The Stink Over Ink

Don’t remember how or why I stumbled upon it, but on Facebook, there is an awesome page called Tattoo Acceptance In the Workplace. It’s dedicated to, well, what it says in the name, and it posts a lot of pictures of people, what they look like covered in daily work garb, and what they look like less covered in clothes, and more covered in tattoos. My favorite one is of a soldier, first in uniform, then out of it. I’m having trouble locating the pic, but from  memory, the caption says something along the lines of, “The person you gave a dirty look to today (the tattooey one) is the person you thanked yesterday (the in-uniform one).

Recently, a friend of mine asked the owner of a restaurant if he was hiring. Said friend is not only one of the kindest, best-hearted people that I’ve ever met, but he is also one of THE hardest workers I’ve ever known, and I’ve been in the work force since ’92, not to mention all my babysitting jobs since ’87. Any establishment would be incredibly lucky to have him on its staff.

The owner answered that they were not hiring, but even if they were, he would never hire my friend, because of how he looks. I.e., tattooed.

My friend is a chef; he works in the kitchen, back of the house. I’m a lifer waitress; I work front of the house, and though I don’t agree with them, can understand the arguments for servers hiding their tattoos, especially in a fancier restaurant.

But this was not that. This was the owner of a casual establishment having a problem with an employee that customers never even see, having tattoos.

And I’m not here to rant about that. I’m here to question the concept overall, about why people still in 2012 think that tattoos are a problem.

I have one tattoo, which is considered rather cliché – the Chinese symbol for friend on the back of my right shoulder. But it’s not a cliché to me, because I got it spontaneously with my BFF Shannon back in ’98. We just like, decided to go get tattooed. And my tattoo means everything to me, because 2,000 miles away, another woman that I love has the same one, in the same place.


Said woman went on to cover a lot of her body with more tattoos, and both they and she look beautiful. I’d always thought that heavily tattooed people looked awesome, but I don’t have more because at first, I just didn’t think I had the chops to pull that off. After I got my one tattoo, I felt and understood the addiction to it that people get. The pain of the tattoo needle was a pain that I liked, a lot. And afterwards, you have art on your body!

But in the late ‘90s, I was pursuing acting as a career. And perhaps this is ironic, given my opening that heralds Tattoo Acceptance In the Workplace, since theater was my workplace, but I feel like in theater, it’s just logical, that the more you can chameleonize yourself, the better it works. Angelina Jolie is covered and successful, but Angelina Jolie also has bigger budgets to hide them, if she needs to go be in “Beowulf.” From my own end, I was seeking “All-American Girl Next Door” roles, and having visible tattoos wouldn’t mesh with that. Especially given my uber-pale skin, that apparently Dermablend doesn’t work on, if you’re looking to hide a black tattoo on white skin whilst playing Bianca in Taming of the Shrew. My hair was up, and my wedding dress was strapless, and this method actress was upset at having a decidedly un-Shakespearean tattoo glaring at the audience.

Then I stopped pursuing acting as a career, but I couldn’t get tattoos because I remained perpetually broke for a good long while. WHO KNEW that quitting acting and pursuing your college-degreed career path led to poverty?

Nowadays, I’m still rather broke and working my butt off to pay rent, but Colorado is less financially oppressive than New York, so I know I can get another tattoo if I want one. But now it’s been so many years, that I have performance anxiety, and want my tattoo to be The Right One. So we’ll see what happens.

But then, I’ve never been a “tattoo girl,” at the core. However, I am still miffed on behalf of those who are, that they still get looked down upon. I just think that the arguments against tattoos are so circular at best, and illogical at worst.

Your tats may look great now, but what about when they sag when you’re 80?

One Willy Wonka meme answers that better than anything I could say:

How are you going to explain them to your grandchildren?

Well, even though I just have the one, when I got it, I thought that I’d explain to my grandchildren that back when I was 22, despite myriad romantic angstiness with dudes, I had a girlfriend that I loved more than anyone, and branded her into my back. And for others, it’s like, when we’re old enough to have grandchildren, society will have evolved enough where tattoos aren’t some kind of shocking thing.

How do you expect anyone to take you seriously when you’re covered in ink?

Well, I think the problem lies more in the sentiment, rather than in the tattoos. Aka, stop being stodgy, non-tattooed people. It is 2012. As with most societies, our crashing economy has led to a renaissance of art. Why wouldn’t people want that art to be on their bodies?

And having grown up in a church and a pretty strict Christian school, I can’t ignore the argument that many believe it is wrong, because it is permanently altering the body that God gave us. But even back in the day when I never thought I’d ever get a tattoo, I thought that the Bible argument was morality cherry picking, because I think I knew maybe three girls in high school who didn’t have pierced ears. And only one of them covered her hair in church. And frankly, the God that I knew then and still hope to know now wouldn’t get butthurt over someone’s wanting to become art incarnate.

I don’t have some neat, sweeping wrap-up and thesis statement. I just wanted to say this.

This entry was posted in Body Image, Friends, Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Women, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Stink Over Ink

  1. Over here there’s still a lot of association with prison for tattoos, and on top of that, the “Christian” argument. So there’s still a lot of taboo on it. Though I still keep getting them, heh.

  2. Josh says:

    Thoughtful essay Judi, I understand the cultural attachment now between tattoos equaling “Metal Dudes on MTV/1980’s!”, but it’s not a fair generalization. The idea of painting your body as a form of worship, honor or a more beautiful way to leave a scar, was always attractive to me. I had the same fears/”acting reasons” to not get one – thoughts of “If I DO get seen…” as in the case of what happened to you on stage – or even that I’d get addicted to them. Celebs with tattoos always gave me promise though, I thought of getting one in an innocuous area at one point or another. Now, maybe not so innocuous. @saintfacetious – how many do you have?

    • I’ve got another one on my arm same size as the one you’ve seen, another on my back and getting another on my back today. None of them overly big and none of them in an overly visable spot (unless I wear short sleeves, which I normally just wear light button ups and roll up the sleeves anyway when I’m at work, so they’re pretty tameable as far as visibility issues).

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m passing this along to my daughter, the tattoo addict:), small to medium-large…. She’ll love hearing your thoughts….
    She’s a chef and a aquatic supervisor, and thankfully both jobs have “forgiven her for all her tat transgressions”….so she doesn’t have to worry about covering them….Good thing…I don’t think she’s done…
    Btw…I beat you…I have two:)
    As always…love reading your blogs and posts!!
    Take care

    TOPIC from Ammy

  4. My son is a tattoo artist. He likes this page on FB (Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace). I’ve had no problem accepting any of his tattoos, until he got a big panther on his neck. Dark black ink, obviously, and Huge. I was really bummed out. The very first thing I thought of was, “How is he going to get “any job he wants” in the future? There are limited amount of employers who accept any tattoos that can’t be covered with clothing. He may not want to be a tattoo artist all of his life. He’s 21, and has many years ahead of him. I’m his mom…I worry.

  5. Enjoyed this immensely! I got my first at 23 a sweet butterfly on right shoulder blade where your ink is. It was shocking to a lot of people but I use to run with bikers at the time and the shock factor was fun 🙂 Now mind you I am 65 now and I have a total of 6. They still look good and as for my grandchildren….they have full blown sleeves and piercings up the kazoo! Dermals are in with them and I must admit I find them more than a little upsetting! (but I keep that opinion to myself) I am a retired waitress then cook/baker and never had trouble keeping a job…if your good then your indispensible!

  6. Pingback: Pen Pals | judisunshine

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