These days there’s all kinds of opposition to getting a tattoo: you’ll regret it when you’re older, it’s trashy, people will look down on you, there may be health risks, it’s a waste of money etc etc. – those are the common things I’d hear in middle/upper-class Australia whenever the subject of tattoos came up, and I’d expect much of the US has a similar attitude.
But for all that negativity, there are still loads of people who got tattoos and are glad to have done so, even decades later.
As such, I’d like to publish a piece on the benefits of tattoos and the various reasons people like them, in the hope of (at least partly) counterbalancing all the negative arguments against tattoos. To do that, I’ll be collecting comments from as many different people as possible on why they got a tattoo and have no regrets about it.
Here’s the query I put out on some of the journalism sites and forums I belong to:
Many people look negatively upon tattoo’s, and we’d like to help change that. For people who have got tattoo’s and are glad they did, what do you like about your tattoo(s) and how would you respond to people who oppose tattoo’s? Any comments welcome.
In addition, I reached out to a few tattoo bloggers and am also still in the process of getting input from all kinds of people. As new comments come in, I’ll add them below. If you have a tattoo yourself and have something to say about it, please make a submission.
I was always so infatuated with tattoos growing up. I think it was the beauty that drew me to it from a young age and then the feeling of pure rebellion that followed. Growing up in the 90’s was the era of the infamous “tramp stamp” or a barbed wire arm band. This was around the time my Mom started getting tattooed. Her first was a small Winne the Pooh on her ankle when I was 9 and from there on the collection grew as did my tattoo ideas. My dad to this day after being together for well over 30 years still has no tattoos, he is terrified of needles. I patiently waited for the arrival of my 18th birthday to get my first tattoo and looking back I am so glad I refrained from a visit to the local after-hours kitchen tattoo artist! I would have ended up with some hilarious tattoos that my 16 year old brain thought were a good idea.
My Grandfather fiercely opposed tattoos it reminded him of the war and old washed up sailors. He could not wrap his head around why I would ever want to “disrespect” my body in that way, but i did it anyway and he loved me the same! Truth be told tattooing has been around since well before WWII and some would argue since the beginning of time!
I had carefully planned out my my first tattoo over the years by choosing flowers that had meanings close to my heart. I searched all over New England for an artist who I thought would be the best fit. He took my ideas and spun them into a Japanese water color styled piece that I still love and receive the most complements on. At the time knew I was about to start hair school and would work in an industry where tattoos were accepted. Thinking back that seems so silly because so much has changed over the years, but dated ideas still remain.
I remember my first real rejection was in beauty school. An older woman had come in for a haircut and I was next in line to take a client. She couldn’t even look at me and immediately refused my service. I only had two tattoos at the time and a couple of piercings, I couldn’t believe it! I had never felt such blatant disrespect for the way I looked. In the future I would be followed around at high end boutiques as if I was a criminal about to shop lift when in reality I was a super successful hair stylist. These things still happen all over the country luckily New York City more often than not will greet you with a warm embrace no matter who you are and what you look like.
People still ask me what my family thinks. They are always surprised when I tell them my Mom and I have matching neck tattoos! Another common question is if I regret anything and I truly don’t. You will always have things that you loved 10 years ago aesthetically and its okay if its not your favorite now. It will always remind you of that time in your life and that's what makes its beautiful. My advice to everyone about getting a tattoo is when you know you know its not something to rush. I had never felt more myself until I started getting tattooed after all true self expression is one of the most freeing magical parts of being human.
--Chelsey Drapeau, chelseyd.com
As a traveler and nomad, I get tattoos as souvenirs instead of buying physical souvenirs. I personally love how tattoos tell a story. They're like a visual story on your body. My Frida Kahlo tattoo on my right upper arm reminds me of my solo backpacking trip through Mexico. I stumbled upon Frida's house in Mexico City and was moved by her bravery and passion. So, like any other sane person would do, I had her face permanently painted on my arm. Frida reminds me daily to be strong, live passionately, and love deeply. My sugar skull on my left upper thigh reminds me of celebrating Dia De Los Muertos in Antigua, Guatemala. The sugar skull for me reminds me to cherish life and death and honor those who've passed on. I fell in love with the tradition and love how their culture honors the dead. It changed my perspective and left me with a positive outlook on death, something I had once feared. A friend of mine lost his life at 21 years old, his birthday is written in roman numerals underneath the sugar skull to honor his death.
I would never judge a tattoo. You never know the story or significance behind it. It may be a memorial tattoo for a lost loved one, or it could be a drunken college mistake. Either way, it's a personal choice. I never understood why anyone (including my mother) had anything to say about another person's body or choices. That's the beauty of choice and self expression. If we all choose the same avenues, life would be boring. And no one wants that.
--Courtney Vondran, Courtney The Explorer
Before getting my first tattoo, society had scared me into thinking this would be the most important decision of my life by parroting the idea that you have to be immeasurably sure or you will regret it forever. I'm 32 now with my sleeves almost covered in tattoos. I've made some life-changing decisions in my life, none of which I was a 100% sure about (how can you be?), and none of them involved any tattoos. They're really not that big of a deal, they could be attached to a personal memory, but don't have to. There's nothing wrong with just appreciating the art. I used to think that I need to have an answer ready in case anyone asked what any of my tattoos meant. I had a whole monologue set up in my head for each piece. As I grew older with my tattoos, that pressure wore off. Now I just answer I thought it looks cool, and watch their baffled reaction in amusement. Even if there is a story behind it, I may not feel like sharing it with that person. They're my tattoos, my stories, my memories. So why get a tattoo? Because they look pretty cool.
--Calvin West, Calvin West Productions
I have never once regretted having tattoos. I got my first when I was 21 and now have a countless amount.
I started getting them as a sign of rebellion (as any good Catholic does), but they have now evolved into so much more. Different ones mean different things and some I love more than others.
My favorite has to be my sleeve, which contains watercolor flowers. It started with the birth month flowers of the important people in my life and escalated from them.
As an RN and a Realtor, I get a substantial amount of flack for my ink. While I have never had someone blatantly not want to work with me, I have had several rude comments and more than several side eyes. I let it roll of my back. When asked why I got them, I am honest in my stories of the rebellion as well as the love.
Most people, however, love them. I think they help me to stand out and break the monotony.
--Rachael O'Neill, The Crafty Baking Nurse
Tattoos are a great way to express yourself. In some cases, they help people show their artistic side. In others, they help serve as a reminder of something important in their lives, such as their religion, their children, or an important mantra. Tattoos are a personal decision, and they do not harm anyone else. So if getting a tattoo will represent something special to you, you should have no hesitations about getting one.
--Leia Kalani, Tropical Topics
I’m not covered in tattoos by any means, but I have two that mean a helluva lot to me and one that doesn’t mean a thing, so I can see both sides to this question.
I’ll focus on the two I adore. One is my wedding ring. My husband and I both have ours tattooed on as we work manual jobs and metal rings are not suitable. For us, this tattoo means the true “forever”. What I like about it is that it’s not something you can easily take off so it meant so much more to get our rings tattooed on permanently. It is a sign of our commitment and dedication to each other.
The other is in memory of my dog. It’s not a dog portrait as you sometimes see, but a dragon on my foot. This dog was my companion and protector, he was always focused on me, hence the dragon. The placement of my foot was because when I look down, he always walks with me.
What I would say to anyone who opposed tattoos?
It’s everyone’s own choice. Tattoos are forever so it’s not a choice you should make lightly. Make sure you don’t judge others either, you don’t know what their tattoos may mean to them. It’s all about self-expression and everyone has their own way of going about it. Maybe you make sculptures. I think sculptures are creepy but if it makes you happy, I’m not going to stop you. If it makes you stronger and gives you a stronger sense of self, I’m right there with you.
--Elle, Outdoor Happens
I currently have five tattoos. I got four of them when I was 18 and one when I was 19. (I'm 23 now.) When I was growing up, I was always very insecure about my appearance. I admired tattoos because I viewed them as a piece of art on someone's body. For me, getting tattoos was an act of self-love because they made me feel more beautiful.
I've always been a creative person who appreciates the arts, and I eventually went on to work in the advertising field, which is a creative industry. The first tattoo I got was a flower of life with a Pablo Picasso quote in the center. It says, Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. The tattoo represents my love for creativity and art.
With every tattoo I got after, I became more confident in my body. My body is a temple, so why not decorate it? I don't regret getting any of my tattoos. I still like them, and even as I get older, I'll view my tattoos as a symbol of my youth.
I would respond to people who oppose tattoos by telling them to be more open-minded. Lots of people have tattoos these days, not just thugs and prison inmates. Tattoos are simply an art form, and they shouldn't negatively affect your perception of other people.
--Samantha Warren, samanthawarren.com
I started getting heavily tattooed many years ago. Most people who meet me and my husband for the first time assume that the reason I'm so heavily tattooed is because I'm married to him. I, actually, was already this heavily tattooed when we met. We had mutual friends and he was recommended to me to get a memorial tattoo that I had wanted and the rest is - as they say - history. He's done about 20% of my tattoos to date. I'm more tattooed than he is. I suppose that's because he's too busy doing them on other people and I've been collecting for a while.
Am I glad that I did get my tattoos? Absolutely. I have a wide range of tattoos. Some great. Some terrible. They're all with purpose, though. They all have a story or a reason for me. Sometimes that reason is just because, and that's okay too, but most have a meaning.
Honestly, I haven't been tattooed in a long time simply because I haven't wanted to be. The last one was a few years back after my grandmother passed. The last card I had gotten from her was while I was sick and so I had her signature line from that card tattooed in her handwriting. I've got my breast cancer ribbon. I've got some memorial tattoos for people who've left impressions on my life in some way. It's a real mixed bag at this point.
The only thing that I'd tell someone younger about being 60% tattooed is - be ready to work in an industry that accepts that. I think a lot of people who work in the industries of beauty or creative work can be more heavily tattooed and stay employed. But you have to be aware that there are still industries and stigmas out there. Just go in with the eyes open.
When you go into getting a tattoo with full clarity - no matter the reason - then you won't regret it. Just like life.
--Stephanie Johnson, The Skyline Agency
I personally have 2 tattoos, and I'm very glad of both of them.
In my case, these tattos are 100% commemorative, the first, for my wedding and, the second, for the birth of my first child.
In my opinion, tattoos are to remember something you don't want to forget a single day of your life, and this cannot be negative at all.
--Sergio Ramirez, sergioramirez.org
I like that my tattoos give people a glimpse into the kind of person I am just from a first glance. If you take the time to have a conversation with me then look closely at the tattoos, they closely relate to one another. I think of my tattoos as a piece of art but also as armor to remind me of certain values I operate by and the kind of person I strive to be.
When it comes to people who oppose my tattoos, I don't pay much attention. I remind them that it's my body and I'll choose to adorn it how I'd like. I also remind them that you should never judge a person by how they appear. There is always more than meets the eye.
--Kristen Diaz, Vow + Vast
It's amazing to me how tattoos are still considered taboo and carry a certain connotation or stigma. I have nine tattoos and work in a very traditional office where tattoos still cause people to stare in an awkward way.
I consider tattoos a form of art for both the tattoo artist and the person who has the tattoo. Our bodies are blank canvases the ink is the paint. I think it's a beautiful medium of art that the world is slowly accepting.
Even for those who have initially appear judgemental of my tattoos, but the time I tell the stories behind each one. For me (just like for many), each of my tattoos represents a space in time that was notable and something I want to remember for the rest of my life. Some memories are good, some are heartwrenching, but they all remind me of where I have been and who I have become.
--Hope Alcocer, hopealcocer.com
I'm almost 30 and have 3 tattoos now that I've received over the last 12 years. So not a lot but all are visible if I have a tank top on. The first one my grandmother cried when she saw it and my father did not speak to me for 3 months. Not to mention severely judgmental looks or comments from other family members. So I very well know the immediate backlash one can get (I know for others it has been much worse).
Funny thing is I was just telling my mom, who also is not a fan of tattoos but is understanding, that I still love each of them. The first is an ode to music (maybe cliche) with scripture in ancient greek. I was a very depressed child and music connects me to life and God. My second is the word Life in Hebrew which I wanted due to severe blood issues I formally had, as I am a big believer in the power of our words. The last is Grace of God in Farsi, which again connects back to the power of words. I thought through each one for quite some time (my first I wanted since I was 14).
People do ask and I simply say I didn't get them for others, I got them to remind me myself of truth, speak over myself life. Our bodies are indeed temples and I believe tattoos are permanent (may not so much anymore!) works of art. They can provide an outward expression of who we are and who we want to be. They can help us heal and give us courage. Art that no one can steal.
--Courtney Vondran, Health Labs
Tattoos are something that will be on your body until you die, and most people who did them thank you trough this decision. One thing I love about my tattoo is the fact that I invested a lot of time into thinking about it, its meaning, and its design. Furthermore, I love how my tattoo was able to make me feel better about myself and enabled me to express myself in a way words, style of clothing, or haircut couldn’t. In the end, I love the fact I am able to carry a little memento whenever I go that won’t get broken or lost and will remind me of the most important things in my life.
--Dusan Goljic, DealsOnHealth
I have a tattoo on my right arm, it starts at my shoulder and goes to my elbow. This is my first and only tattoo so far. I wasn't always into tattoos. I probably started really noticing and liking tattoos in my teenage years. The artistic nature of it was what I really liked. I got my tattoo in my late 20s. I was still living with my parents at the time and they are very traditional Hispanic parents. It's because of this that I didn't tell them anything until the morning of the appointment. When I got home and showed my mom it was awful. She was extremely disappointed in me. She even said that she felt like she had failed as a parent. Those words really hurt at first. The way I responded was by telling my parents that it was still me and that nothing had changed. I showed her the tattoo again and explained the meaning of it. I told her to look at it as a work of art because that's exactly what it is for me. Tattoos are a type of art that lets us express ourselves and carry it with us at all times.
--Oscar Verduga, Trusted Realty Inspections
For us, tattoos started off as a little bit of rebellion. We grew up being told not to get them, so we go them. Once we had them, we figured, ‘might as well make them work for us!’ The more tattoos we got, the more we relegalized that we were not really that badass, but rather, just liked tattoos. Some tell a story, some just remind us some of something we’ve done (or wish we hadn’t done). Some are thoughtful, some are whimsical, but they all are there to stay.
--Jesse Inman, www.luckyrockwineco.com
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