Tattoos are expensive, they are painful and they are permanent. Many people find them unattractive, or even repulsive, others see the beauty in them. If you get a tattoo, you will be judged by others because of that tattoo. You may be labelled a criminal, a thug, uneducated and immature and you most certainly have some underlying psychological issues that you are trying to compensate for. People think that tattoos are just a cry for attention, a rebellion against society, or a way to hide who we truly are. Some will say you get tattoos in order to be different, yet others will claim you are just trying to fit in with all of the other tattooed people.
In all honesty, all of those opinions are true, but at the same time couldn’t be more wrong. The truth is that some people do get their tattoos to rebel or be different and some tattooed people are in fact uneducated thugs and criminals. But that fact should not lead to the conclusion that this is the case for all people with tattoos. Unfortunately, some people can and will jump to those very conclusions.
I was recently involved in a rather lengthy debate, in the comments section of an article posted on NPR. Keep in mind the article was posted in the health section and was talking specifically about the dangers of tattoo ink. Ignorant comments about tattoos and tattooed people are completely irrelevant to the subject at hand, yet as I predicted, those are exactly the type of comments that began to flood the page. The following are just a few of those comments, highlighting some people who obviously know very little about tattoo culture. This is their twisted view on why people get tattoos.
No offense. When I see a tattoo I think “There’s somebody tryin’ really hard to be special. Just like everybody else.”
No offense, but I hardly call this “thinking” at all. You are assuming rather than doing any real thinking.
People color their skin exactly because they didn’t like the judgments they were getting before the tattoo. They hope to change judgments somehow, to camouflage and obscure the true self. Many would say express the true self. I say they’re posers; I say walk the walk of you. I say be yourself and if you don’t like the judgments you get, change yourself or change your company. Don’t just change your skin and think yourself “improved”. You are what you do. Not what tattoo you pick out of a book one drunken evening. Tattoos only fool shallow people who can’t see beyond the surface of things.
As if it wasn’t enough to lump all tattooed people into a group of second class citizens, now they are trying to take away the meaning behind our ink. These shallow and self-contradicting comments are almost too painful to read sometimes. How can you state “You are what you do”, but in the same breath make nonsensical assumptions about why I got my tattoo in the first place. The idea that most tattoos are obtained on a drunken whim is just so utterly ridiculous I can’t stand it. To claim to know the exact reason why people get tattooed, when you have not gone through the experience yourself is just as ridiculous.
To top it off, he concludes his judgmental rambling by stating tattoos only fool shallow people who can’t see beyond the surface. I can turn that statement around and point it right back at him because in this case he is the shallow fool that cannot see beyond the ink on the surface or even attempt to understand the meaning behind it. He presumes to know all the answers based on the surface, yet refuses to believe there is anything underneath when told otherwise.
“Yeah, right. People get tattoos for their own personal viewing pleasure, not for other people to see … lol.”
Even when explanations are offered and stories are told, we are essentially being written off as liars by these people. Instead of accepting that some of us get tattoos for personal reasons, this guy mocks the idea and laughs in our faces.
I saved the worst for last.
Well, when I see a chick with a tattoo I think…”Slut!”
Then if she’s not too fat I generally move a little closer to get a better look.
Which is, of course, exactly why she inked herself.
As a man I am offended and embarrassed to be the same gender as the guy who wrote this. As a woman, I would be outraged. He obviously is crying for attention himself and his lame attempt at getting that attention was completely ignored in subsequent comments. I will follow suit and say no more about this statement, let it speak for itself and allow my readers to draw their own conclusions.
With all that being said, what are some of the real reasons people decide to go out and get tattoos.
Honoring a lost loved one
If someone wants to commemorate a lost friend, relative or even a pet with a tattoo, why try to take that away from them? Is it so far fetched to think of a tattoo as an acceptable form of tribute to someone we lost when we bury our soulless dead in the ground and go to visit their grave-sites? If we truly believe that the soul leaves the body in death, what exactly are we visiting? Is the idea of keeping ashes in an urn on your mantle really more acceptable than getting a tribute tattoo? Why not carry around the memorial on your skin where others have a chance to see it and possibly ask questions, giving you the opportunity to talk about and remember the person on a regular basis?
Symbolizing a life-changing event
Some tattoos are a representation of a period of time or specific event which was a turning point for that person. They can serve as a reminder of what we have been through to get where we are today. There are an infinite number of events that occur in our lives that help shape us to be who we are. Relationships beginning or ending, overcoming a terrible disease or beating cancer, or in some cases covering the resulting scars.
For the love of art
Some people don’t get tattooed for deep personal or spiritual reasons, they simply like the art and design aspect of it. In some cases an artist may want to showcase a piece of their own art on their body, others may walk into a shop and see a design that they just need to have.
To show your dedication to a significant other
What better way to show your devotion to your significant other, than permanently inking their name into your skin? Ok, maybe it’s not such a great idea after all. But I think I just thought of an idea for a new type of dating site that allows you to search for people with the same name you already have tattooed on your body.
Some people wear crosses around their necks, others get them tattooed on their bodies. For people who feel strongly about their religion, a tattoo is just another way of showing others their faith. For others, the tattoo is a right of passage or a representation of status in the community.
There are far too many reasons behind tattoos to try to list them all in a single blog post and that was not my intention. I am also not going to sit here and try to convince you that every single tattoo out there has a story to tell, or a deep meaning behind it because that would be an outright lie. I will even admit that many people get tattoos for the reasons I criticized early in this post. There are plenty of people who get tattoos for pure aesthetic purposes, some people who get them based on a dare, peer pressure, alcohol, etc…
The point I am trying to make is that you never know the reason behind a tattoo unless you ask. The possibilities are endless and to claim to know otherwise based on a fleeting glance is just ignorant.
New followup article posted: More Thoughs On Why People Get Tattoos