Monday, August 18, 2014

Why you shouldn't be ashamed of your tattoos

A 2006 survey revealed that 36% of those ages 18-25 and 40% of those ages 26-40 have at least one tattoo.
That means nearly half of all people in my specific age group--the one where most people are of working age, and therefore are out in the world, working--have a tattoo.

Meanwhile, a quick google says somewhere around a fifth* of all Americans have tattoos, and more than half of these people polled said tattooing lowers your chance of getting hired. To this I say:

  1. I have four tattoos, one of which is a count of publications I've gotten and so is slowly but consistently growing.
  2. I fully intend to get more.
  3. I also realize that I don't have any intention of working in an office or other cube-minded workplace anytime soon.**
But here's the thing:
Even if you're in the most standard of standard jobs, you have no reason to be ashamed of your tattoos.
You got them for a reason--and most of the time, those reasons still matter years later. If your reason is something like "I'm a Skinhead now", maybe it'll be a problem later--and I hope it is, because that means you've overcome a lot of hatred and fear and anger to be where you are now--and then you cover it up with something that means something more kind and happy and positive. Mine? I have one for surviving a really hard last year in undergrad, I have one on my bum ankle because, as I say, "if it's not going to work right, it should at least be pretty", I have one for all my publications, as I said above, and I have one that's the same flowers on my mom and on my sister. I don't regret a single one. If anything, sometimes I regret being so poor I can't get as many as I'd like, or I regret being too symmetrical with the one on my back, or I regret not getting the wings at the same time as I got the swirl-thing I did get.

I see it like this:

  1. Your skin is a map of your life--all your scars and winkles are there because of the life you lived, so why not also have some say in the marks left by life?
  2. If you're like me, and you've always been sort of uncomfortable in your skin, it's an amazing way to take ownership of your own body, to replace the blank white sheet that bothers you with beautiful art you love.
  3. Fading and stretching mean you haven't been sitting around inside, afraid of the world--you've been out in the world, living and experiencing and focusing not on preserving your skin, but on actually having a life.
  4. Being old and covered in tattoos is an awesome thing; you're automatically more interesting than every other old person.
And I think it's a lesson I'm always teaching myself: how to be a better story. You don't just tell stories, you are a story, every line and scar and piece of art and piercing and burn and wrinkle and injury. It's all stuff you've overcome, experiences you've had, lives you've lived, things you've seen and done and lived through. Why would you want to live a whole life protecting the blank page when you could be a full, brilliant story? Why would you spend too much money to maintain a fake youth when you wasted your actual youth being afraid to be different?

You have tattoos. Or you're going to get them. Or you know people who already did. A lot of Americans have them, they aren't going out of style anytime soon. So next time you're looking at a tattoo and thinking it's something to be ashamed of, think instead about where that shame comes from? Is it a shameful reason you got the tattoo? Cover it with something better. Were you raised thinking only perfect untouched things go into heaven? How much actual life has that thought lost you, and which sort of heaven would you want to go to--one where good, happy people are, or one full of prudes? Are you afraid? Fear is just a symptom of not knowing, of not having control. But in this, you have control.

So don't be afraid of your own skin. And don't worry so much about what your tatts will look like when you're old. You'll look badass and you'll feel fine.

*Ugh, I hate linking to Fox News; but because it's FN, I think we can assume they're understating or otherwise misreporting.
**Which is also why my hair is often weird colors.
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