the attitudes of others - a Friday afternoon rant

Posted by Alex the Odd at 07:40

Friday, 28 September 2007

I'm a little late in posting this because it's taken me over a week to stop frothing at the mouth. Remember how I told you that attitudes and the opinions of the people around me are an integral part of getting a tattoo for me? Yeah, well I got to spend last weekend understanding the full extent of that statement.

I'm very used to the people around me knowing about my tattoos. The industry is something that absolutely fascinates me and so if a conversation pops up on the subject it's pretty much a given that I'm going to chime in. Mostly I don't discuss my tattoos with my friends, a couple are really supportive and it's them that I turn to when I need to babble away excitedly at someone - other than that it's pretty much the internet, my journal or newly, this nifty little thing I like to call a blog. I'm aware that the whole "tattoo thing" freaks a lot of people out and I don't really have any good friends who are into the culture and while occasionally I will show people photos of artwork or start nattering away about this sleeve or that piece I saw completely absent mindedly but once the eyes glaze over I try my very hardest to stop.

There are some people that I make every effort to actually avoid discussing my plans for upcoming work with unless I absolutely have to. I speak of my friends from high school and my Mother.

I have to tell my Mother about my tattoo plans, I get crushed with guilt if I don't but I only ever tell her about them at the final stages - ergo she thinks that I don't actually put any thought into them. So much so that she actually offered me a grand not to get this one done for another two years. I can't even consider it and I can't explain to her why, I know why, but I just can't put it into a form that she'd understand. The essence of the argument (not for getting it done, we've been over those ad nauseum but for not taking the money) is this: Yes, I may regret this in five years time but if I don't have it done then I'll always wonder and if I do get it done a few years down the line I'll feel like an opportunity was missed, if I want to get it done but can't because my artist moves away or I've worked myself into a position where it's impossible (I'm just the kind of girl to get into a destructive and co-dependent relationship with someone who forbids me from doing something) then I'd be devastated. And no matter what I'd always know that I was bought. Not only that but that the only reason I didn't do something for myself, that I really wanted, was that she asked me not to. And I'd resent her for that. I already hate one parent for the choices he made I'd rather have a life time of regret for the image on my skin than spend even a day resenting my Mother for the choices she took from me.

She says she's given up now, that she never wants to see it or hear another word said about tattoos ever again. I give her a month before she caves.

Then come my high school friends. The thing that gets me most about this is that I didn't actually intend to tell them anything about it, it just slipped out because I wasn't thinking straight. Now I know that I only see these girls (yes, girls for a I am a posh private schoolgirl - most of the stuff you've heard about us is entirely true) from time to time, and our lives are so far divergent from what they were once going to be that it's untrue, but they've known me longer than anyone else and so their opinions kind of matter. I'm used to hearing people tell me what a bad idea covering myself in ink is. Case in point, the male kind-of friend who once sat me down to say the following:

"Now I know that you have some tattoos Alex, and that's fine, but really if you get any more then you're deliberately making yourself unattractive to a large portion of society. Like, 90% of people are going to refuse to date you."
But physical appearance has never really been what I'm about, and it's not like getting a picture etched into my skin is going to change the essential make-up of my character, right?

Wrong. Apparently. I'm ruining my life, literally one of them told me that. Arguments, of course, included the old gem "What about when you get old?" (well then I'll be wrinkly and saggy anyway and probably not baring that much flesh to begin with) but also the rather vapid "But what if you have to go to a formal event?" Well, frankly I'll, oh I don't know, cover it the fuck up? Seriously? I'm supposed to let the fact that one day I might be invited to a fancy party affect my life decisions? What. The fuck. Ever.

I was also informed that tattoo inks fade at different speeds depending on the colours. This was from a friend who had in fact had a tattoo done just after receiving our GCSE results. At sixteen. If you don't know why that would immediately set my teeth on edge then get the hell off my blog. I felt like screaming something along the lines of:
"I'm sorry but in what fucking universe do you think that you know more about this subject than me, at what point in time did you decide that you can educate me on the subject? You, who walked into a tattoo parlour that was willing to tattoo a sixteen year old having done no research whatsoever on a whim, are telling me that I'm jeopardising my future by getting a safe, clean and well thought out tattoo? Come back to me once you've been tested for hepatitis and we'll talk.
But as I'm not really in the market to lose my oldest and best friend (and also she was being obnoxious in large part due to vast quantities of intoxicating liquids) I settled for politely informing her that most tattoos need to be touched up every five to ten years anyway so it really wasn't a big deal.

She also told me that in some countries having a tattoo is seen as a bad thing and people stare at you. Yes, in some countries walking around flashing cleavage is seen as a bad thing and so you don't wander around in a bikini. I repeat my previous plan of covering it the fuck up and leave it at that.

The thing that pisses me off most about this entire thing is that I can't even be properly mad about the whole thing because I know it's all only because they care. If they didn't give a shit about me then they'd just smile and move on rather than trapping me in a corner for two hours. So I guess it's sweet. Kinda.

I don't know, maybe I'm odd but I've never really seen getting a tattoo as a particularly big deal. I mean sure, if you're getting one tattoo and one tattoo only then yeah, make sure it's packed with enough symbolism to last a lifetime, place it perfectly, design it yourself, make sure it really means something and be prepared to tell a story. But if you collect tattoos and appreciate them as an art form then what does it matter other than the fact that you think it's a good design? Do art collectors care about the significance of the painting they just bought? No. They got it because they liked it, or wanted something created by a particular person, or because it matched their sofa. This is the biggest sticking point for me - that people just can't appreciate that a tattoo isn't just a "rebellious statement" or a "permanent brand" but that it can also be a work of art for art's sake and nothing deeper or more meaningful than that.

As I've already said, the attitudes of strangers don't bother me - personal choice and all that jazz - but these people are supposed to know me. The only bright spot came from a girl I've never really known too well, certainly never been close to (emotionally speaking), who sat down next to me and quietly told me that she understands they don't know me as well as they used to but that my judgement is good enough to do whatever I think is best regardless of whether or not they understand it. And I thank her for that.

So that's it. Rant over. Although, this is before work even starts on my back. I dread to think what's going to happen once it's done.

Maybe I should refrain from mentioning my plans for sleeves?


TK said...

Wow. That's a lot of backlash. I just got a new one on Wednesday, and my friends and my wife all were either fascinated, congratulatory, or both. I wish you could get the same reception...

Best of luck, Alex.

Alex the Odd said...

Aw thanks TK, now that I'm in a slightly more rational mood I can assure you that most of the people I see on a daily basis are incredibly supportive (or largely uninterested) so I don't have to put up with this kind of crap too often.

Pics of the new tattoo to come I hope!

Anonymous said...

The attitudes and opinions you describe remind me of the general social consensus regarding tattoos here in the States about 15 or 20 years ago. Now it seems like tattoos are the norm; almost everyone below the age of 40 has at least one.

When I toiled in the bowels of Corporate Hell, I knew more people with ink than not, some of them were very conservative in their dress and general appearance. Upon witnessing one work friend's rather larger tats for the first time (He kept them pretty well covered by long sleeves and pants.), I insisted he let me touch them to confirm they were indeed real.

Anyway, I feel for you having such extremely vocal naysayers in your life. I have been fortunate in that even my most staid family members (including my dear departed Grandmom) and friends never reacted so strongly to all my various inklings. Though it took my mom a few months before she'd even look at my first tattoo.

My husband is never thrilled about new ink, but I've reminded him there was nothing in our wedding vows giving him dominion over my skin.

litelysalted said...

Wow... Yeah, what Manda said. Come over to the states, sweetie! We're a culture of crass, (I mean that in the most endearing way possible) and we embrace those with tattoos. I finally had to show mine to my uber-conservative, elderly grandmother last summer due to my sister's wedding, and even she was like, "Eh, oh well!"