I AM BEING INTERVIEWED about my tattoos today by the super-sweet and spunky Sarah Lambert from The Laughing Medusa. And all that tattoo talk made me start thinking…
WHEN YOU HAVE TATTOOS you become part of a subculture (an oft misunderstood subculture but we tackled that topic last year). You also become a bit of a novelty to non-tattooed folk, especially if your appearance is otherwise innocuous.
YOU BECOME an approachable oddity, which is fine. People are naturally curious so we, the tattooed, expect it to a certain degree. There are, however, a few things that come up over and over again between the tattooed and non-tattooed that we, the tattooed, wish the non-tattooed folk knew. So in the interest of both parties I give you:
5 Things You Should Know About Tattoos
1. Yes, It Hurt, So Please Stop Asking
IF I HAD A DOLLAR for every time someone asked me if my tattoos hurt I could solve the nation’s economic crisis. Did they hurt? Of course. There were needles being hammered into my skin. How badly? It depends on where the tattoo is located. Some parts of the body are more sensitive than others so obviously some tattoos will hurt more.
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being “it hurt more than being skinned alive and dipped in lemon juice” I’d say my average pain level was between 4 and 6. It’s uncomfortable with moments of pain but nothing that can’t be tolerated (for the most part).
2. Is That Real?
I’M ASKED THIS QUESTION about my leg piece more often than you’d believe. Specifically, and I find this truly puzzling, people ask if I painted it on myself. They don’t even think it’s a temporary tattoo…they think I wake up in the morning and doodle it on each day. The reason it blows my mind that people would think it’s fake is because it takes up my entire calf. The whole damn thing. I would have to be a special kind of crazy to get up every single day and draw the same detailed piece on my leg over and over and over again.
Temporary tattoos are pretty easy to spot. They are shiny and that shininess has a clearly defined border. They also tend to be small and detailed…too small and detailed to be accomplished on that scale in an actual tattoo.
3. I Want A Tattoo But…
YOU WANT A TATTOO BUT they’re so permanent. I hate to break it to you but every decision in life is permanent…you just can’t see all of them. You can’t go back in time and unread this post or go to bed earlier last night. You can’t undo anything that you’ve already done. The only difference is that a tattoo can be seen.
Don’t let permanence be a deterrent. If you want it then go for it…unless you’re thinking of getting the Tasmanian Devil, a company/band logo, a pot leaf or a tribal armband, in which case I encourage you to reconsider your decision for what I consider to be obvious reasons.
DO YOU EVER REGRET getting tattooed? Naturally I can’t speak for everyone, but those of us who have more tattoos than a little butterfly on our ankle or a tequila worm on our butt are generally pretty committed to the subculture. I don’t recall ever meeting anyone who is heavily tattooed that had any tattoo related regrets (excluding former neo-nazis who are covered in swastikas and the like). Sure they might have a piece or two that didn’t turn out quite right or they’re sick to death of and would like to get it covered up but generally speaking they’re content.
I’ve met far more people with one or two little tattoos (like the aforementioned tequila worm) who regret their decision than people who have committed to a back piece or sleeves.
Sure there are moments we hate a certain tattoo…but it’s no different than the moments you hate your hair or have one of those “nothing looks good on me” days. You either love it again a few days later or keep hating it and get it covered up. No big deal.
5. Hands Off.
LISTEN UP because I’m only going to say this once: You can look, but you can’t touch. Just because I have a tattoo doesn’t mean you get to be creepy, intrusive or inappropriate by putting your hands on me. I’m not talking about a tap on the shoulder. I’m talking about serious invasion of personal space. Case in point:
It was New Year’s Eve, 1999. With zero concern for Y2K my friends and I went to New Orleans to ring in the new year. We spent most of our evening uptown but headed down to the quarter in the wee hours of the morning after most of the revelers had gone home for the night. We walk into El Matador and I make a beeline for the bar. As I waited for a shot of Bushmills it happened. I felt a hand that wasn’t mine slide down the back of my leather pants and tug the waistband down as another hand lifted the back of my shirt up. I instantly spun around with a “What the hell do you think you’re doing” and was greeted by the face of a startled man who was completely bewildered as to why I’m upset…why sticking his hands down the back of a stranger’s pants was inappropriate. He cocked his head to the side and said “I wanted to see your tattoo.”
Oh. Well then, okay. By all means go right ahead. I’m sorry my clothing and personal space got in the way of your curiosity, Mr. Inappropriate. My bad.
Sadly, this is not uncommon. It should be but it isn’t. I mean common sense would dictate that you don’t walk around groping strangers but it happens a lot. If you want to see a tattoo then ask first and if we want to show you we will. Nothing unreasonable there, right? No one blames you for being curious…all we want is a little respect for our personal space.
So there you have it. I’m sure I left some things off the list so I’m looking at you, my fellow tattooed people, to leave a note in the comments if I forgot anything…and you, my non-tattooed readers to leave any questions you’ve ever had about the art of tattooing as well. This way we can all be on the same page.
Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick