Tattoos, although seen on people young and old, have become somewhat of a trademark of my generation. It feels like just about every person I know has a tattoo. I have three; I was nineteen when I got my first tattoo on my foot and I got my second on my wrist less than a year later. I just got my third one a few weeks ago. Despite the growing popularity of tattoos with my generation, my parents’ generation seems generally unchanged in its opinion of ink. I think they assume that most people with tattoos have a bad attitude and bad behaviour because tattoos have long been associated with prisoners and criminal gangs. So they also tend to think that tattoos are unprofessional. But just because I have a tattoo, it doesn’t mean that I’m stupid or incompetent.
Tattoos are a form of art and expression. You take an image, an idea, an expression that appeals to you and an artist “draws” it. I’ve been asked why I want something so permanent on my body and I always respond by asking, “Why not?” Why wouldn’t I want a representation with me always that reminds me of something that brings me happiness or something that I overcame or just something that I like the look of?
The story around my first tattoo is a good example of the differing opinions of my generation and my parents’ generation. In February 2010, I went on vacation to Penticton, British Columbia (BC), Canada, with my good friend at the time. She was planning on getting her arm tattooed and I had been thinking hard about what I wanted to get. I decided on a strawberry, the “sexy” fruit. I had gotten out of a troubling relationship the year before that destroyed my confidence, but in the months leading up to my tattoo, I slowly regained the confidence I had lost plus a little more. I found my “sexy,” both inside and out. So the strawberry was and still is very fitting. Despite the impending tattoo taking up much of my thought space, I never mentioned anything to my mom about it. I knew that she didn’t like tattoos since I had heard her voice her dislike for them many times. Even when she asked me outright if I was getting a tattoo while on vacation, I assured her that I wasn’t. At the time, I felt that she would do her best to talk me out of it because of her dislike for tattoos.
So when I got to BC, I told the artist what I wanted and he drew me up something. The finished drawing was so unlike what I had in mind. Instead of a lone strawberry, it was strawberry surrounded by leaves and smoke with a blue background. Despite it being vastly different from what I had in my mind, I loved it. I think this was partially due to its resemblance of one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, Strawberry Fields Forever, in the movie Across the Universe. So after two and half hours of pain and discomfort, it was done, and I loved it more than ever. When I texted a picture of my new tattoo to my mom she didn’t believe that it was real at first; she thought it was airbrushed onto my foot. When she finally did accept that it was permanent, it was all downhill from there for me. My mom was mad, but most of all disappointed that I so brazenly lied to her. I broke her trust in me and I it caused somewhat of a rift in our relationship for a while and I regret making my mom feel that way. She’s always stuck by me and done everything to make my life what it is and I didn’t repay her very well. However, I think she’s (mostly) forgiven me and has accepted the fact that I have tattoos and will probably continue to get tattoos even though she doesn’t like them.
I hope that one day (sooner rather than later), my parents’ generation will become more accepting of tattoos. Just because I have a tattoo, it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person or a bad employee. I just found a different way to express myself and my life. I already have my next tattoo in mind: An anchor. It doesn’t hold any particular meaning for me, but I like it and that’s enough for me.