for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Multicolored challenges


Tattoos and other body art are becoming more popular all the time–just look at all the tattoo related showson TV these days. Even the National Geographic has gotten into the act. But the fact that something is popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it has widespread acceptance.

In what ways are multicolored people reminded that body art is still outside the mainstream? As I see it, there are three common objections.

Dress codes

I used to laugh when a friend who worked as a fundraiser for a fundamentalist college told me he would never ever EVER dare wear anything but a white shirt to work. The people he worked for wouldn’t tolerate anything else. And whether it was strictly true or not, he believed that the potential donors he went to see wouldn’t tolerate anything else either, and if his clothing offended them he could kiss their money goodbye. That was years ago, but it’s still pretty much the rule that employers have dress codes and employees are expected to follow them.

So, it’s practical to have your tattoos applied to areas that can be covered up by clothing. Not quite so easy to conceal piercings, unless they’re in intimate areas. There’s a market out there for clear or flesh colored spacers that can be inserted to keep a piercing open, but from my reading I gather they’re not entirely satisfactory. (Nor, despite what I saw at one previous job, is a bandage over a pierced ear going to fool anyone).

Conscious or unconscious aversion

Historically speaking, tattoos have been favored by the “upper crust.” All kinds of royalty had body art a hundred years ago. (Heck, Prince Charles was in the Navy, do you suppose he’s got ink where the sun don’t shine?) But, sad to say, most people don’t know diddly-squat about history, and their main exposure to tattoos often comes from gangbangers, bikers, sailors, soldiers, and other kinds of People We’re Not. Thus, tattooing gained an unfortunate reputation as being the provenance of People We’re Not, and anyone with a tattoo is therefore eyed with suspicion. (My father didn’t want me to get my ears pierced when I was 16, claiming it “looked cheap.” I’m glad I never found out what he thought of my tattoos.) The fact that this anti-ink prejudice exists is something multicolored people have to understand and deal with, no matter how irrational the basis.

Age and its issues

“What will happen when you get old and it sags?” It’s true that our skin changes shape as we get older. And it’s a common assumption that wherever the tattoo goes, the skin will sag, wrinkle, change color, and otherwise distort and deface the tattoo, so why even bother? Of course, the fact that humanity has a long tradition of art that gets better with age, despite the ravages of time upon the medium (the Mona Lisa ain’t what she used to be, and neither are the Lascaux cave paintings) doesn’t seem to apply to body art. It’s gonna sag! Don’t do it!

Of course, the idea that we can enjoy the ink till gravity takes its toll doesn’t seem to mean anything to the sag fanatics. And the fact that there are plenty of areas that don’t sag doesn’t change people’s minds, either.

What’s your story?

What kinds of objections and challenges have you faced? Did your family raise a fuss about your tattoos? Were you called too young or too old? Does your employer have even an inkling you’re covering up inking?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Cassi Saari

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.

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