Cyrus who aren’t afraid to show their ink. To top it off, there are over 13 reality shows about tattoos playing on TV screens across America. They’re everywhere! And when you see things like this so often, it’s hard not to become desensitized to them.
Growing up and living in a time when tattoos are normal and cool, I can understand why the older generations have a harder time getting used to their popularity. Of course there are the exceptions, like the parents who not so secretly reminisce about that time they tripped acid at a Fleetwood Mac concert. But in general, I find them still hesitant when it comes to someone permanently marking his or her body in the name of individuality.
I think a large chunk of the argument comes from a fear of discrimination in the workplace. But let’s think about that. A few decades ago, a woman couldn’t even walk into an office without being disrespected in some way or another. And now look at us! We’re kickin’ (corporate) butt and takin’ names. Even so, women still earn less than men on average and the equal pay gap is yet to be closed. Just another example of change in progress.
When it comes to how you look, it all depends on where you work. Those in the creative sector usually have more leeway with dress code, behavior, and yes, tattoos. However, those wishing to enter into the more tightly buttoned professions like banking and insurance probably ought to think twice about what they show off (at least until after 5).
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a tattoo if you want to be taken seriously. I’m just saying that you should be smart about it. I mean, it’s probably not the best thing for a woman to remind people of Mike Tyson (sorry, Mike). But if that’s what you want, then by all means. We probably need a few more female boxers around anyway.
Love it or hate it, the tattoo trend is here to stay, and I think it’s safe to say that tattoos will be even more widely accepted among the next generation. But who knows? Maybe they’ll cycle back out of style again. And if that happens, what trend will take its place?