A Literal Pain in My Side: Today’s Tattoos

By Emma Buchman

Opinion Editor


I never had much interest in tattoos when I was younger, much to my mother’s delight. I was always interested in cartilage piercings and other semi-permanent body modifications, but for most of my life I had no interest in going through the pain of getting a tattoo with a design that I would despise.

That changed entirely when I was 18. My close friend had a passion for photography but was unsure if she could pursue it as a career. In order to keep photography close to her heart and remind her of her passion for it, she got a tattoo of an old-fashioned camera on her upper forearm. It was tasteful, artistic, inspiring, and I wanted one. For most of my life I saw tattoos as giant Chinese characters in gaudy greenish-black ink, or skulls or hearts with “Mom” scrawled messily across them. Now I saw them as works of art that reflect your passions and personality.

Tattoos, or any body modifications for that matter, don’t have the greatest reputation among certain generations. My parents, for example, hate tattoos because they don’t like the idea of permanently modifying your body in that way  and they think they look ugly. My friend Erin’s parents feel the same way, going so far as threatening to take her out of school if she ever got a tattoo. A lot of people in our parents’ generation have the impression that people who have tattoos are hard, punkish people. This isn’t a bad thing. Everyone is entitled to their own interests. However, this stereotype is no longer true. Many people of all personalities have tattoos. The Pew Research Center has found that the number of adults ages 18-29 who get tattoos increases as the generations continue.

Some people, like my parents, also think that people who have tattoos are delinquents or criminals, “seedier people,” as my mom likes to say. At one point they may have been right; I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t around then. All I know is that today, tattoos have evolved into something akin to piercing your ears or even wearing jewelry albeit more permanent. Like a painting, a tattoo can reflect your deepest personal feelings and interests.

That doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want with them. There is still a professional vision that people have when they’re hiring, and sometimes tattoos aren’t included in that image. While tattoos are becoming much more accepted in the typical workplace, it never hurts to be careful. If you’re going to get a tattoo, find an appropriate place to put it, somewhere where you can either hide it entirely or cover it up with make-up. Admittedly, this is not nearly as fair for women as it is for men. According to a Pew Survey, men tend to have more tattoos that are publically visible than women do, most likely because men have the luxury of wearing suits, which covers almost their entire body. Women have to pick and choose, and sometimes even the foot is a dangerous place to get tattoos.

Additionally, if you’re going get a tattoo make sure you think it through. Sometimes spontaneity is a good thing, but not when it comes to a tattoo. You have to take the time to know what you want, where you want it, and who you want it done by.

If tattoos aren’t for you I understand. For me they can mean so much if used correctly. They are a physical representation of your deepest personal passions and can capture an aspect of who you are. I know students of different backgrounds (pre-med, English, engineering) that have tattoos, and they love them. I have a tattoo of Bilbo Baggins on my right foot because “The Hobbit” was the first book that I read while traveling abroad, and it represents my relationship with my parents. I thought long and hard about where I wanted to put it. Tattoos can be beautiful, so long as you treat them with respect.

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