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Insight on having tattoos

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  • Insight on having tattoos

    i found this interesting, know this feeling well. no cliff notes.


    When I started covering myself in tattoos, I never gave a second thought to how the world would receive or perceive me. Actually, it never even occurred to me that other people would see them. If I had known what lay ahead for me- the erasure of my personal space, the loss of rights to my own body, the contradictory stereotypes I am a gang member and drug addict, a thief and a thug to be feared and despised... while simultaneously being an over-privileged art student showing the world how creative I am through body art I will regret in less than a year, but which, while distasteful still to most, is an invitation for conversation- I'm not sure I would have set foot in a tattoo shop.

    It's my day off. It's noon, or maybe later, maybe 2, maybe even 3. I roll out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. I'm out of coffee. This is the worst thing that can possibly happen to me right now. I've slept too much and I'm confused, unable to handle any deviance from my normal morning routine. This stick in my spokes has the potential to ruin my entire day. I focus myself entirely on regaining normalcy, on maintaining sanity... on finding a cup of the balancing black brew.

    I cover the fluffy tumbleweed atop my head with a red baseball hat pulled down far enough to cast a shadow over my sleep encrusted eyes, slip on my shoes and unbeknownst me, put my shirt on backwards. I'm too groggy to care anyway. The folds of my sheet are still imprinted on my cheek. My shirt has been worn too many times, I smell awful. Luckily this is Philadelphia and no one takes notice of me weaving down the sidewalk, they probably think I'm on the cutting-edge of some new fashion movement.

    At this point in my morning quality is not a priority so I sleepwalk into the grocery store and get myself to the cafe line. I hold my money out for the cashier so this can all happen smoothly. The cup, the brew, the exchange of funds. The dull thud in my head is quickly turning to a gong crash and I am so tired that I can hardly form sentences. I mumble, "large coffee, no room." I haven't spoken yet so my voice is gritty and low. The cashier takes my two dollars and holds them back threateningly, almost as if she's just stolen my ball and is about to play monkey in the middle with me as the monkey. There is no movement toward the air pot nor grabbing of a cup, not even a putting of my money into register and giving my .17 cents change. There's just my hostage dollars dangling out of reach and the cashier staring at me, eyes wide and curious. I know what's coming next. I will not get anything, my change or my coffee, before I am interrogated. Before I give all the information as demanded. Before I detail the what's and why's in a satisfactory manner.

    I try to be nice but at this point it's hard. I just want my coffee, I just want to go home and lay around with my cats. Maybe wash my face, make some toast. But my needs, my desires, are no longer important.

    I rattle off the answers to her questions, some in the wrong order because I've been through this so, so many times before. 'Yes they hurt- they're tattoos, I don't remember how long they took, I didn't count the hours, I don't remember how much they cost, no, I'm not kidding, I got them years ago and forgot, no I did not get them all at once because it's over 24 hours of work and no one could stay awake and working that long, no it's not an eagle it's a seagull, yes I know that they're permanent, and when I'm old I'll tell you exactly what will happen, I will be old and covered in tattoos." 5 minutes, 10 minutes pass, my voice is reaching a normal pitch, the sheetmarks in my face have disappeared and I'm standing with my hand open, waiting to accept the cup of coffee which bypasses me entirely and is begrudgingly plopped down on the counter a foot away. "Here's your coffee." I wasn't as pleasant and informative as my interviewer would have liked, and I am being punished.

    I open the cup outside. She forgot that I asked for black, probably distracted by all that talking, and left me so much room I should have just ordered a medium.

    Let's go back in time. It's my first at the gelato shop that only hires young, attractive people. I'm flattered that I fit the bill. I'm being introduced to all the employees. Amanda comes in late, throws her things down, starts to say hello to the girl who's training me when she catches sight of my arm. She stops dead, mouth momentarily frozen forming the sound "He..." before she rushes over to me, grabs my wrist and pulls me forward, twisting my arm around in ways that it doesn't twist, pulling my shirt up in ways that I know will stretch it out. I jerk myself out of her grip.

    "You should ask before you touch people."

    She is offended at the accusation, and protests, "I did!", which, as I tell her, she certainly did not.

    She eyes me suspiciously. I doubt anyone had ever spoken to her like that before, bubbly, blond, 18 year old Amanda.

    Then she makes like she's trying to respect to my boundaries even though she doesn't. I pick up the sarcasm in her voice. She's annoyed that I don't want to be pawed by a cheerleader.

    "Welllllll, is it ok if I look at your arm?"

    Before I can answer, she reaches out to grab me again, to assault me, to tear at my clothes and put me in pain compliance holds, assuming that asking was just a formality.

    I step back defensively.

    "No, it's not ok."

    Maybe this wasn't in my best interest to say on my first day, maybe it wasn't the best first impression I could leave.

    Amanda and I got along well after the akwardness of our meeting wore off, but I didn't stay at the job long. People complained about the "tattooed girl" who was rude to them.

    The business man who came in drunk and demanded to know the meaning of my chest, who wouldn't accept "It's personal" or "It's a long story and I don't have time to tell it right now." Who got so angry with me that he screamed in the middle of the busy up-scale cafe, "YOU HAVE TO TELL ME! WHY ARE YOU WEARING IT IF YOU WON'T TELL ME??!" I tried to explain that it didn't come off, that I was wearing my tattoos as much as I was wearing my arms, that it was my body and I didn't need to show any parts I didn't want to him or anyone else, that I didn't need to explain a damn thing.

    "So, did you want a cup or a cone sir?"


    He lunged at me, trying to grab me, throwing his body clumsily into the glass gelato case. The women with him pulled him away, dragged him away, scolding him, telling him, "Never tell a women to show you her body!"


    Or the rich woman in pearls who asked me if my Mother knew I had tattoos. That's always seemed like a strange question to me. I just don't see the relevance. I returned her question with a "yes" that lifts up a the end, a yes that plays dumb yet clearly states "I know exactly what you're trying to do.", giving her a chance to get out of it, see the err of her ways, to save face.

    She raised an eye brow and looked me up and down to punctuate her already too-obvious opinion that I was the scum of the earth. Being a lady, she wouldn't say such things because that would just be just rude. Instead she opted for the much more polite,

    "...and she still loves you?"

    I think then that her parents probably aren't very loving, aren't very understanding or forgiving. I feel bad for her. Did she want to be an upper class bore, or did she have a different dream for herself? Was she lashing at my self expression because her own had been suppressed, perhaps by her mother? I don't say this though, instead opting for the much more poignant,

    "Yeah. My Mother isn't superficial." I raise and eyebrow and look her up and down.

    These people, and all the others like them, complained.

    Why, why, why did I get tattoos. I bet you want to know. I bet you've been wanting to ask me but you know how little I like to talk about them. You've heard me tell to people on the streets, "It's not polite to stare." You've seen me screaming at dumb dudes on South Street to "BACK THE FUCK UP!", fist cocked back, eyes wild. You've heard me outside a bar tell some guy that he might want to know what my tattoos are but I want to be mermaid but ain't neither of us ever gonna get what we want. You've seen me in long sleeves in the summer. You've seen me tell people I'm deaf in one ear so that I can pretend not to hear their questions and make them too uncomfortable to repeat them. You ask me what the big deal is, why I don't just give them what they want.

    I'll tell you why. Let's go back to my day off.

    I'm walking back from the grocery store, back to my room, to a shower, to breakfast, to my cats. I make it out the door and I'm stopped.

    "Did that hurt." A man states rather than asks, looking me directly in the eye.

    Does he think I am constantly conscious of my tattoos? That the pain is unbearable, or was once so intense I think of nothing else? That by making eye contact and saying "did it hurt" I know that he means the tattoos and not something deeper? Maybe, does sight hurt? Does seeing a world full of poverty and genocide hurt? Does life hurt?

    "Did what hurt?"

    "That." He nods in my direction. My body? Birth? Walking? Holding this cup? Come on, be specific.

    "What? This coffee?" I laugh, like it's an absurd question. I play games with these people, it keeps me sane.

    He's not phased. Deadpan, staring me in the everything, taking me all in and asking me in my entirety, "The tattoos. Did they hurt?"

    Game's over, I lost. Can't laugh this one off. Eyes glazed over from the constant annoyance that consumes almost all of my social interaction, I give him his god damn answer.

    "Yes." and I walk past him briskly, bringing the coffee to my lips so that I am not expected to do anymore talking.

    I make it a few more steps and a car slows down. A group of young men hang out the window and sing the song "Tat tat tatted up" at me. Today it makes me laugh, because it's ridiculous. Because I can't believe this is my life.

    I make it another block before coming upon a group of 4 people talking. They see me approaching and silence falls as they all stare, mouths hanging open. I'm almost beside them when one says, "Wow look at her tattoos." Another says, "They're so nice!", but not to me. Yet another says, "I don't know why people do that to themselves." I turn and snarl, "You know, I'm right here... I can hear you." They blush and turn back to each other and wait till I'm out of earshot to start talking again.

    Half a block, and a construction worker on the 3rd story of an abandoned house stops throwing shingles to yell, "I like your tattoos!", and I wonder if he has any idea what they even are. I consider shouting up to him and asking what part he likes the most, but I save us both the embarrassment.

    I'm on my block. I can almost smell the toast. A girl stops me to ask if I know where the good tattoos shops are in the area. Yes, because I get tattooed constantly and have tried out every single shop in the downtown Philadelphia area. I tell her I don't know. She asks where I get mine done, not fully believing that it wasn't locally, as if I'm refusing to give her a recommendation. I tell her that I got mine done somewhere else, but that's not enough for her. She asks where.


    "Main St? Where's that?"

    "MAINE. As in the state of Maine. It's by Canada."

    "Oh." She scrunches up her face. I would tell her, if I cared, that a good tattoo artist is worth traveling for. That tattoos last forever and you see them every single day for the rest of your life. That quality is everything. That you don't want to go to scuzzy shop and contract hepatitis. But most people who want or have tattoos and I don't really have anything in common. I say goodbye and make it to my door, finally.

    My coffee is gone, it's evening now. I'm meeting a friend for dinner. Over samosas she says something that almost changes my life.

    "You know what's so funny about you Davin? You're this itty bitty girl with these super-feminine features, and you're covered in all these really serious black and grey tattoos, then you're wearing a frilly lacy shirt, but with work boots, and you look like you'd be sweet and soft spoken, but you're all piss and vinegar."

    She has a tendency to say whatever she's thinking without realizing how it may effect the person she's saying it to, but my skin is pretty thick so I like her. After she says that, I realize that maybe the reason people are so drawn to me is because of the my contradictions. Because I am the mixing of so many opposites at once. I can understand the intrigue. Would I not ask a female boxer about boxing? And if I met Annie Sprinkle, famous feminist sex worker, would I not ask her about feminism and sex work? So really, how can I blame people for wanting to know why a girl like me is tattooed as heavily a 60 year old biker?

    As I walk home I'm mulling that over, trying to understand that the population that seems to exist only to pester, assault, and annoy me, is just curious. I think I knew that once, but over the years had forgotten. Maybe I could make peace with these people, maybe I could bend just a little, because their curiosity is only natural. As I think that, someone yells to me from across the street,

    "Yo girl! Let me see your chest!"

    Huh? I keep walking.

    "Yo! Come on! I just want to see!"

    He crosses the street.

    I keep walking.

    "Yo girl don't walk away from me! I just want to see you."

    He's jogging after me. I walk faster. He walks faster. "Girl, Yo girl.. I'm tryin to see you!!"

    I could try to understand his curiosity. I could just go along with him. But beyond just breaking down all barriers of personal space and common decency that are generally established between people, tattoos have gained a reputation for being sexual. I hear, "Do those go all the way down?" a lot. I'm not entirely sure what it means. I hear "I bet you have ink in places where the sun don't shine." even more. So yes, I could try to understand this man chasing me on the dark street, demanding to see my chest, but I am full of piss and vinegar. And good sense. I turn back to him and shout,


    He calls me a slut. I flick him off. He walks in the opposite direction.

    My night is over. I'm home with my boyfriend. He also has tattoos. People frequently think that's why we hooked up, but in reality I didn't even know he HAD tattoos when we met, I just thought he had great eyes. We're not into S & M or "that freaky shit like whips 'n chains" like people assume, out loud, to me. We lay in bed with our cats and joke about if I could pregnant with kittens what they would come out looking like. They would be hairless, their skin covered in patches of bright Captain Planet faces (like the one on his leg) and bits of grey clouds (like my arm). This is the extent of our tattoo talk, tonight, or ever. Real sexy, huh?

    My choice to get tattoos had nothing to do with a woman with a pearl necklace and an overbearing Mother, they were not intended to offend the elderly who tell me I'll never get married looking the way I do, they had nothing to do with attracting members of the opposite sex, and were not meant to make me look "tough". Want to know something funny? I don't even like tattoos. I don't read tattoo magazines, I don't like tattoo culture, I could care less about other's people's "ink". So why is there so much ink embedded in my skin? I may lose everything I ever own, everyone I ever know, but I will always have these images to remind me of the past and set the direction of my future. These markers of time and place and mind that I cannot escape even if I want to, which I don't, because I like who and where I am and if that ever changes then I deserve whatever pain or humiliation comes my way. Perhaps I am not explaining this well, and I'm not sure if I can. These are not just random pictures picked off a wall. These are pieces of me, guides, maps, promises, and confessions. An oath of permanence. A rite of passage in a society that offers none. An association with a culture in a society that has forgotten what that means.

    When the alarm goes off the next morning I pack my bag for work- a snack, a book, and a sock with no foot that I wear as an arm cover. Tattoos are considered unprofessional, but socks, somehow, are not. I haven't quite made it off my block when someone sings "Tat tat tatted up" at me. I walk to the grocery store for a cup of coffee, and the same cashier is there. She shoots me an "Oh, you again." look. Yep, it's me. My Mom calls me "the illustrated lady". I know that my coffee with either be cold or burnt or not filled up enough.

    Tattooed across my knuckles are the words "know hope". They catch my eye as I hold out my two dollars. They serve as a reminder that possibility is endless to someone with drive and desire, but today I see them in whole new light. There is no hope for the morons around me, no hope that I will ever live without being poked and prodded by strangers, no hope that I will ever gain the power of invisibility for days I just want to be left alone. My friend Adam has a tattoo across his chest that I wish I had on my forehead. In big, bold letters it says, 'CAN I LIVE'. But if I did have that, that desperate plea across my face, I know exactly what people would say. No, no you can't... and how much did that cost?

    source is here xilovebroccolix: i am not a museum

  • #2
    I love you Kylie


    • #3
      Originally posted by kwakas
      can someone give me a rundown on what it said, can't really be fckuked reading all that.

      theres always one isnt there?


      • #4
        To sum it up. it basically says that you guys have no interest in KJ as a person, and by not reading it, have no further insight into her beauty as a person.


        • #5
          Oh. Is that all? :p

          KJ - thanks for posting it up. I read it, I associated with the lookers, I felt no guilt at doing so. Good to hear a taste of the canvas's perspective. Good to hear the perspective affirmed by someone we know.

          Yet another reason why I'll be staying ink free, thanks very much...
          "Once upon a time we would obey in public, but in private we would be cynical; today, we announce cynicism, but in private we obey."


          • #6
            Nice article


            • #7
              What huh..... KJ has tattoo's.... never noticed :p


              • #8
                That was confronting.
                This is general advice only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs (your personal circumstances). Before using this advice to decide whether to purchase a product you should consider how appropriate it is in regard to your personal circumstances.


                • #9
                  i dont want to read it but she is still cute

                  and makes good lolly rolls

                  i' will endeavour to read it when i gets home



                  • #10
                    pure gold.
                    i hate explaining why. and people constantly ask.

                    Hence now i wear a long sleeve shirt to work, and saying that, i also do not regret a single one.

                    What isn't ok is this fuck-awful jose cuervo vivezo 4 pack i have just purchased. That was a wrong life decision. Awful.


                    • #11
                      WELL SAID.

                      Worth the read. Thanks KJ


                      • #12
                        That was gold!

                        People really expect for you to stop your life so that you can show them some skin. If ya wanna see art, go to a fuckin art gallery. If ya wanna get decked then continue bugging me.

                        Good on ya Kylie


                        • #13
                          i am torn. i completely understand where she's coming from, but i'm also a fan of tattoo art. So i guess my question for those of you with visible ink is this: How do i express my appreciation of your tatts without being a PITA? Is there a way? Is it just a "Hey, nice" or should i keep my opinion to myself?

                          i should probably start a new thread but... meh.
                          Originally posted by zobo
                          I'd be more prolific in answering but I thought of a use for the othe


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MikeC View Post
                            i am torn. i completely understand where she's coming from, but i'm also a fan of tattoo art. So i guess my question for those of you with visible ink is this: How do i express my appreciation of your tatts without being a PITA? Is there a way? Is it just a "Hey, nice" or should i keep my opinion to myself?

                            i should probably start a new thread but... meh.
                            I am not heavily tattoo'd (yet) but I go with the whole don't bother asking questions just enjoy the view . Unless they bring it up then its fair game unless you are asking them to strip.

                            Although sometimes I have used them as a conversation starter to break the ice seeing we both have something in common


                            • #15
                              i always thought the idea of tattoos was to show them off. either to the world in general or to those special individuals lucky enough to view those bits normally covered for modesty.
                              for this reason i guess i don't believe she is being totally honest with her opening paragraph.
                              When I started covering myself in tattoos, I never gave a second thought to how the world would receive or perceive me. Actually, it never even occurred to me that other people would see them.
                              I don't believe anyone has had that little exposure to society that they could possibly think people's eyes aren't drawn to conspicuous images.
                              Not bagging tats in general, just the extract above.
                              im a holding, stroking, loving machine...also spanking