Ending the Tattoo Stigma

I’ve grown up in a generation where having a tattoo or tattoos is not a big deal, but they were also hardly talked about. It was never something brought up in a class or something I would talk about among friends. However, I knew they existed and were out there. It wasn’t until my parents decided to get tattoos that I even considered getting one, and even then, it took years for me to decide and perfect my personal body art piece. 

Most people were supportive; wanting to know what I was getting and asking me about it. Though, it wasn’t until people at work saw it that it truly became an issue, given it was a minor issue, but an issue none the less. For a bit of reference, I work as a server at a retirement home and most of the residents are old school. I was told that per my job guidelines I shouldn’t have a visible tattoo (it was covered 99% of the time). I was told that I’d never find love and never get married because nobody would want to marry me if I had tattoos. I’ve seen residents I’ve worked with for three plus years act like they were dying because I inked up my skin. On the flip side, I’ve had so many people in and out of work compliment my tattoos, and even ask for meanings of them. This is the proper way to react when encountering someone that has tattoos. 

I’m pretty grateful that I’ve not encountered the “Karen” stereotype yet, the “you’ll regret those later, ya know” comments. The biggest misconception I’ve encountered so far is the fact that people think I’m going to outgrow my tattoos, that one day I’m going to look down and realize how stupid I was for getting a compass on my arm or a kokopelli and a Zia on my leg, but at this moment in time, I can only assure them that that won’t happen because I’m still as in love with my tattoos, three years later, as I was when I first got them. They are a part of me, and I can’t ever take that part away. 

I don’t know about anybody else, but I find it slightly insulting when people and workplaces assume that because I have ink on my body that I am not capable of working in an establishment. I know for a fact Dion’s, and yes, I’m putting them on full blast, does not allow people with tattoos that would be visible in their work uniform to work for them, even if it can be covered by jewelry or makeup. They feel that people with visible tattoos don’t display integrity with their dress code. I realize that establishments can regulate how they like, but I can make pizza just as well as the next person, even with a tattoo. 

The biggest problem I have now that I’m a part of the tattoo world is the underlying “what if?” What if they judge me based purely on my tattoos? What if they think I’m not capable of performing the job because of my tattoos? What if? And the thing is, I shouldn’t have these fears. I shouldn’t have to walk into a job interview fearing that the art on my body is going to be the determining factor in my ability to get a job. But the reality of the situation is that it probably will happen. Most places are becoming more lenient on the topic of body art and piercings, but it’s so stigmatized that the places that overlook it completely are few and far in between. 

Tattoos are becoming a more relevant subject in our world, spanning millions upon millions of people and cultures, but are still scrutinized every day. My only hope is that one day people can overlook what I’ve put on my body and realize that my ability to do the work or be a regular human begin relies solely in my ABILITY and ME, not what I put on my skin.