As I enjoy my 30th year on this planet I reflect on the years that preceded this one, thankfully with very few regrets and mainly with a wistful feeling of nostalgia.  As with most people, my teens years were a little touch-and-go, however I came through them unscathed and managed to avoid falling into too many peer pressure traps therefore didn’t enter my twenties with unfortunate tattoos or ridiculous piercings.  These are not the thoughts of a judgmental old lady trapped in the body of a 30-year-old, I love piercings and tattoos BUT am prepared to admire them from afar on other people.

While at school I had wanted to get a few piercings, and always loving the thought of a Labret piercing (middle or side of lower lip) or Auricle (the cartilage rim that runs along the outer edge of the ear, away from the side of the head) but it seemed that everyone who floated around the heavy metal or stoner groups at school were getting those piercings and I wanted to do it for me, not because it was popular.  I toyed with the idea of a naval piercing, but after seeing so many girls of all shapes and sizes in my year group get belly-button piercings, but again I didn’t get one as I didn’t want to follow the herd and so decided to not have any piercings done until after I had finished school/college because that way, if I still felt the desire, I would confidently know that it would be for me and not for anyone else.

I was always drawn to tattoos because I found something beautiful about loving something so much that you would want to honour it by giving it a position on your body forever, however I was sensible enough to realise that my music tastes would change with time and therefore a band tribute would be premature, and I wasn’t really the sort of person who would suit an easily chosen Celtic or Tribal design, and although I really wanted a quote on my inner forearm there was no piece of poetry, song lyrics or religious verse powerful enough to ink and therefore, as with piercings, I decided to not have any work done until school/college were behind me because I would have more time to develop as an adult and potentially associate enough importance to something that I would want to inscribe onto myself.

Which is why I feel a twinge of pain when I see some of the awful tattoos floating around out there.  Whether it’s due to kids at school following the age-old trap of peer pressure, or whether it’s influenced by the power of celebrity culture where anyone who’s anyone is getting inked, more and more people are getting stupid tattoos with seemingly little regard for its long-term affects.

You see people with tattoos running from their shoulder down to their knuckles, not thinking that if you want to pursue a career in something client-facing later on in life then you’re probably not going to be the first person they send out to win new business if you’ve got a big, bold tattoo stretching across the back of your hand or snaking up your neck to your ear.  If you’re going to get work done on your arm try to restrict yourself to a full, half or quarter sleeve tattoo, not allowing your designs to spill out onto areas that could affect your job prospects.  I’ve worked in recruitment for over 5-years and the only time I’ve see people with visible tattoos on their hands/necks wearing a suit is when they’ve got a court appearance to smarten up for.

The problem is that there are a few big reasons that people, regardless of whether a celebrity or one of us mere mortals, live to regret the ink that we’ve paid for.  Those reasons are:

1) Lack of planning.  Many kids either find an unscrupulous tattoo artist more interested in profit than the law, or hit the legal age of tattooing without parental consent, and rush to get something done because like, y’know, everyone else is getting one.  They get a tattoo with absolutely no personal attachment and, as the years pass, realise they’re wearing something that has no background story or relevance to who they are.

2) Falling out of love.  The most removed tattoos are those that name a past love interest.  Johnny Depp cleverly adjusted his ‘Winona Forever’ to ‘Wino Forever’ in my absolutely favourite tattoo adjustment, Angelina Jolie had her horrifically tacky dragon tattoo with Billy Bob (Thornton) in script above removed, later replacing with the birthplaces of her children and famously stating, “I’ll never be stupid enough to have a man’s name tattooed on me again.”  I actually feel a twinge of physical pain whenever I think about Kat Von D’s recent tattoo of Jesse James’ childhood face, work she had done as part of the reality TV series ‘LA Ink’, and his awkward reaction followed by their relationship coming to an end.  She now has to live with the tattoo of the man who cheated on his wife with her, then subsequently cheated on her with numerous other women.

3) It’s not quite what they wanted.  David Beckham got his wife’s name inked on his body in Hindi, but due to poor planning misspelt ‘Victoria’ as ‘Vihctoria’; Hayden Panettiere chose to have “Live without regrets” in Italian (“Vivere senza rimpianti”) inked onto her body, but due to not consulting a dizionario Italiano added an additional ‘i’ resulting in ‘rimipianti’; Rihanna has ‘Rebel Flower’ inked in French, however perhaps due to failing or never actually taking French at school didn’t realise that adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify, therefore instead of her current “rebelle fleur” she should have walked away from the studio with ‘fleur rebelle’.

4) Identity crisis.  We all change as we get older, it’s simply an unavoidable part of life: our likes and dislikes, social groups and personality undergoes so many adjustments so that although the tattoo you had done when you were 18 may have been ‘So You’ back then, if you grow up to no longer be passionate about or, worse still, no longer agree with your tattoo’s original message then it’s time to start counting spare change and saving up for laser removal.

For the sake of your 30, 40, 50 and 60 year-old self, before you get inked draw out your designs and modify where needed, do your homework on the spelling, think carefully about what that design means to you and discuss your plans with family or good friends so that others can give you some feedback.  Don’t rush out to have something done, even if motivated by love, and listen to the little nagging doubts in the back of your mind.

Even if you’re passionate about getting some work done, if you can try to resist getting inked with your chosen design for at least 6-months or even a year, and that way a) you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you really want to get that design/persons name permanently marked onto your body, b) by then you’ll have had the chance to save up more money and will be able to pay for a better quality tattoo, and c) you’ll have time to reflect on whether that tattoo is really right for you.

5 Comments »

  1. Good advice about pre-planning and doing spell check. It’s a pity when people assume that the tattoo artist knows how to spell the name you want – we don’t know you! Or when people ask for things in other languages (especially languages with different letter forms like Arabic or Kanji) – we’re not always multilingual!

    However, I have to really strongly disagree with your assertion that heavily tattooed people only wear suits to answer criminal allegations. Criminals with tattoos are common, yes, tattooing has a language all its own in our nations penitentiaries, but does that make tattooed people more likely to commit crimes? That sounds dangerously judgmental.

    Most tattooed people are business men and women, parents, neighbors. Not criminals. The sad epidemic of young people getting “job killer” tattoos in highly visible places is a product of the recent glamorization of tattooing in pop culture and will definitely make people in the laser removal business rich, but it is a symptom of how mainstream tattoos are becoming. It won’t be long – maybe another five years – until you won’t be able to “recruit” many people who AREN’T tattooed, so I don’t think anyone should make damning assumptions about such a large group of diverse individuals.

    • I like your comments, and your dire prediction that it won’t be long “until you won’t be able to “recruit” many people who AREN’T tattooed…” there’s a lot of truth to that, considering current trends, but although more people are getting tattooed I do not predict that more people will get tattoos on visible places like the neck, face or backs of hands as a lot of tattoo studios still have policies against doing tattoos in these areas as they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being conscience to the naïve or impulsive, and are painfully aware due to their removal work they carry out that highly visible tattoos done without proper planning can have a negative impact on that person later on in life.

      Do note that my damning comment relating to tattooed people, suits and court appearances was solely based on my personal experience as a Recruiter of 5+ years across multiple industries, not a sweeping generalization. It was an observation, not an assertion, and did not make the statement that tattooed people are more likely to commit crimes.

      I could also make another personal observation that I’ve never come across a company that sent out a new business Rep to try and sell us a product or service who sported visible tattoos, as there are still some industries that would be concerned that an employee with tattoos could potentially affect business as first appearances are still important. Some companies have policies against visible tattoos and others don’t. As you say, the times they are a-changin’ and people from all walks of life are getting tattoos.

      Regardless of what the real person behind the inking is like, stereotypes associated with piercing and tattoos can and do affect certain perceptions. For now. Which is why the main point of the blog post was to gently remind people to choose wisely and carefully, take their time and consider all possible implications of getting work done on their body.

      • As a tattooer, I’m the first person to emphasize the importance of choosing wisely and carefully, doing your research. I think that what is changing, most importantly, is the initial perception of tattoos. I think that a lot of people are now associating tattooed people with “Miami Ink”, for whatever that’s worth, rather than “motorcycle gang.” And so the “first impression” is changing. Some shops will definitely not tattoo peoples hands or faces, and I really do think it’s a good policy. I think there is also a geographic discrepancy – I bet we don’t live in the same part of Florida! Down south, the population is different than up north, and I definitely feel a little weirder the further away from Miami I get.

  2. Quite right, I’m up north in Jax & therefore caught in a weird twilight world of progressive city mixed with ‘good ol’ boy territory’. I’ve been here since Aug ’11 & immediately noticed huge differences between Jax and my old UK stomping ground in London when it comes to perceptions: whereas a lot of my friends in the UK who wear ink can walk into a bar or shop & go about their daily lives without a second glance, it feels that Jax is sometimes a few years behind everyone else as you can hear the muttering that trails a tattooed person wherever they go.
    I’m glad that you are seeing a change in the way that people view tattooed individuals, and the various reality shows as well as celebrity culture are helping dispel the stereotypes & misconceptions. Really appreciate your informed, experienced comments.

  3. Whilst I was young man, serving in the Marines (Royal,) I almost, almost got a tatoo and at the very last moment, chose not to – it would’ve been one of the worst things for me to do ever and I say that as the man I am now, rather than the boy I was then!

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