By Emory Ann Kurysh
A few weeks ago, I was approached by one of my work colleagues who wanted my advice on the topic of tattoos. They sought me out specifically because in their own words I: “had a lot of ink.” My first reaction upon hearing that statement was a feeling of excitement for yet another individual who wanted to express themselves through what I believe to be such an emotional and personal form of art. Then I felt flattered that I of all people was chosen to give guidance on something that would be on someone’s body forever. Only afterwards did I realize the true fact of the matter. I am that girl. I am the weird one with the purple hair, facial piercings, and tattoos that everyone stays clear of at first glance. I am the one that sons are embarrassed to bring home to their mothers and parents do not want their children coming close to. I am the tattooed freak in the travelling circus.
I have been living with tattoos for nearly half if my life. I received my first one at the ripe age of sixteen, and have since gotten five more. That’s averaging one tattoo in every three years. Although tattoos have been in existence for four centuries, they are still not widely accepted with the workplace. I am fortunate to have a great job where they are very accepting of body ink and piercings. They allow us to proudly display our tattoos and do not discriminate in hiring any individuals that may have them. I have not always been this lucky. While tattoos are only a small contributor to the many forms of workplace discrimination, everyone who has one is susceptible to this bias.
Family members can be extremely judgmental as well. Although I am nearing thirty years of age, my father still gives me grief over my tattoos. My older sister, who has several tattoos of her own, recently lectured me on my newest and most visible ink. “How is that going to look when you’re a mother?” she asked me. Yet, the point is that I am not a mother, nor do I think that it would make me less of one if I were to have tattoos. Our own mother received her first tattoo with us, and each one after that as well. I don’t look down on her as my sister would suggest. If anything, I find her more aspiring, more courageous, more relatable, and more of a role model now than I previously did. One has to look past the physicality of the markings themselves, and instead consider how they reveal more about that person than ever before.
Here is my checklist for those who are considering to tattoo or not to tattoo:
1. Choose something that is right for you.
While this statement may appear to be very obvious, it is actually a very difficult and soul-searching task. Do not choose something that you only just began to take a fancy to over the past few years. Choose something that has been with you since childhood. This could be a line from your favorite story, a cherished memory, a representation of a family member, or part of your name for example. Anything that you will not end up regretting later on down the road. Trust me, this part is important.
2. Know your body.
Returning to the topic of work and tattoos, consider your current job as well as where you see yourself in the future. Are you comfortable with people staring at parts of your body that will have a tattoo on them, or are you the shy type? It is inevitable that people will stare and that they will comment. You have to be comfortable with your decision to get inked and its location on your body so that you do not get flustered when responding to remarks.
3. Think ahead.
This is the mind-reading part of this article. Now is when you should take the time to think ahead as to what you will be doing later on in your life. Do you have a wedding coming up? Will you want to be remembered as a tattooed bride? Will you be compromising your job in any way, or any future work opportunities with a visible tattoo? Will it look professional to have ink sprawled across your forehead or poking out from underneath a shirtsleeve? Because being able to afford your food is key to survival. Have a seat, write down your goals, and include how you physically see yourself in these visions. Be honest.
4. Do your research.
Finding a good tattoo parlor is trickier than it sounds. Take your time in researching the best tattoos shops within and around your city. Find their websites. Look at their awards. Look at each artist and each one of their photos. Read reviews of the shop. Ask around. Sometimes word of mouth is the best advertisement. Call the shops. Then take the time to visit them. This is one of the last steps before booking your appointment. If you get a bad vibe, then leave. There are other parlors out there. It is crucial to find a safe spot where you feel comfortable in. Remember, this memory and tattoo will be with you for the rest of your life.
5. Have fun.
Remember that getting a tattoo is not only a creative process, but is a permanent one at that. Try to make this a happy memory. Other people will only see the physical tattoo, but you will forever bare the emotional experience on you. While it can become stressful at times, the act itself is indescribable in the most amazing way possible.
At the end of the day, tattoos will always be for me. I do not have rainbow colored hair or facial piercings. I do not travel with any circus. I have a husband who loves me and nieces and nephews who are not afraid of me in the slightest. I cherish each one of my tattoos and I do not regret a single one. While my tattoos may set me apart from the crowd, it is I who define them, and not the other way around.