Learn and practice tattoo etiquette

By Will Barksdale | Multimedia Journalist

The first thing people do when they see one of my tattoos is ask what it is and what is the meaning of it. While this may be a natural course of action, this assumption embodies one of the main issues that stems from getting a tattoo that is easily visible to anyone; many people see your body art as public art that can be controlled by anyone who takes an interest in it.

I have a three-quarter length tattoo sleeve that is based off of the painting, “A Calm at a Mediterranean Port” by Claude-Joseph Vernet. It is a depiction of a beautiful port scene with ships and many buildings. It has no deep seeded significance to me, I simply thought it was a beautiful painting that would easily translate to an arm tattoo. When people hear that answer from me, it’s simply not enough for them and I am met with scoffs and puzzled looks.

Why does everything need a meaning in art? Can’t we just enjoy beauty without needing to explain ourselves to others that may not even see things in the same light? There is a reason for the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The next thing many people do when they see a tattoo is ask how much it cost. This is one of the rudest things a tattooed person hears. As many large tattoos are very expensive, people seem to have an obsession with what others are paying for their artwork. They do not see it as an investment, but rather an unnecessary expense. I would compare it to asking what someone makes for their salary, because most of the time money isn’t what people want to discuss with others.

Once they have found out literally everything they can about my tattoo, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for someone to grab my arm and go in for a closer look. Sometimes, people even grab my arm first, before asking any questions. Personal space is a concept that no one seems to grasp. If you had just met someone and they grabbed you anywhere on your body, it would probably not be a great feeling and would probably be highly awkward. This doesn’t change when a tattoo comes into play and definitely doesn’t make it any less of a terrible decision for a person to make.

Even with the many people who think that they own your tattoo as much as you do, others enjoy and respect the work and perseverance that goes into sitting through hours of needles being inserted into your skin. You’d be surprised to feel such a liberating self-expression that comes out of getting ink stuck into your skin forever.

Tattoos have been looked down upon in society for a long time, but that shouldn’t stop you from following your heart and doing what makes you happy. Anyone that attempts to stop or monitor your self-expression, like the people described above, do not need to be around to influence you. This even includes a significant other or a so-called “best friend.” The only one that should decide your self-expression is you. Who knows if they’ll be around in a year…but your tattoo will be!