To Whom Ink May Concern

I have seen friends met with negative comments because they have tattoos. Tattoos are for pirates, prisoners, sailers, etc., right? People only get ink for attention, or peer pressure. While some of these stereotypes can be true for a few people, it is not the complete reason everyone who has skin art has gotten one.
I don’t have any tattoos so why should I bring up such a topic? I wrote an article for The Celebrity Cafe sometime ago about Megan Fox having her Marilyn Monroe tattoo removed from her arm. The comments that followed below the piece had nothing to do with the article but people’s opinions about tattooed people. This article is old  and I worked on this blog post along time because I didn’t know if people would except a non-tattooed person writing about skin art.
In the comment section it was mentioned that tattoos are a self-esteem issue and someone’s need to be noticed. However, over time tattoo culture has had a much more in-depth history. Different cultures, communities, and times skin art has been used for healing purposes, rites of passage, marks of status and rank. Some marks are symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, and decorations for bravery. There are even tattoos used for sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, and protection. The leased liked marks may be that of outcasts, slaves and convicts. The ones with these marks may find their permanent label empowering. Numerous people use skin art to honor a dead relative or as a reminder of conquered tough times. This is where I think others should think twice before they push their judgement.
A few will use tattooing as an “in” thing but don’t demean the people that have tattoos that hold deep meanings of self-expression. Not everyone who has tattoos should be lumped in with Megan Fox. Not everyone that has tattoos have low self-esteem. Not everyone that has tattoos get them to be notice. Most people I know seem to have a tattoo or ten. And judgement goes both ways. Something I have seen some (not all!) tattooed people looking down on people without tattoos. I have been shunned or had a look of attitude or annoyance come my way when I reveal I don’t have any tattoos. I started keeping quite on flesh art because I was tired of defending why I like tattoos on others but why I don’t have/want any.
I had friends try to help me find something I can ink on to my body but after sometime they gave up and I realize that I don’t have to have or own something to say I like it.I guess I can say I look pretty plan to a tattooed person. The only marks on me are freckle, beauty marks, and the occasional bruise or childhood scar. I have been met with prejudice by friends when I find a man attractive who is tattooed and pierced. A “good” or “plain” girl like me shouldn’t step out of her stereotypical group. I have even shocked a friend or two and was told I couldn’t date someone that was excessively tattooed because I didn’t fit in with that attractive man’s image. I could have argued, “How do you know what any stranger finds attractive?” but we all have perspectives we place on people whether they are tattoo, pierced, or bear. In the end, I think (and I’m no one), who are we to make broad assessments and  judge someone.
State Street’s tattoo shops mainly catered to sailors in the Great Lakes area. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella).

Thinking about Tattoos

August 16, 2011
Tattoos are popular. It is hard not to find someone without some sort of permanent artwork on the body. Some may just get a tattoo just to have a tattoo. Something picked off a wall. Most have tattoos with a meaning behind the art covering their bodies.

I love reading and tattoos have always fascinated me. I have learned Sylvia Plath was drawn to a tattoo shop and after a night of spending time, looking over Tattoos and talking with a tattooist she had a morning of writing and a desire to return to that atmosphere at a later date (Anchor Books; Part 3, Boston 1958-1959, Page 261-2; Thursday, September 18). I don’t remember how I came across the book “The Book Made of Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide” Edited by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor but it shows strangers tattoos of favorite works of literature. This is not a review of the book but I enjoyed seeing and learning the story behind people’s tattoos (all literary). It was everything I love to learn about tattoos.

My best friend, as one example, has 14 or more (It’s hard to keep count). Actually now that I am thinking about it most of my friends have tattoos. Some have even drawn the art themselves. What makes me different? To permanent. If I’m going to live with this, look at it everyday, I’m worried that I may grow tired of it. I can remove it now but that could leave a scar. I could cover it with another tattoo but it would have to be something I know would cover it. I could get a tattoo having to do with my first love…writing but I haven’t found anything that I would want forever. Maybe the book, “Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide” made me a little envious. All so sure of their favorite author, quote, word, poem, book, etc.

People should take tattoos more seriously. People turn 18 and they run out to get a tattoo. Most never think. I know so many people who regret their tattoo choice. I would have. When I was 19 many of my friends were getting tattoos. I was accompanying many of them. I thought I wanted a tribal gecko on my hip. I didn’t tell anyone because I was worried someone would do the same. Well, a friend got a tribal gecko on her hip. It’s hard to be original and we change. Now I would hate if I had that on me anywhere. It’s not me at all.

What about the tattoo artist? What happens if you are lead to believe he is good and he messes up? You now live with his mistake. We’ve all seen those web pages. Misspellings, crap work, crap art, etc.

Walking into a parlor think about what you liked 10 years ago. Think about what you like now. You change. It’s natural. I like hearing people say I got this and it still means something to me because it reminds me of this time and this emotion. Before you look at me with head cocked to one side and that questionable look on your face trying to figure out why I don’t have a tattoo when I love other’s tattoos so much know if I ever do get one it will be the right one.