By Aaron Gill
As I sat in the chair looking at the speckled ceiling of the shop, I started to wonder: do people not really understand why I do this to myself? Why can people not just accept me for who I am without judging my physical appearance? The needle started to puncture my skin as ink filled my pores and the rush of adrenaline coursed through my body as the artist simply asked, “are you okay?”
Every time I sit down on the cold leather of the chair in a tattoo shop, these same questions seem to make their way into my thought process just before the tattoo machine starts up with a roar that makes my heart race. I am a person with multiple tattoos – all of which mean something dear to me – and I often wonder why Americans still look at tattooed people as outcasts.
I started getting tattoos when I was 18-years old and have yet to even think of approaching anything near stopping. There are some people that like to express themselves in song , and there are others that find different creative outlets in which they can express their true selves. The question that my parents have always asked me, however, was, “What are you going to do when you get old and have tattoos all over your body?”
My response was always the same and very simple: “I will be old with tattoos.”
The only thing that keeps me from getting my arms sleeved out is the negative connotation that some companies hold against people with tattoos. I have done some research on a few corporate jobs, and under qualifications some employers have stated that visible tattoos will not be tolerated.
When I see this it pisses me off because it makes me realize that people are trying to silence our creativity. Now, I know most people reading this would say that I am just being ignorant, but hear me out.
If an employer states under qualifications that they want an applicant that is creative or artistic and then goes on to state that visible tattoos will not be tolerated, is that not a contradiction in itself? It is almost as if they want us to just fall into the lock-step of society and be someone who is rejected for actually expressing their creativity for a job in which creativity was a requirement.
When I go to a job interview, my first question when the interviewer asks me is always, “What is your policy on tattoos?” Looking at the current employees, I can tell what the policy is, but I like to ask to see how different people feel about tattoos as a whole. Now, if it is a corporate decision to not allow visible tattoos I can understand and somewhat respect that; however, when it comes to individual store managers making a policy to cover tattoos because they feel their customers will see the employees as “bad eggs,” the decision infuriates me.
People need to realize that tattoos are not always put on one’s body with the hope that they will be seen in a different light. Granted, there are occasions where people associate tattoos with gangs, but when parents tell their children they are not allowed to get a tattoo due to this stereotype it instantly silences that individual’s creativity.
The more I research tattoos, the more I learn about where they started – how people have been getting tattoos since the Neolithic period, using them to tell stories. Is this not what we do today? I know that my tattoos are conversation starters, with a story behind each one. I love to tell the stories of my tattoos because it lets me tell people the story of my life in a form that is in many ways like a picture book.
The time will come that people will stop giving other people a hard time for having tattoos, and though that time may be years from now, when it comes, the day will be a glorious one. People are slowly starting to become more accepting of the community I associate myself with, and this growing tolerance excites me. Now all I am waiting for is corporations to fall in line and become more accepting.
Here’s to hoping.