Last week, I read this article Why Do We Get Tattoos that questioned why some people get tattoos.
The timing of it was interesting to me, as I had an appointment that weekend to get my fifth tattoo, which would be my largest and most detailed piece yet. For a minute I found myself second-guessing why I ever decided to start this process of permanently marking my body, but that feeling was quickly replaced with sadness and discouragement that these are the first conclusions that are sometimes drawn about those with tattoos.
Now, I’m not saying I’m offended in the slightest, even though this post might seem like I’m defending myself against a personal attack. I understand that there are several different lifestyles that I don’t participate in that I’ll probably never understand, so I try to remember that when I read something of an opposing opinion — or in this case, something of a more inquisitive nature. The reason I felt this way is because I imagined someone seeing the tattoo on my back and immediately dismissing it as something I got because I was insecure about myself or that particular part of my body, or because my boyfriend thought I needed one.
I deal with insecurities just like everyone else, but getting tattoos isn’t the way I’ve chosen to deal with them directly. I also like to think that the adage along the lines of “Don’t change yourself for anyone” has finally been embedded into my brain after almost 24 years. I’ve never done extensive research on the subject or taken any kind of sociology class to examine why some people choose to permanently alter their appearance, so I will just have to share my personal experiences.
My story starts out similarly with a guy I was dating at the beginning of college who was into tattoos. He was more obsessed with getting them for himself than he was admiring them on other women, but it still influenced me nonetheless. I had always toyed with the idea of getting one someday, but didn’t know what I would get, or where I would get it, or how my parents would react — all common concerns when making this kind of decision. And I didn’t have any close friends who had gotten them or had any immediate plans to. So eventually, after sitting in on one of his sessions, I decided I finally knew what I wanted and where I wanted it. I made my appointment, and my best friend and I, who had also been considering one for a while, bit the bullet and braved the pain…and we haven’t stopped since.
We were warned that once we started, we wouldn’t be able to stop, and it was no joke. They’re almost like Pringles. To some, this could be interpreted as me changing myself for my boyfriend, but I don’t see it that way. That particular guy was also previously known to have a penchant for tan, blonde girls, and I am super pale and ginger-y. There was no pressure from him to get one, no comments implying that it would make me any more attractive. He was supportive of my decision, and while I was inspired by his tattoos, he wasn’t the direct cause for me getting one.
Since we broke up, I’ve continued to get tattoos without consulting whomever I’m dating at the time. Why? Because I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for me. There are several different reasons for getting tattoos, depending on who you ask. Some get designs simply because they’re aesthetically pleasing. Some get them to commemorate certain events that have happened in their lives. My reasoning is a mixture of both; each tattoo I have symbolizes an interest that I have that helped shape me as a person. They represent different periods throughout my life where I depended on something, whether it was a story or a song, that gave me comfort and strength. One even represents the bond that I’ve shared with my best friend of almost 8 years; so even when we’re annoyed with each other, I remember that we can never really break up because I have a tiny cat BFF tattoo on my ribs that I will always associate with her. I know that these things can all be cherished without permanently inking them into your skin, but my appreciation for visual art plays into this as well. As an artist, I love knowing that certain areas of my body are literally pieces of art. I even hope to create one of these pieces for myself one day.
This has also never been about me covering up parts of my body that I’m self-conscious about. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I place them on parts of my body that I’m rather fond of, so that I don’t feel uncomfortable when I wear clothing that reveals them. Personal preference has caused me to get tattoos in places that can be easily hidden by normal work attire, but I have a feeling that as time goes on I’ll start pushing those boundaries. I mean, why not? Life is too short to not do what you want out of fear that you might regret it later.
A common question I get asked is, “What about when you’re old?”. I’m not afraid of what my skin is going to look like when I’m old. It’s probably going to be wrinkly and gross anyway. Why would I feel like having a beautiful design on top of that would make me feel any worse? I’m also not concerned about no longer liking my choices as I grow. The two bands that I love that I chose to inscribe on myself might not be my favorite bands forever, but they played a very important part in my life and helped me get where I am today. They helped spark my passion for music, which helped lead me down the path to getting my dream job in the music industry, so why would I ever look at those tattoos and think anything but wonderful thoughts?
While this doesn’t cover every question or concern about the mindset of being tattooed, I do hope that it offers some insight on the subject and opens up new ways of thinking about it that focus more on the positive aspect rather than the negative. I think we could all use a little more of that in our lives.
Meredith is a full-time concert marketing coordinator and amateur writer/artist living in Nashville. She wishes she could say that she loves coffee, clothes and cats without sounding like a human cliché, but she’s not sure that’s possible. It holds true nonetheless. Find her on Twitter, on Instagram and read more of her rantings over on her blog.
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