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Tattoo Taboo?

I have a lot of tattoos. Fourteen, to be exact. Each one holds special meaning for me. The most noticeable of these are the string of music notes that run from the inside of my ear to my neck, and the psi symbol on my wrist. Yesterday I was in the supermarket, preparing to walk out the door, groceries in hand when I passed a thirty-something man and a young girl I assume was his daughter. As I walked past them, the man tapped my shoulder and, in a very condescending voice, asked me how many of “those marks” I had. I was confused for a second but realized that he was talking about my tattoos. “Oh! I have fourteen,” I told him. He snarled at me and said, I quote, “Have fun waiting tables and sleeping around all your life.” He grabbed his daughter and hurried away, leaving me standing in shock.

Just for the record, I have been married to the same man for eighteen years and we have three wonderful children. I hold a Ph.D in Developmental Psychology and an M.Ed in Educational Psychology, and I am the counselor at a fairly prestigious private high school. I don’t think that equates with “waiting tables and sleeping around.” I could list a dozen factors, ranging from cultural influence to entitlement issues, that may have led this man to the conclusion that people with tattoos are beneath him, and he’s entitled to that opinion. He is not, however, entitled to belittle others, especially people he knows nothing about. I find it even more repulsive that he would act this way in front of his young, impressionable daughter. 0731-13

For me, it is the content of the tattoo that may reveal the character of the person wearing them.  I’ve seen some horrific, gruesome tats that glorify death and violence or sex and I wonder about the nature of someone who would choose to permanently place those kinds of images as a bold advertisement on their skin.


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  • The Elf August 16, 2013, 1:59 pm

    MichelleP’s story about getting a flat tire is prompting me to step on my soapbox for a moment here. I hope no one minds this little side-track.

    Ladies – gentlemen too – it’s not that hard to change a tire. I just rotated the five tires on my Jeep, and those are some big and heavy wheels, and I am not a strong or particularly fit woman. Unless you are infirm or elderly, there’s really no reason to be stuck waiting for someone to help you (tattooed or otherwise). For that matter, every driver should know basic roadside repair because the person that comes along to help you might not be the helpful sort, and it’s a lot faster to do it yourself than wait for AAA or whoever to show up. You can take a basic car maintenance course or you can read up in your owner’s manual or you can look online for video lessons. There’s plenty available.

    My friend was recently having trouble with her older car losing oil. When she sees the light come on, she adds more oil. I was floored – why not just check the dipstick regularly and add as needed before it becomes an emergency? That’s not a low-oil light, that’s a no-oil light, which means damage to the engine has already begun. And if you don’t check the oil level before adding more, you could seriously harm the engine for what is actually a sensor issue. But she didn’t even know how to check the oil with the dipstick, or that it was necessary. She’s such a strong and independent woman, yet creates an issue that would cause her to be dependent on others. Since flat tires are the most common easily-fixed roadside breakdown, I asked around my other friends – male and female alike – and only half the guys and only one of the women knew how to change the tires. But of my older generation friends, all the guys and half the women knew.

    Oh, and I’m not a mechanic. My parents just made me pass their driving test, which included maintenance and emergency situations, before they’d let me take the state’s test.

  • Kimstu August 16, 2013, 2:09 pm

    @I dissent: “Our workplace is, indeed, diverse. However, visible tattoos are not permitted.”

    Oh. You didn’t mention in your first post that your employer actually has such a policy, which changes the hypothetical. Sure, if visible tattoos are actually prohibited in your workplace, then your HR manager is certainly within their rights to refuse to hire a job applicant who has one.

    However, I stand by my more general statement that absent such an official employer policy, an HR manager would not be entitled to impose their own personal anti-tattoo prejudices on the employer’s hiring criteria.

    @I dissent: “We most certainly can refuse to hire job candidates who have tattoos, just as we can refuse to hire job candidates who show up in unprofessional attire, arrive late, chew gum during the interview, bring Mom to the interview, have sloppy resumés, etc. […] Visible tattoos and other unorthodox body modifications are in the same category as unprofessional attire.”

    That is very much a matter of opinion and personal taste, as well as changing fashion. Ten or fifteen years from now, a no-visible-tattoos workplace policy will probably seem as quaint and old-fashioned as yesteryear’s bans on female employees wearing trousers.

  • Shalamar August 16, 2013, 2:38 pm

    InsertNameHere said: “My friend once came into contact with a very rude woman who poked my friend on her shoulder tattoo and said, “If people were meant to look like that, we would have been born that way!” ”

    Good grief. I suppose in that case we should never wear makeup (or clothes!), shave, get surgery, wear glasses …

  • Angel August 16, 2013, 4:20 pm

    The only reason why I try to look at my brother’s tattoos for their artistic value, is because it stops me from saying what I really think whenever I see the tats. Personally I think most tattoos are very foolish and his are no exception. My only point is that at least his tattoos aren’t like those featured on shows like “Tattoo Rescue” or “Tattoo Nightmare.” They are well done and the colors are nice. Beyond that I cannot understand what would possess anyone to put something on their body permanently. That being said I would never say anything or be as rude as the man in the story–but you can’t help what you think.

  • sv August 16, 2013, 4:50 pm

    “What will I look like in a nursing home?”

    I ( and my lovely dog, Maggie) volunteer in two Alzheimers wings in a local nursing home, where people with varying degrees of Alzheimers and dementia are living out the rest of their lives. I can tell you first hand what tattoos look like on older people who are in a nursing home. It is a constant reminder that this person in front of you wasn’t born old, confused and childlike. They had a LIFE. They LIVED. They were sassy, or funny, or serious, or sweet. They had momentous happenings in their lives, they had drunken moments, they had sadness, they had people they loved. They lived. And tattoos are a beautiful testament to that.

  • Kris August 16, 2013, 5:16 pm

    7 tats and counting. Two are highly visible as they are below both elbows. A third is visible if my work shirt sleeve rides up. i’ve never hard a problem work wise when it comes to my ink and have never gotten a rude comment(yet). The sad fact is you’re more likely to hear rude remarks about your ink from other people with ink than those without it. I also dye my hair – its currently purple. Now that I think about it, I’ve gotten more rude remarks about my choice in jewlery(pentacles and ankhs) or clothing(goth) than I have my ink.

    Some people are rude jerks and its beyond rude to actually say the things this man said to the OP. The way he beat feet shows he was not ready to hear any response to his remark and its likely not the first time he’s done it. If anything he’s probably had his ears pinned back on more than one occasional and rather than learn to keep his mouth shut has chosen to hit and run.

    I’ve gotten griped at for so many things that random strangers don’t approve of that I have made this deadpan response into an art form, “And I should care what you think why?” Mostly to keep my blood pressure down because I have a low tolerance for boors and won’t hesitate to be just as rude.

  • Ergala August 16, 2013, 5:26 pm

    Yes you can reject an applicant based on what they wear on their skin. And if that person is passed up not because of qualifications but because they have a tattoo (and not one that is extremely vulgar….) I’d say they dodged a bullet. One of the best places I ever worked encouraged self expression. We weren’t forced to look alike. There were people with purple hair, spiky hair, tattoos, piercings….you name it. And it was in an office setting. We were all very good at what we did and not once was our modifications a distraction. We dressed in office attire and spoke professionally. We didn’t come in hung over or reeking of pot. We worked hard and had a blast. And because of this our productivity was up. If your employees aren’t knocked down and made to be EXACTLY like everyone else (You must have black, blonde, brown or natural colored red hair. You may not style in a way that is not “normal”. Men must have short neat hair…woman must keep their hair pulled back or styled in a way that is professional) they will be able to show you their creativity. Instead of fearing how different they are.

    Now if you want to base your hiring preferences solely on physical appearances when you have two equally qualified applicants you should probably put that in the ad. I mean if it’s perfectly legal to not hire someone because they have piercings or tattoos why not put “No tattoos or body modifications allowed/visible” in all ads for job openings. That way those with those things can push on to the next company since they aren’t welcome at yours. Just remember that some cultures DO have tattoos or piercings and those are protected.

  • Katia August 16, 2013, 6:29 pm

    In regards to the mobile art show/gallery view, I have to disagree. While some serious artists want to enter art shows, other serious artists don’t. They create art for their client, or for themselves. Art is their life, their love, their expression. My tattoo artist created my art, it is mine, I commissioned it, and I love it. It’s mine to do with as I want. You can view it, but you’re not to comment on it, appraise it, touch it, damage it, (and let’s stretch into ‘buy it’) without my expressed permission. I wouldn’t go into someone’s home and insult the proud finger painting done by one’s child, the portrait of one of their families, the modern art piece they have (even if I do hate it), or the gaudy statute in the middle of the room.

    And like Tsunoma, I’m one of those people you’d never guess has a tattoo – especially a giant back piece that blows peoples’ minds when they see it. I’m a well studied, ambitious woman who’s working in a law office. I come from a somewhat traditional Russian family (so the thought that only mafia criminals have tattoos is still fresh on older people’s minds). My tattoo is my piece of art, it has meaning to me, it reminds me what I went through and how much I’ve accomplished. I can wear whatever I want, and if it shows off my back, then so be it. It does not mean that anyone, ANYONE, has any right or entitlement to critique it or even compliment it.

    As for I dissent: your own body issues are your own body issues. I’m a bit chunky, doesn’t mean I hate thin people or fat people. I have a mole under my nose that I’ve always been self conscious about, doesn’t mean I judge anyone else on their bodies and how many moles they have or where they are. You really aren’t being any better than the boor, because you’re projecting your self hate onto others.

    Like people are taught, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

  • MichelleP August 16, 2013, 9:07 pm

    @TheElf, thanks for your soapbox comments. Before my dad allowed me to drive, which was a long time ago, he made sure I could do all maintenance on my vehicle including changing a tire. When I got a flat as a teen, partly due to the fact that I was riding around with a girlfriend when I wasn’t supposed to have anyone in the car, he made me change it from start to finish. My car now has a slow oil leak, and I check it and refill it regularly. I am very knowledgeable about vehicle maintenance and am very independent.

    The reason I couldn’t change the tire a few weeks ago is mostly because my car wasn’t far enough off the road to safely change it, (very little shoulder on the road) and also because I didn’t have a lug nut wrench. I have a jack and a spare, but I had a guy I didn’t know borrow the wrench some time back and never return it. He had a flat a ways from my home, knocked on my door asking to borrow it, and didn’t bring it back. I also had my young daughter and niece with me, and needed to get them away from the road as far as the little space would allow.

    Your comments are presumptuous and have nothing to do with this post.

  • Aje August 16, 2013, 9:18 pm

    One time on a forum someone had once gotten on a soapbox to say that we shouldn´t judge people by tattoos because you can still be intelligent and a professional with or without them. I agree. But my comment, that people still needed to use good judgement in placement and picture regardless, made two people jump right down my throat.

    As admin said, I wonder about tattoos that glorify horror, or death, or whatever. Tattoos are a very clear statement or a symbol of what is important to you. Would I mind if my Doctor has a sleeve of designs down his arm? No, not necessarily. If it´s a sleeve of naked women down his arm… well… maybe I don´t feel too good about getting a physical from him. If someone has a swastika on their neck or K-I-L-L M-E written on the tops of their hands…. it´s a little harder to be open and non judgemental because they have set themselves up for judgement. I´m not saying that it´s impossible or that we shouldn´t make the effort. I have a friend who was a Satanist. He became a Christian later, but his arms still bear witness to a very dark time of his life. Once he opens his mouth and smiles you know that the skin doesn´t match the person´s inner self. But if he said nothing, you may be a little hesitant to approach him. Despite being a marshmellow, he looks tought!

    No matter what, people deserve respect. People with tattoos often talk about this. But what people fail to realize is that other people deserve respect too. And that´s why we consider carefully the message of what is printed on our bodies. Out of respect to others. And so that we don´t regret what is there a few years down the road (hey, they are permenant after all!) 😀

  • NostalgicGal August 17, 2013, 12:35 am

    @ elf, #99

    My father believed in equality long before Gloria Steinham came along. I learned basic car maintenance including checking all fluids, changing sparkplugs, changing the oil, air filter… etc. I even had a younger male friend that was going on a trip and I offered to help him save a lot of money; and we bled his brakes, changed oil, sparkplugs, air cleaner filter and distributor cap before he left on trip. It took longer than if my DH had done the job, and he even snuck out to take a peek as we fumbled through working on friend’s car. *I* had volunteered to help him, not volunteered my DH, so. I busted my knuckles and got filthy. For the male friend (upper 20s at time) this was the first time he’d done this sort of thing.

    Everybody that drives a car should know how to do all those things (unless you have one of those cars where they have to pull the engine to change the spark plugs, I kid not) plus change your own tire. I have a cheater bar/pipe in the trunk to add to the lug wrench to get enough torque but I can do so.
    Driving a car and just knowing where to pour gas in it is just plain irresponsible! An older friend, love her to pieces, had a camper/van thing mounted on a 350 truck frame; and. She was so proud she always checked her fluids and such. She took it to mechanic because the engine was acting odd and sounded weird… it had 2 of 7 quarts. BUT!!!! she checked the levels, faithfully, it NEVER used any oil! She demonstrated by pulling out the TRANSMISSION dipstick and waving it. SEE? Full! That engine rebuild was pricy.

    Until DH went disabled, we had a rule about whoever was driving took care of the issues (filling car with gas, checking fluids and tires, top off fluids, change the flat…). I did my turn of on the shoulder changing a tire at wee hours in a rainstorm on one trip because I was driving at the time, and he stayed in where it was dry. And yes, later trip, he was driving and not only did he have to fill in bucketfuls, but he got to change a tire on the shoulder of the onramp at a wee hour. I got to sit inside and stay dry. Fair is fair. These days I am driver; he might come out to ‘attend me’ as I give the car a go-over before it goes out of town, but. I think in Driver’s Ed to pass it you have to have a basic mechanic/maintenance test to pass too.

  • anonymous August 17, 2013, 6:19 am

    “I really dislike tattoos and find them repulsive and ugly. If I were a hiring manager and if equally qualified candidates interviewed for a job, I would reject the one that showed up with tattoos visible while wearing normal business clothes.”

    “Possession of tattoos is not a protected characteristic. We most certainly can refuse to hire job candidates who have tattoos, just as we can refuse to hire job candidates who show up in unprofessional attire, arrive late, chew gum during the interview, bring Mom to the interview, have sloppy resumés, etc. We are an “at-will” employer. So long as we don’t reject candidates for reasons of race, religion, national origen, sexual preference or other protected characteristics, we are on solid ground. Our workplace is, indeed, diverse. However, visible tattoos are not permitted. Visible tattoos and other unorthodox body modifications are in the same category as unprofessional attire.”

    …OK, so the person with tattoos that you don’t hire just dodged a bullet, not being able to take a job at a workplace that is intolerant (doesn’t matter to me if it’s “protected” or not – hating on tattoos or hair color, likening them to sloppy resumes or arriving late to an interview – is intolerant).

    I don’t have a tattoo, but I love them. I may get one someday (one I can hide and show at my leisure, not very large). I only have one issue with certain tattoos and that is one of cultural appropriation if you’re adorning yourself with symbols of other cultures (appropriating them, as it were). So I’d hope people who do that have very good reasons for it (although I know most, unfortunately, don’t).

    Under that rubric I include tattoos in a foreign language the person does not know: I suppose if you’re “sure” of what it says…well, OK, but if you get a tattoo in Chinese, Japanese etc. that says something ridiculous, and you don’t even realize it because you can’t read Chinese, Japanese or whatever, then joke’s on you, buddy, and I’ll totally judge you for that.

    But that’s not a problem with tattoos in general!

  • Liz August 17, 2013, 12:04 pm

    For all of the people who can’t imagine why anyone would ever get a tattoo (“I can’t for the life of me understand why he would want art on his body,” for example):

    My son died a few hours after he was born. I miss him so unbelievably much. I’m getting a tattoo of a bird on my inner arm so I’ll always have him with me, and so he’ll always be included in our family. I would posit that people who *can’t imagine* why someone else would do something need to spend a lot more time trying to see things from other people’s perspectives.

  • I dissent August 17, 2013, 12:32 pm


    “…OK, so the person with tattoos that you don’t hire just dodged a bullet, not being able to take a job at a workplace that is intolerant (doesn’t matter to me if it’s “protected” or not – hating on tattoos or hair color, likening them to sloppy resumes or arriving late to an interview – is intolerant). ”

    We hire people out of business school and those with appropriate professional experience. I can’t imagine any reputable business school letting their graduates go out on interviews at a conservative financial firm, such as my employer, in anything other than correct professional business attire. Anyone applying for a job in our company should already know not to show up for an interview or for the job with a visible tattoo or other strange body modification. It’s just part of the culture when you deal with OPM. (Other People’s Money)

    But, don’t take it from me. Do a search on Google. Look for “business school dress code” or “Disney cast member dress code” and you can see it for yourself. Disney has several platoons of lawyers in their employ who make sure that all HR policies are legally correct.

    There are plenty of jobs that would have no problems hiring people with lots of visible tattoos and other body modifications. Plenty of places. If you have a visible tattoo, then apply to work at one of those places. You’ll be much happier there.

    We hire people who fit our corporate culture. Yeah, we’re real intolerant when it comes to visible tattoos, weird body modifications and strange hair color. Don’t fit our corporate culture? Find a job somewhere else. You may not think it’s “fair”, but it’s “life”.

    Back to the OP. As much as I dislike tattoos, I would never say anything to anyone unless specifically asked for my opinion. I certainly would never say a word to a stranger in a supermarket. Even if asked, I would preface that opinion by stating my own negative bias due to having a large red birthmark.

  • Owly August 17, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Re: the debate over whether a tattooed person is a mobile art gallery and therefore subject to critique…

    I’m an artist, too. A professional artist, and as such I’ve been subjected to many forms of critique. In art school, I was harshly critiqued by my professors, and had to be able to defend my work intelligently. This served the purpose of helping me become a better and more thoughtful artist. When I’ve submitted work to juried shows, my work has been critiqued by the jurors; this served the purpose of making sure the show was filled with the best work they can get. When I do work for hire, my employer’s critiques help me create the piece that he wants and will best suit his needs.

    “Critiquing” someone else’s tattoos doesn’t do any of these things. Is there even a purpose at all, aside from making sure that person knows that you don’t approve of the way he looks?

  • Auryn Grigori August 18, 2013, 12:15 am

    If you want to argue that someone with tatts are a mobile art gallery, you can only do it insomuch as you can do for clothing, which can be considered a form of art as well.

    And while it is unfortunate, tattoos are not protected from discrimination because it can be argued that the tattoo was a choice you made, whereas you really can’t choose to be the gender/orientation/race/etc you are.

    That being said, the whole “what will your tattoo look like when you are old” is complete rubbish. It will look old and wrinkled, like you will be. And? At which point, people will be paying more attention to your saggy parts than looking to see if you got a tattoo on said saggy parts.

    By the way, have no tattoos, but would get some if I was not so broke.

  • Auryn Grigori August 18, 2013, 12:19 am

    And yes, I find the man completely out of line. Especially with his daughter in tow.

    Into the deepest pits of E-Hell with this tacky guy (heathen is just an insult to heathens. I know heathens, and the ones I know are the kindest, nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Nothing against your saying there admin, just thought I should let you know.)

  • msdani313 August 18, 2013, 1:54 am

    Yes my tattoo is art. But, just like the art I have in my home it is not open for critique. If I wanted people to critique my art I would ask their opinion. Those who choose to display their art in galleries are asking for criticism…I’m not!

    People who offer their criticism…without being asked…regardless of the situation are rude. And their opinions are unwanted. Just like I do not need unwanted opinions regarding my weight, skin tone, occupation, pet choice, hairstyle, boyfriend or life in general I especially do not need an opinion about what I choose to do with my skin.

  • Toia August 18, 2013, 2:58 am

    Tattoos are really a hot button subject. I have 3 they are all I places that can be covered but for the most part you can see them most of the time. I plan on getting a forth next spring when I graduate.

    I rarely get noticed for my tattoos however I have a friend who has a large back piece and she gets a lot of attention. One time in particular stands out simply for its bizzar nature. We where at a local strawberry festival and a woman walked up and yanked the back of her tank top down to better see the the design. Which speaks to the perception that people seem to have about people with tattoos, especially those with extensive tattoos (and piercing). That day there was a grout of 4 women and 3 children and that strang woman accosted one of us said “cool tatt” then wondered off.

    The idea that tattoos somehow indicate a person is unemployable or has poor judgement or is in some way subversive is a fallacy. The man in the OP story has a chip on his shoulder about tattoos but his value judgement has no basis. Tattoos simply amount to ink on skin they have no correlation to the content of character a person, aspirations or quality of their life. (And yes I am fully aware that there truly awful people in the world who have plenty of tattoos)

  • Michelle C Young August 18, 2013, 7:29 am

    My main concern about tattoos is how it will affect the person’s body, from a health perspective. For example, some people get a tattoo on the small of their back (sometimes called a “tramp stamp,” which is silly, but there you are), and unless the tattoo actually straddles the spine, without having any ink actually over the spine, itself, then they may never be able to have an epidural, or other spinal procedure. This could be a bad thing.

    Also, if you get a tattoo from a person who is less than hygienic, you run the risk of infection.

    There is a danger that your tattoo will stretch, as you age, but then again, your whole body is going to change with age, and it’s best to just accept your body, however it looks, so that point is kind of moot. And some people really look forward to that little hummingbird growing into a pterodactyl. It’s evolution! And it’s a personal choice.

    I do believe that people should consider all the ramifications before getting a tattoo, including the possible health risks, as well as any limitations to their careers. Some employers (Disney World, for example) are very strict, and so, while you could be CEO of your own company, you would not be able to be a tour guide at Disney. It’s something to consider, which is why I do support people waiting until they are at least 18, and know more of what they want out of life.

    Also, be careful in your choice of pattern. My sister told me about one she saw: “No Regerts.” Yeah, it was really spelled that way. I choose to think that the fellow had a wicked sense of humor, and did it on purpose. But I’ll bet he gets a lot of rude comments about it.

  • Moralia August 18, 2013, 9:31 am

    Good thing for him it wasn’t me! I’d started giggling and responded, “This was a 10th Anniversary gift…you know, from my husband!” and continued laughing.

    I’ve never had anyone but my Mom have a negative thing to say about my ink…and even she limited herself to a long-suffering sigh.

  • Ergala August 18, 2013, 10:51 am

    Something interesting for people to read:


    2500 years ago a Siberian PRINCESS was tattooed and they are STILL visible on her skin after mummification and still just as beautiful as when she was alive. Tattoos aren’t a sign of being a rebel/criminal. They are a beautiful form of self expression. I have a celtic mother’s knot on my kneck on one side. Go ahead and google that and you’ll see what it looks like. It’s symbolic of my journey through motherhood.

  • Nissa August 19, 2013, 10:07 am

    I have a tattoo on my wrist. It’s the reference to a Bible verse that I wanted to be sure that I remembered no matter what was going on in my life. Because of its location, it varies in how visible it is. (For instance, my boss didn’t notice I had it until 4 months after I started at my job. He didn’t mind. He just hadn’t noticed it.) I don’t mind sharing its meaning with anyone who asks. I don’t go too personal. I just share what the verse is and that I want to be sure to remember it.

    I was checking out at the grocery store, when the woman behind me asked me what the verse said. I explained it to her quickly. She went on a slight rant (just in an slightly irritated voice, nothing major) about how she told her children that the Bible says tattoos are a sin and how her children both have tattoos. I simply smiled slightly and said something non-committal (Like “oh” or “I see.”). I finished paying for my groceries and told her to have a nice day. I chuckled as I walked out to my car wondering what she would think if she knew I’m a full-time minister at the local Baptist church! (My previously mentioned boss is the Pastor). I knew that it wasn’t my job as a complete stranger to try to argue theology with her, so I just let her rant, was as polite as possible, and then went on my way.

  • Lacey August 19, 2013, 10:15 am

    So weird that people are focusing on what they personally think of tattoos here. The man was rude, plain and simple, and it is rude to comment negatively on someone else’s appearance, no matter how awesome you think your opinion is.

  • Lacey August 19, 2013, 10:50 am

    Also, I’m sure it’s been said, but dude was obviously a misogynist who felt entitled to comment on a woman’s appearance because he disapproved.

  • Jenn50 August 19, 2013, 11:58 am

    Liz, first, let me say how terribly sorry I am for your loss.

    I have read your rationale for your tattoo, and given it some thought. I’m glad you’ve found a way to memorialize your baby. It is your body, your business, and your choice. I don’t judge you based on your ink, and fully support you making that choice, especially if it brings you comfort. I’ve heard of many people who used tattoos as memorials, or to honour a special person or event. That said, I STILL don’t really understand it, and no amount of trying to see things from other people’s perspective is likely to change that. I’m sure you will think of, and miss your precious child every day, for the rest of your life, with or without the visual cue. And if it’s there to remind others, it’s in a pretty subtle spot. But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if *I* get it. It’s your body, your grief, your choice. My lack of comprehension doesn’t indicate a lack of empathy; just a difference in perception. I happen to dislike the way tattoos look. Even well-executed, meaningful ones. I don’t get how anyone could think otherwise and why they’d choose something (that I think is so unattractive) to permanently adorn their bodies, especially in tribute to a lost loved one. But it’s none of my business. If you don’t bring it up, I won’t. If you do, I’ll find something supportive to say, without addressing the tattoo specifically. (“I’m sorry for your loss.”, or “I’m sure your mother would be glad to know you still think of her every day.”)

    Again, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I wish your family healing and comfort.

  • SamiHami August 19, 2013, 11:58 am

    @Idissent: I would say then that you are doing your company a disservice by discounting people with tattoos. Obviously they are very popular now and many intelligent, professional people have them. By cutting them out of your potential candidate pool you are eliminating a segment of the population based on appearance, not on qualifications, experience and ability. That, to me, is unprofessional–much more so that having some ink. I would not want to work for or give my business to a company that would judge a candidate on their appearance over their abilities.

    Add me to the list of folks here that are educated (summa cum laude), in long term relationships (27 years) and have a tattoo (and plan on another one hopefully in November for my birthday).

  • Ellex August 19, 2013, 2:51 pm

    “For example, some people get a tattoo on the small of their back (sometimes called a “tramp stamp,” which is silly, but there you are), and unless the tattoo actually straddles the spine, without having any ink actually over the spine, itself, then they may never be able to have an epidural, or other spinal procedure. This could be a bad thing.”

    As long as the tattoo has healed up (more than a few weeks old) it’s not a problem.

  • Livvy17 August 19, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Making verbal comments about someone’s appearance is rude, period.

    However, we are human beings and we make judgements all the time – both those who dislike tattoos and those who find them beautiful judge. We can’t help but to have biases and make judgements (in either direction.) What is crucial is that we try to keep an open mind before we ACT on those feelings in important situations.

    Likewise, when we choose to express ourselves – whether it be hairstyle, tattoos, makeup, whatever, we should be aware of any consequences. I may really feel that I look best in hot pink overalls, but I also know that in my industry, going to an interview wearing them would certainly earn me a judgement of being very inappropriate, and people would question my thinking and rationale. Perhaps they would think me vain, or unstable, or ridiculous, or poorly educated in the standards of appropriate business wear in our industry, or even self-centered to value my fashion sense over conformity with the standard. There would be a chance that my interviewer would think I was the best, brightest, and most intelligent candidate ever. Doubtful, but it’s a possiblity. It’s my responsibilty to decide the risk inherent in my self-expression.

    What bothers me is when people don’t seem to embrace this responsibility, and instead demand that their extreme, in-your-face self-expression shouldn’t be judged. Sorry, but no – if someone is forcing their art into my face, I see it. I can’t “not look” as one poster suggested. And I can’t help but make judgements based on what I see, even if it’s to think that the person showed poor judgement themselves in getting a tattoo at all. I respect the person’s right to do it, and I try very hard not to let my personal dislike of tattoos ever translate into negative reaction/action of any kind, but it would be foolish to think that I’ve never done so, or that the rest of the people who dislike tattoos are making the same efforts to be fair.

    Self expression does have a cost, people should be prepared to live with it, or they shouldn’t do it, whether it be sporting a tattoo, or wearing a bikini, or a mohawk, whatever. Just because your tattoo / makeup/headdress/whatever is personal and symbolic and meaningful to you, doesn’t mean that it has to be to everyone. Others shouldn’t accost you on the street about it, but they have as much right to be offended, irritated, disgusted as they wish to be.

  • Ergala August 19, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Livvy there is a difference between judging someone in your mind and saying something. Unless I am shoving my neck or ankle in your face demanding you look at them my ink is not in anyone’s face. I should able to pierce/ink whatever part of my body I want and not have to worry about shielding insults or unwelcome personal opinions from strangers.

    You know, I REALLY hate bright colors. Especially hot pink or bright bright yellow. Those two colors make my eyes burn. The next time I see someone wearing a shirt or jacket in those colors do I have the right to walk up to them and declare how ugly their clothing choice is? How it’s offensive to my eyes and how I view fluorescent colors as tacky? Of course not. I simply look away and keep moving. I don’t rubber neck, I don’t stare….I just mind my own business. I have no business over what they put on their body like they have no business over what I have on mine.

  • FerrisW August 19, 2013, 6:47 pm

    Michelle C Young- “unless the tattoo actually straddles the spine, without having any ink actually over the spine, itself, then they may never be able to have an epidural, or other spinal procedure. This could be a bad thing”

    I suspect that you must have very little knowledge of medicine, anatomy or how tattooing works if this is a big concern for you. In no way does having a tattoo across the skin covering your vertebrae prevent you from having spinal procedures! I don’t have tattoos myself, and have no desire to get one, but it’s this sort of rubbish and lack of basic understanding that I think helps fuel such a negative response to tattoos.

  • Jays August 19, 2013, 8:37 pm

    Ergala, I just wanted to say thank you for mentioning your Celtic motherhood knot. I knew I wanted a small design on my shoulder for my first tattoo (for my upcoming 40th), but I hadn’t decided what.

    Now I know. 🙂 It’s perfect.

  • Nicole August 19, 2013, 9:07 pm

    I have to interject in this one as I am a professional woman, at the top of my industry with 13 tattoos and multiple piercings. I work in a very “traditional” office and sometimes they are visible, but if we have clients scheduled they are all covered. My choice in body art does not define my ability to make a living in a professional setting. I get comments many times regarding my one tattoo that people just can’t seem to wrap their minds around as it is so different than the others. I have a large skull on the middle of my chest that represents a near death experience, but has ” living” vines reaching out towards my other art that are all flowers. This tattoo has great meaning to me because I survived when I thought I would die. I think that for anyone to judge tattoos based upon ” gruesome tats that glorify death” is ridiculous. If you really care that much, take the time to ask what the tat represents- you might walk away with a different understanding.

  • Angel August 19, 2013, 9:33 pm

    @Jenn50, thank you for articulating exactly what I feel regarding tattoos. In my post I did say that most tattoos are foolish–I did say most, but not all. In addition to the pictures my brother has he also has his children’s names on his arm. And that, I totally get. But when it comes down to it, it’s not on my body so it doesn’t matter if I get it or not. He is the one who has to walk around with it. Not me. If it’s something that has meaning to you, then only you need to accept it and not anybody else.

    But, you will never be able to control what others think of you based upon what your appearance is. You just have to decide how much you are willing to let it bother you.

  • NostalgicGal August 19, 2013, 10:01 pm

    @Ergala, #117, after the gallery was released, someone had one of the stylized horsehead bits done over her right shoulder rear area; so bringing the design ‘back to life’.

    Getting body art is a very personal thing; as I mentioned elsewhere I almost started that, and chose the route of not. I still have an appreciation of good art, and I’ve seen both some excellent stuff; some badly executed stuff, and some I will lump in poor judgement/bad choice of placement. One fellow, stands out. He had dark hair, and had a pair of bull horns starting just into where his temple hair was and going around to (points just missing at the back of his head). He was wearing his hair at ‘nearly bald’ (probably shaving it most of the time is my guess) and the art showed up. If he wanted to, he could grow an inch of hair and it would disappear and become his personal art once again. Best of both worlds IMO.

    Another case is a fellow that has a TV show and does woodworking. He has upper and lower arm art. On show he has to cover his tattoos, his contract said so. They had some other show with him and a few other woodworkers at some sort of convention, and I know I wasn’t the only one who turned it on to see what he had on his arms. Nothing really bad or tasteless, but. This is a case of employment and boss plus contract says a certain appearance will be kept as part of the deal, and he complied. No I don’t consider it discrimination, as it was spelled out beforehand.

    Is your skin art a mobile gallery. Sort of. Wearing very little clothing and/or wearing clothing to obviously showcase and draw attention to the art, yes you’re a mobile gallery. Normally dressed, and quite obvious that the 2″ showing at your wrist probably goes past your elbow, no you’re not.

    Does it deserve a critique or nasty comments? If you are displaying it; or in a contest for art and artists of that nature, yes an objective critique may be part of it and in that case endured. NastyO’s from Joe and Jane Public? No.

  • crella August 20, 2013, 6:07 am

    “I suspect that you must have very little knowledge of medicine, anatomy or how tattooing works if this is a big concern for you. ”

    This was in the news sporadically a few years back, and although it hasn’t been proven to be a risk, the question seems to linger. Just a quick look at childbirth boards showed questions about epidurals and tattoos.

    From the Mayo Clinic’s page on ‘Labor, Delivery and Postpartum Care’-

    ” A lower back tattoo won’t necessarily prevent you from having an epidural during labor. The exception would be if the tattoo is red, swollen or oozing fluid — or if the tattoo is recent and the affected skin is still healing.

    Research on tattoos and epidurals is limited. Theoretical concerns — such as the development of skin cancer in the affected area years later — remain controversial. Actual reports of problems associated with epidurals and lower back tattoos are exceedingly rare.

    If you have a lower back tattoo and decide to have an epidural during labor, the anesthesiologist will likely try to insert the needle through skin that isn’t tattooed — such as an open area in the tattoo design.

    If that isn’t possible, the anesthesiologist might nick your skin before inserting the needle. This reduces any possible risk associated with trapping tattoo pigment inside the needle or depositing the pigment into deeper tissues.
    Keep in mind that placing a needle through the tattoo might result in a small scar that could alter the appearance of the tattoo.

    If you’re concerned about the unknowns associated with tattoos and epidurals, you might ask your health care provider about other options for pain relief during labor — such as relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, or oral or injected medications. “

  • Livvy17 August 20, 2013, 8:20 am

    @Ergala – if you read my post, you will note that I unequivocally state that I think it’s wrong to make comments to people, or to take any kind of actions based on one’s own personal esthetic. I just wanted to note that people need to understand that any form of self-expression has an impact, and that they should understand that.

  • Livvy17 August 20, 2013, 8:27 am

    And, as an aside, I’m not a fan of super-bright colors either….it was just an example. And you play into my original point with your comments….those colors “make your eyes burn” and therefore, you’re probably less likely to be drawn to or happy in the presence of someone who frequently wears those colors. Is it not likely that might think less positively of a person who favored such clothes? Possibly you might even avoid that person? You would hopefully never be so rude as to critique someone aloud, but you’d still feel what you feel, and that might turn into consequences to the person who chose to wear those colors.

  • Monkey mommy August 20, 2013, 9:32 pm

    I have 4 tattoos in easily concealed spots, all gotten from ages 18-25, so i understand. Honestly though, as a hiring manager I reject candidates with big obvious neck tats or arms and wrists done up. It is just unprofessional looking. While its rude of him to act the way he did, when you put yourself on display with so many visible tats, you are opening yourself up to the critique of the world.

  • Seiryuu August 20, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Personal opinion on tattoos: less is more.

    While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with tattoos, one still has to remember they’re still pieces of art; people will have opinions of them and will have an influence on first impressions. In the West there’s more acceptance of tattoos in everyday life, but in other places (like some southeastern Asian countries) they are the brands of criminals which causes aversion in some people (which explains why my parents are wary around people with tattoos).

    That being said, people don’t go around saying that it looks disgusting in public. You can try and focus elsewhere on their bodies, but hold your judgments unless it’s specific to the style and technique of the piece.

  • Calli Arcale August 21, 2013, 12:34 pm

    There are beautiful tattoos and terrible tattoos, but I think the one that takes the cake for “really stupid tattoo” would have to be the one that’s been featured in a few stupid crook stories lately. He was a gang member, and a violent man, and he’d killed a man. He was quite proud of it, and had a very detailed rendering of the scene tattooed onto his back to commemorate it. This would haunt him years later, when he was convicted for robbery, and somebody at the prison noticed the tattoo and remembered the unsolved murder case. He’d documented details that had never been released to the public, so it was pretty much a murder confession on his back. Now *that*, I think we can all agree, is a very stupid tattoo. 😉 (Fortunate, though, since his victim’s family was able to see the case solved.)

  • Janet Marie August 21, 2013, 3:45 pm

    My work place is pretty casual in terms of what people have for tattoos and piercings. Very few of us ever interact with a customer face to face so they have gone from a business casual to casual dress code. At least half the people I work with either have visible tattoos and / or multiple piercings, and they are both management & non management.
    One of my best friends is covered in tattoos but she covers them up with long sleeved shirts and pants for work most of the time. She is in some type of medical profession but does not interact with the general public. She has never told me if any one she supervises or supervises her has taken offense to her tattoos.

  • Ergala August 22, 2013, 2:27 pm

    @Jays It was my pleasure 🙂 It’s not colored, just a black design. You can probably even Google the one I have. It’s simple and beautiful. I get a lot of compliments on it. I go to the same artist for my ink so I can say “Oh def check out Don!!! He’s amazing!”. I was very picky as to who was going to put a permanent mark on my body.

    @Livvy yes it will make an impact. However it’s still wrong to judge someone based on if they have piercings or tattoos. And when I say judge I mean refusing to give them a position at place of employment. I mean what if you had noooo idea they had one and one day a woman wore a skirt and you noticed a tattoo on her calf or ankle? Would you fire her? Suspend her? Write her up? You wouldn’t have known otherwise. My neck ones weren’t visible until I cut my hair. A LOT of people were surprised when they saw them….I always wore my hair down. They had absolutely no clue that I had ink anywhere other than my ankle. Wait until I get my upper arm/shoulder done 😉

  • Dust Bunny August 22, 2013, 4:44 pm

    I adore tattoos but the fact is that anything you wear (permanently or otherwise) that is outside the mainstream is going to get you attention. Some of that attention is good and some of it is not. It’s not that you deserve it, but if you proceed with the expectation that the waters will part and nobody will judge you, ever, for your choices, you’re fooling yourself.

    I love to sew and make my own clothing from vintage patterns. This is pretty popular right now so, if you’re into it and read other peoples’ sewing blogs all the time, it doesn’t feel like something that should make you stand out. But it does. Turns out a lot of people are slightly freaked out by grown women in bright, old-fashioned, calico dresses. I’m lucky; most people like them. Some really do not; I’ve even had fabric salesladies try to talk me out of buying stuff because they didn’t think I should be seen wearing a parsley-green dress with tiny chickens on it. That doesn’t thrill me but it’s to be expected. I don’t push the issue by wearing the brightest and/or most eccentric items to places where I know they will make me particularly conspicuous. Wearing them to the art festival? Not a problem–everyone there is wearing something weird, anyway. Wearing them to church? Potentially problematic; I’ll choose something more conservative.

    Crowing about how people shouldn’t judge is unrealistic and is basically a cop-out. Yes, I wish people were openminded enough to let things like this go, but a lot of people aren’t. You–and I mean “we”–either have to keep your freak flag under wraps in settings where it might predictably be problematic, or stop taking criticism like this personally. The guy was rude, and he was wrong, but you’re the one who is still bothered by it, not he, so let it go and be content knowing that you got the last laugh.

  • Mabel August 22, 2013, 11:04 pm

    Regardless of the content of the tattoo, it is none of anyone else’s business what someone chooses as body art. When people learn to keep their mouths shut about things that don’t concern them, the world will be a much better place. I’m not holding my breath, however. 😛

    • admin September 4, 2013, 6:22 am

      The content of some tattoos is everyone’s business if it happens to promote gang violence or white supremacy. See the following: http://youtu.be/hkUXTiiIcFM

  • Sugaryfun August 25, 2013, 5:57 pm

    A while back the charity I worked for got a new CEO and a directive came through that employees and volunteers (most of our workers were volunteers) should have no visible tattoos or piercings. Our assistant manager had visible tattoos and the manager had a labret stud. A number of the branch managers pointed out to management that if they were serious about enforcing the policy they’d lose not only quite a few staff but more than half of the vollies which they really couldn’t afford to do. The policy is dropped.

    Yeah, tattoos can be a problem for getting a job, though that’s gradually changing. That was in the back of my mind when I got my first tat which is why I put it somewhere that isn’t normaly visible. But it’s not anybody else’s business to comment on a stranger’s tats the way that guy did on the OP’s. It’s just plain rude.

    Personally I wish people who dislike tats could refrain from being patronising towards people with them, telling us that we will regret them eventually etc. Sure, some people regret their tats. That doesn’t mean that everybody who gets one will. Twelve years on and so far I still love mine. I want it on my body forever. That’s why I got it.

  • Sugaryfun August 25, 2013, 11:09 pm

    Re. epidurals and tattoos my tattoo is circular and about 20cm across in the middle of my lower back. I had an epidural with my first baby and it was right in the middle of the tattoo. It caused no problems, the anaesthetist just laughed and said it was good of me to put a target there for him.

  • Daphne August 29, 2013, 1:26 am

    I don’t know why but tattoos for some reason just make me think the person is dirty. As in not clean–needs a long shower. And multiple piercings make me assume that person has an infection. I know it’s not true–but it’s just my first thought whenever I see someone with tattoos or piercings.

    There are a few restaurants in my area where the employees are allowed that type of expression and I never eat at them because of it. I know it’s irrational but I also know that quite a few people feel the same way. Would I ever tell someone with a tattoo or a piercing that? Absolutely not. Unless they asked.

  • Julia September 4, 2013, 9:22 am

    The pivotal person in this scenario is the daughter. The father, being a pretty inept parent, decided to use you as a lesson for his daughter, whom he sees as having one main duty in life: staying sweet and virginal like Barbie until she gets married and has children. I’m guessing he saw your ink and thought, “Ha! I’ll scare her with this example of a tattooed person.” Notice that it was vital you got no chance to say who are and what you actually have achieved in your life. He had to label you quickly and run away so his little girl would have nightmares about how putting ink on her skin (or, I’m assuming, wearing revealing clothing, putting on too much makeup, getting anything pierced except her earlobes, or drinking a beer) will RUIN HER WHOLE LIFE.

    While it’s really unpleasant that you got to be the monster in this interaction to scare this girl straight, I believe this guy’s going to keep his daughter under such Bogey-man tyranny only until she discovers that he’s absolutely full of it. A face full of rebellion piercings and tattoos may well follow.

    The ultimate loser in this isn’t the father though, it’s the girl. Being raised with hatred and fear, she will not have the opportunity to grow up liking herself or her body. I can only pray she’s got a better mother or at least a sensible older sister.