So I met someone today. He bought three of my old textbooks, so in my book he’s already a legend. We both live and work in Brisbane so we arranged to meet at a train station in between our locations and as I was bracing myself to arrive her sent me the below:
Ok cool, I’m the dodgy looking guy in a singlet with tattoos haha
Two things sprang to mind about this interaction:
Why are we as a society, still teaching people that as a woman I should be scared of meeting a genuinely friendly dude, in public?
Why are tattoos still considered dodgy?
For the lols I fired back:
All good, I’m the nerd with a backpack and in a blue shirt. Tattoos don’t scare me.
Addressing concern number one:
Prior to meeting with this dude, not only did I know his full name, I had his email and his phone number, I also knew where he went to school, what he did for a job and what his girlfriend’s name was. Naturally, because I knew this so did my best friend. She knew what station I was going to and what time I was getting on a return train. She also had explicit instructions to contact the police and have helicopters involved or I would haunt the shit out of her. Was any of that needed in the end? No. Did it make me feel safer and did it make Matt feel more confident in my safety? Yes.
Why? Because ingrained in our society is this notion that strangers are dangerous and whilst this is in part correct, not all strangers are dangerous. Turns out old mate was such a lovely, chatty guy. Completely harmless. Just an excited first year, eager to get started and work through his study load.
As a society, I think we need to reevaluate how we see other people. Instead of immediately thinking the worst, let’s give humanity a bit of leeway and the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, we may end up happier as a society.
Concern number two:
This is a big one for me. It makes me so angry when people judge others for the ink in their skin or make derogatory comments about tattooed people and use generalisations.
I am well educated, intelligent, hardworking, diligent and an overachiever. I have a well paying job, and generally a beneficial contributing member of society. I also have 19 tattoos. Yes, 19. We estimated a few years ago that about 45% of my body has ink under the skin. That’s probably still about correct. I have four medium to large pieces, and the rest are made up of little tattoos. If you look at placement, I have both wrists (on all sides), both shoulders, both sides of my abdomen, both hips, both ankles, left ‘love handle’, right thigh, between my shoulder blades tattooed to some extent. I have a lot. Not as much as some, but more than others. In my previous office I had the most by number and once my buddy in Sydney left I also owned the most percentage of body covered title. I well and try\ugly own that position by miles now.
I’ve worked largely in conservative industries, law and finance, and have had clients worth multiple millions, none of which have complained about my tattoos, in fact one used to come sit at my desk and ask what I was getting next. Yet I still hear disdain in my colleagues voices when they speak about people with tattoos. To be transparent, they all know I have a significant number and have seen some of them. I know it shouldn’t, but it makes my skin crawl every time.
My heart sunk a little yesterday when I got his message. Not only did he feel like he had to quell my fears of meeting a random guy but also that I may find him scary because of his tattoos. As a society we are moving closer to tattoo acceptance and I will say this, most of the comments I hear are coming from middle aged men.
Where do we start?
Well the first place to start would be to stop using that disgusted tone of voice when describing an unsavoury person and their tattoos. Mine are well done, some even quite pretty, they are fun and loaded with more meaning than one can even begin to unpack. They are deeply personal, tied to significant life events and drawn specifically for me. Well, most of them are. Every artack on a tattooed person, sweet or savoury, is an attack on us as a group. I’m not pretending there are not prejudices within our own ranks, but that’s the point of this post. I’m not judging a person because of their tattoos, I’m judging the workmanship of the tattoo instead.
I say this all the time, my tattoos do not impact my level or quality of work output nor do they make me a criminal. I’ve come to learn to ask about tattoo policies when in job interviews because often a company will have a policy to cover them, and not all of mine can be covered. So out of courtesy I ask if the ones on my wrists are ok. This shouldn’t need to occur. It’s not like I have the work “Fuck” tattooed across my forehead. I understand and accept that in my career I will need to do all I can to cover them. I sometimes have to come in contact with our investors, the majority of which are in the age group that still associate tattoos and bikies, and of course being female, they don’t expect me to have them. I get that. I’m not going to change their opinion, they don’t know me and I don’t care to put in that level of effort for them. What I do want is for my middle aged colleagues to realise their comments, whilst not aimed directly at me, still hurt. They still sting.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well I happen to believe this also applies to other people. Regardless of whether they have an extra large cover, or their cover is a little more colourful, keep in mind your comments are still harmful.