I remember when I was growing up the whole phenomenon of tattoos was taboo. It seemed like the only people who got tats were hard-core motorcycle riders or professional athletes. Tattoos on women were quite hush-hush, especially the dreaded “tramp stamp.” But as I have gotten older, I have watched the attitude about tattoos change in our generation, even if it hasn’t quite reached our parents yet.
Since I was in high school, I have always wanted an anchor tattoo in honor of my grandfather. My grandpa had several tattoos and when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, one of my favorite conversations I would coax him into was about his tats – a panther on his right arm, my grandma’s name, Val, on his left arm, a naval star on his right hand, and, my favorite, an anchor on his left hand. After he passed away, the tattoo took on even more meaning and I would often draw it on my own wrist, with the intent of one day making the ink more permanent.
I told my mom and my grandmother of my plans to one day get this tattoo and was received with mixed responses. My mom was wary about the placement of the tattoo, worried that I would never get a job with visible ink on the inside of my wrist, and my grandma was adamant about me not getting the tat, even if it was in honor of her husband. “No tattoos!” she would often laughingly yell to me from across the dinner table. Even though my grandpa had her name on his body, she never liked the tattoos.
It wasn’t until last summer on a random Tuesday afternoon on my way to the gym that I decided to stop in to a tattoo parlor by myself and finally bite the bullet. I had told my mom multiple times that one day I would just come home with it and she always jokingly laughed it off, never taking me seriously. Let’s just say she wasn’t super pleased with me when I came home that night with my wrist wrapped up in gauze, but when the initial shock wore away, I was the one pleasantly surprised by her reaction. Even gram said she liked it, but insisted on no more.
I know that peoples’ initial reactions are that tattoos and the workplace do not mix, and in some circumstances, I agree. However, I also believe that tattoos can mean so much more than just simply ink on flesh. Most people have a personal story before their tattoos, one that may be too personal to share. I also have noticed that while the stigma is still there, the attitude about tats in the office is starting to change. In my own experience, I have worked in places where virtually everyone has had some ink, both on visible and hidden parts of the body, as well as places where several employees had facial piercings. As our generation starts to infiltrate the workforce, acceptance of these forms of body art are becoming more and more accepted.
I know that tattoos are not for everyone, but they are increasingly becoming common with a lot of young adults. The anchor was my first, but it wasn’t my last – I’m testament to the fact that they are very addicting – and I still haven’t ruled out getting more in the future. For now, I’m taking a hiatus from the tattoo parlor chair but in the meantime, you can still catch me with my anchor on my wrist.