Having tattoos comes with admiration, curiosity, side glances, dead stares, off kilter comments and abrupt questions. Not necessarily all of these and not necessarily in that order but these things certainly do come with the territory. Being a woman with tattoos was not my introduction to this kind of attention. I grew up having a disability so the stares have always been there but after I started getting tattooed the attention was somewhat diverted from the way I walk, depending on on how much skin I was showing. I’ve dealt with ignorant onlookers since my childhood, all that’s changed is the subject matter that people inquire about.
I usually don’t mind when people ask about my tattoos, they represent the most important things in the world to me. If it’s a damn good story, of course it’s worth telling. Just like I usually don’t mind when people ask to pet my Service Dog, especially when they’re polite about it, I appreciate the polite approach because not everyone has manners. That being said, there is a time and place for everything, just as it says in Ecclesiastes. I don’t mind when others ask about my ink or my dog or on occasion my disability. My advice when dealing with a personal subject matter is be careful how you ask. It’s not what you ask, it’s how you ask it. Be as polite as possible and if you don’t know how, at least try, decent people recognize decent effort and respect is key. Although, even with a considerate, sheepish approach and expert manners I’m not always a willing participant in the game of twenty questions. I enjoy people and I’m social about 60% of the time but I’m also a writer, which means I spend heaps of time in my head. Plus my personality is more like a cat’s than a dog’s. Which isn’t always for the best since I walk around with the cutest LGX there ever was and just about everyone freaks out over dogs every single time they see one. Seriously, with reactions I get you would think I walk around with a panther on a leash. As an active member in society with a Service Dog I would just like to say, please calm down people. Sometimes it’s best to just go home and pet your own dog. I’m usually busy when out and about so there’s not many moments when petting my dog is possible. We have places to be and he has a job to do. Same goes for me and my tattoos, there’s not always time to talk and if I don’t know who I’m talking to I won’t want to tell the whole truth. Tattoos are tales to tell but they’re my stories to share and I decide who to tell them to.
When someone notices a person’s tattoos and blurts out, “why would you do something so permanent?” It’s a conscious effort for me to bite my tongue. What do people want to hear when they ask something like this? To me it feels like a passive aggressive method of patronization. Just because they don’t have tattoos, does that mean they think those who have them should regret it? Whatever the reason for asking, it’s a rude way to start a conversation. Think about it, stranger to stranger, that approach isn’t going to win any friends. This wasn’t a question that was asked to me which is good because I don’t do well with thoughtless curiosity. I have a sharp tongue and I’m not one to shy away from confrontation, especially if it’s over something I care about. This question about tattoos and their permanence was asked to a friend of mine who is much nicer than I am. The question must’ve been prompted by her tattoos representing her faith in Christ, read that story here, because it was followed up with a gesture to a cross dangling from a chain and the statement “I can take this off whenever I want.” Implying that her tattoos and his jewelry meant the same thing. They may represent the same Jesus but the meaning for nearly everything varies from person to person. Making a crass assumption like that is not the brightest idea. You know what they say about people who assume.
Why bother with something as permanent as a tattoo? It wasn’t my question but I’ll answer it. I’ll answer this question from the ignoramus who dared to ask this so bluntly. If someone questioned my permanent staples of faith or any of the other things I chose to tattoo my body and then compared them to their accessories, implying that temporary things are a wiser investment, I would answer their question with a question. I would ask them, If what they believe is so important that they wear something every day as a reminder, how is that different than a tattoo? Doesn’t the fact that they can remove it anytime they want actually make it less meaningful? The permanence of tattoos is what draws me to the artform. They are permanent reminders of what matters most to me. If you wear a necklace and I wear a tattoo, which one seems more committed? Does something really matter to you if you’re not willing to make it permanent? I would say that a necklace or a T-shirt or a bumper sticker is relatively weak in comparison. Not that these things are bad, I just think if you mean it, you should mean it entirely. Irrevocably and unabashedly. That’s what tattoos are to me, bold statements that require bravery. So, mister why bother with tattoos guy, why aren’t you gutsy enough to have any? Maybe us people with the tattoos aren’t dumb, maybe you’re just not all that brave. Do you really believe what you believe? Or do you want to keep it in a temporary form such as a necklace so you can undo the clasp and let the chain and the charm fall to the floor on the days when you’re just not feeling it anymore? Ever think the fact that tattoos will last as long as life does is why people want them? It’s why I do it least. Rien n’est éternel, nothing last forever. In my short little life I’ve lost everything I have loved in one way or another and it’s rare that those things come back, especially when they’re people. Life is fleeting and things get lost. Not my tattoos though. Even if Cash’s is cover is correct and “everyone I know goes away in the end” as long as I am in my body I will still have my tattoos. To me, that is the most comforting thing.
Why would I get tattooed when it’s permanent? I do it because I believe in it, because it matters to me and if what I believe matters so damn much to me that I live for it so unashamedly, I might as well wear in permanently until the death of me. Think about the pieces of history people make valiant efforts to preserve: birth records, memorials, plaques, headstones, wedding rings, vows and promises. The things people don’t want to lose are the things that matter more than anything else. Permanence is a plus because commitment doesn’t scare me. Permanence is something I invest in proudly. It is an investment because tattoos are not cheap, not the good ones anyway. They are permanent illustrations of me, that will be here as long as I am so of course they matter. If they don’t matter to you, that doesn’t matter to me because I’m the one who gets to walk away wearing them. So next time instead of glancing and guessing, stop and think.