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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why one should go all in, while being heavily tattooed, and the kind of questions about tattoos that are pure gold

From a technical and medical point of view, tattoos are... scars.
While getting tattooed, one allows someone - hopefully a good tattoo artist, though! - to create a special kind of wound while putting specific colored pigments under the skin with needles, either manually or with the help of a tattoo machine. 

Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough. 
Aisha Tyler

Over time, that wound is going to become a scar... sometimes a wonderful one, sometimes a gross one, for sure one filled with colored pigments: a tattoo.

[One interesting example of the kind of tattoos I like the most: 
Black ink Polynesian tattoo in the Marquesas Islands style]

Of course tattoos are way more than just a simple scar. They are part of important rituals in some cultures, over the centuries they had (and sometimes still have) a healing function in other cultures, they provided information about the roles of each person in a community or tribal society, they are a way of modifying the body, they marked and still mark a special kind of hierarchy in jails all around the world... and so on.

And even now that they are trendy and people like Justin Bieber, Robbie Williams, and David Beckham show their (ugly) tattoos with pride, tattoos still define in most cases people that decide to get tattooed.

Being heavily tattooed - to me having somewhere a small tattoo as big as a coin doesn't mean being tattooed... sorry, but I am a real snob regarding this matter - is a kind of way of life.
Having over 10-15% of one's body tattooed is something that changes how people perceive you, so one has to go all in for that, or to leave it.

[Sorry, Eva Longoria... You are for sure a beautiful woman, 
but not a tattooed person. At least for me]

It is not about having a small tattoo or something girly or cute in a place where people could never see it just because your best friend has it as well.
It is about shaping your body thanks to tattoos, accepting the pain and the risks and going for it anyway. Even while knowing that people will assume to know something about you and to be able to judge you, although they actually don't know you at all.

In my experience, while being heavily tattooed, one should be aware of and accept the fact that, no matter what, people around him/her will have an opinion about it.
It doesn't matter if we are talking about family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, colleagues or lovers. It is just naïf and not realistic to think the contrary.

Almost every person in the world has an opinion about tattoos, and it could be a positive one (Tattoos are cool! Tattoos are exotic! Tattoos are sexy! Tattoos are like art! Tattoos are a way of self-expression!) or a negative one (Tattoos are gross! Tattoos are stupid! Tattoos are disgusting! Tattoos are anti-social! Tattoos are a way of self-mutilation!).

[Tattoos can be art:
Amazing piece by Belgian tattoo artist Vincent Hocquet]

Of course there are also people that say that they are not impressed nor interested at all. But most of the time they have an opinion about it anyway and without realizing it they will treat tattooed people differently, even if maybe just while getting to know them, at the beginning of the interaction.

So one should get tattooed only if ready to accept this kind of situation and willing to live with it. I consider absolutely dangerous when people get tattooed for the wrong reasons or just because other people are tattooed or because it is cool right now, since a lot of football players and Angelina Jolie and other celebrities are (usually very very poorly...) tattooed.

[Should that be sexy?!
Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina and Paris Saint Germain, 
with his terrible tattoos on the spotlight
Photo credit: Rex Features]

A tattoo is for ever. The procedure is painful, expensive, stressful for the body, since as already said a tattoo is a scar, that needs some weeks to heal externally and up to six months to heal internally. A tattoo is difficult to get removed or covered if one should change his/her mind and it means also a lot of extra skin care for the rest of one's life.

But above all, it means being judged, liked, excluded, considered hot, discriminated or cherished, depending on someone else's belief system or way of thinking. It means for sure being perceived in another way. Every day. From almost everybody. For good.
Being gazed at. Sometimes being treated without manners. Having to get used to a lot of silly or too personal or not respectful questions.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. 
Over twenty years ago I chose to get tattooed and I never regretted it. I am used to the gazing part. I am used to be underestimated by not open-minded people. I am used to the questions. I am ok with it, even with some weird tattoo-related situations.

[I am not into old school or new school tattoos, 
and yet I have to agree:
My tattoos aren't nearly as offensive as your staring]

And yet, sometimes one gets also asked in a pleasant and kind way. 
Just like Monday afternoon. A nice colleague of mine asked me if all my tattoos have a meaning to me, and which kind of meaning they have.

So since her interest was genuine and her way of asking very respectful, I explained to her that all my tattoos are deeply important to me, since almost all of them are about how I changed during the last twenty years.
My tattoos reflect what I learn day by day about myself and the world, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I left behind me at some point, which kind of person I want to be and to become. And of course how I want my body to look like, as a reflection of all this.

She told me that she considers my body beautiful, also with all the tattoos, as every single one of them has a story behind it, and I agreed with her. 
I like my body how it is. It is mine, it is unique, it tells me my story every day. It reminds me of who I was, who I am, who I want to be. And of what I want to see in the mirror every morning.

Such kind of conversation is pure gold because it says not only something about me, but also about the other person. A lot way more about the other person. And it reminds me that there also people willing to see me as a person, and not just as living cliché.
Remembering it will help me not to take personally at least the next twenty stupid questions about my tattoos, asked by someone that barely know me and what is important to me. 
I will then smile, reply politely and probably very vaguely, and keep calm.
So thanks a lot for that, Josephine.

Tags: Tattoos, Tattooed people, Angelina Jolie, David Beckham, Alternative ways of life, Prejudices, Clichés about tattoos, Questions about tattoos, Quotes, People

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