Everybody knows the saying “the body is a temple,” but a few years ago, I started wondering why mine couldn’t be eye-catching like the Lotus Temple in Delhi, or bright and colorful like the Kremlin in Moscow? After all, the saying doesn’t go “Your body is a one-bedroom apartment and your landlord doesn’t let you paint or hang things on the walls.” It was that kind of thinking that led me to get my first tattoo, and then another and another and another one!
Aside from my ink, I’m a pretty average girl—with my brown hair and pretty simple taste in clothes, it’s always been easy for me to blend in. And since I tend to be more quiet at first when someone meets me, I think a lot of people have seen me that way—as just an unassuming, maybe even bookish girl. It wasn’t until I got my first tattoo in the summer of 2005, a smattering of cherry blossoms on my upper right arm, that I felt myself lifted from the sea “average” and into my own realm of individuality.
I loved the way the flowers looked, but I purposefully got my tattoo in a place that I could hide so that employers and coworkers wouldn’t have to know my secret. I covered up at first, but then after a few positive experiences with people thinking my ink was really cool, I grew more confident and started choosing blouses and tees that showed off and complimented the pink petals on my arm.
I was also afraid that my mom would disapprove, or think it was a waste of money (they’re expensive!), but she was really supportive when she realized how happy the tattoo made me. Now, if I was getting a tattoo on my face, that might be another issue, but for now? She’s cool with my self-decoration.
Of course there are some unwanted stares, and some weirdos who will come up and think they can touch your tattoos just to see if they’re real. But in general, when people see my tattoos, I think they end up respecting me more. It sounds strange, but I think being able to sit under a needle for hours at a time impresses people who have never done it. They also see me as a bit less conservative than they’d originally pegged me for. People don’t like to be wrong in their assumptions, so it’s always fun to challenge their expectations.
But my love of tattoos isn’t just about me getting attention. Sure, I enjoy watching the look on a new co-worker’s face when I slip off my cardigan for the first time to reveal a collection of brightly colored tattoos—but for me, my tattoos are more meaningful. Every one I have tells a story about something important in my life. Like paintings in a museum, the tattoos on my skin are both public statements of self expression and super personal symbols that help me reflect on the things I care about. I’ve got twelve as of now, and although they’re expensive and some people find them controversial, I have no intention of quitting the ink anytime soon.
Do you have any tattoos or have you thought about getting one? Does knowing somebody has a tattoo make you think differently about them? Tell us everything in comments!