Tattoos (*this one is dedicated to Space Rocket Kim)

Posted: May 15, 2011 in "Those People", Art, Rants, Sexism, women

I am a fan of ink.  I admit this freely.  I am also a fan of art, which I admit freely as well.  I have always loved to draw, and as far back as I can remember, I wanted to have tattoos, to put art that was somehow special or meaningful or interesting to me on my body.  I got my first tattoo when I was 20 and in college, a rather primitive and geometric looking spider, done on my left calf.  It’s fairly small, and I got it done at Bill Clayton’s Tattoos in Fayetteville, NC.  Others soon followed: a spiral design on my hip bone, a black hand print between my shoulder blades- I had heard three was the decision making point, the line that was the one people crossed or did not cross- the magic number that decided if one was addicted to ink or merely a person with a couple tattoos….three came and went, more tattoos found their way on to my skin; the Arabic symbol of the Hashishin and a naga form Kali on my back, a black, three-leaf clover, a bar code, and the Egyptian god Set on my arms, a set of crossed claw marks and why yes, Magneto from the X-Men, on my legs.  Stars under my collar bones…and yes, there are still tattoos I would like to get:  a scorpion and the Scorpio zodiac symbol, the Roman Eagle, the symbol my SCA persona has as her standard…hey, I can still get ink because I still have skin….and should the Broncos ever win another SuperBowl within my lifetime, there are plans afoot for myself and the inkless Brother Evolution to go get the Horse together.  Each of my tattoos, well, I have drawn them out on paper myself, made them look as I wanted them to, then taken them to the artist for putting on my skin.  Everyone who has given me a tattoo says I’m a great customer…I don’t flinch, I don’t whine, I don’t do anything other than sit there, very still, even though it does hurt.  The one time this was not the case was when I got the Kali done…the woman who was doing it for me saw my Magneto, and also being a huge fan of comics, asked me if I could draw Marvels Thor for her….so while she was inking me I was drawing Thor.  She finished my tattoo then proceeded to put my rendition of Thor on her own leg.  I thought that was really pretty awesome.  I liked her a lot, and did get other work done by her afterwards.  Her place, by the way, she owns it, and it is Ancient Art, in Orlando FL. 

I have gotten tattoos with friends, we’ve gone together to get our ink.  I’ve gotten them with people who were pondering getting ink and wanted to see just how bad it hurt first ( I am not a good person to gauge that by, however), I have gotten them with SCA buddies and college dorm mates and life long friends.  And each one, as silly or strange or even offensive (like the bar code) might seem to others, well, they are all special to me.  I like ink, I like art, and I like my tattoos.

But they do come with consequences.  My mother, for one, comes from the school that tattoos are for military men, convicts, and bikers, and I am none of those things.  When it became evident to her that I was not merely going to stop at the odd spider on the calf, the spiral on the hip bone, and the hand on the back, she made a great attempt to warn me about how having so much ink would play out, how I would be judged for it.  She was even willing to admit that it did seem to be socially acceptable for a woman to have a flower on her shoulder or a dolphin on her ankle…but tattoos that could not be hidden, on places like ones arms or collar bones?  Well, she found it to be…tacky.  She once voiced the concern, as we were sitting around the pool at her house in FL, that no one would ever know that I really was a loyal and decent person because they’d be scared by or turned off by my ink.  I never bothered to tell her that hey, I just as soon people not approach me and think I was nice and all that crap, and well, anyone who was gonna judge me flat-out and straight off the bat because I had tattoos was not a person I would want to hang around with anyway.  When we all went out to Colorado for my cousins wedding- in which I was a bridesmaid- she was very aware of the fact that the dress would not cover any of the ink on my upper body- and that I had no intention of trying to cover it.  Turned out that no one but her really cared, and my race car driving male cousins immediately ran up to me after the service and showed me their own ink…all of them sporting race helmets with crossed pistons underneath, ala a Jolly Roger, with their racing team name arched over the top.  Something that is undoubtedly special and meaningful to them, and designed by the youngest one of the lot.  She was enraged (as were other people in my family) when I got the bar code, seeing it as a huge insult to my Grandfather who also has a number on his arm, albeit for a far more horrible reason.  This rage was chopped off at the knees when at  family BBQ my grandfather noticed this tattoo and said it was nice not to be the only person at the gathering with numbers on him.  Then again, he always did have my back when it came to being the black sheep of the family…Nowadays, my mother has become resigned to the fact that I have ink, and not much she has to say about it is going to change the fact.  Upon seeing me, she immediatly searches for new ink, and if she finds it, there is merely a resigned sigh. 

But you know, I cannot bear to tell her, in some cases?  Her insight and thoughts on the matter were right.  There are a lot of people out there who, misguided or not, have certain opinions about folk with tattoos, and are perfectly willing to judge them merely by their ink alone.  And I am not even talking about people with tons of prison or gang  ink or sexist racist shit splattered all over their bodies.  I am talking about anyone with ink at all.  Ive been turned away from straight jobs because of it, and hell, even been told I have too much ink to work in various strip joints or hired for various porn/nude modelling work.   Even though there is a huge market for “alt girls” in the sex biz these days…well, aside from the ink, I am too tan, too buff, and not nearly pierced up enough to be an “alt girl”.  I have had people look at my ink then look at me like I am something they scraped off the bottom of their shoe, assume because of it I am a criminal, or a junkie, or some biker’s bitch, or unintelligent and uneducated.    I have heard countless people say that folk with ink, especially women, only have it because they are seeking attention…

And you know what?  That, at least in my case, could not be further from the truth.  My tattoos are not “pretty” or “cute” or “inviting”, they are not colorful.  They are pretty well-done, but I am not so sure a six armed half snake half woman wielding swords and axes is adorable or an open invite for conversation.  In fact, I think of my tattoos more like armor and a warning label; something that just might say if you are of the mind to judge me by them, maybe I really am everything you already assume me to be so perhaps it is just best to stay away. 

And I have noted, as Kim mentioned in her epic post, that even though tattoos have become somewhat commonplace, they are still far more socially acceptable for men than women.  And I do not have half the ink she does.  You don’t see a man with a lower back tattoo (and they do exist) getting told he has a “tramp stamp” or a man with a tattoo along his side being told he has a “ho handle”.  But people automatically assume women with ink are sluts (even if they aren’t), nevermind the lower back IS the perfect place for a woman to get a tattoo if she wants one-it is precisely because women PICK this spot that tattoos in that area now have their own special little name.  And as Kim said, how do you think a woman who has a tattoo there, something she probably loves and thought hard about and endured the pain (and spent the money) to get feels when she hears her art refered to as a “tramp stamp”?  How do you think any woman with tattoos feels when it is assumed, because she has them, that she is just so easy and okay with making decisions she might regret later?  It’s almost laughable if you are a grim twist like me.  A dude with a lot of tattoos?  People assume he is a tough guy or a bad ass or someone you best step away from.  A woman with a lot of tattoos?  Well, she’s an easy piece of trash.  Nevermind both the inked up man and the inked up woman have endured the same kinda pain getting their ink and endured the same kinda bullshit from other people for having it and probably both love their art and find it meaningful and special…at least he gets some sort of respect with his, and she gets the exact opposite.  It seems with not even something so once upon at time as counter-culture and “different”, and now mundane as, ink, can the sexes be equal. 

And its funny, because now when people ask me about tattoos, and they still do, and I try to be nice about it even though I have been asked about mine a billion times before, my advice and conversation about it has changed a bit.  It used to be the simple “yeah, it hurts” kind of thing.  Now I will say, if the person is a woman, they might want to think long and hard before getting something on their arms, or that will show in a backless dress, and if they are prepared to have the art they love called a “tramp stamp”  or have people assume they are skanky trash because they have tattoos.  A woman I know wanted to have the name of her son who had passed away tattooed on her, but decided against it because she did not want people asking her why she had a mans name other than her husbands tattooed on her body.  Smirk.  Hell, any dude who wants to say sexism is dead should try flipping bodies with a woman who has tattoos for a few weeks and see how that goes.  People make assumptions about folk with lots of ink period, but as seems typical, women get it more and worse.

Be that as it may…I still love my tattoos, and I love art, and yep, sure enough, its been awhile since I got some ink and with everything else that has been going on in my life, I figure I’m probably justified in treating myself to a new one sometime here soon.  I already got enough that I get all the bullshit that goes with having them, so what’s a few more…still got empty skin after all.    Heck, I even know Kim knows a great artist, maybe I should make my way up to her neck of the woods and spend my tattoo money on an artist who I know is good and hang out some with another inked up gal who knows how it is…maybe I’ll even get a tramp stamp…after all, by then, my lower back will be used to needles and I might as well put something I love over a part of my body I have come to hate. 

::Raises her red bull::  here’s to tattoos and the tough ass women who have ’em and put up with everything that goes with ’em.

  1. Xena says:

    I love ink. But for wanting to scare my mom and shut her up, I might have had way more than I have now.

    A friend gave me 2 free, ugly jailhouse tats when I was 14. I wasn’t happy with them anyway, and I think mom was right about a little girl who runs around with Fuck the World tatooed in cheap faded-to-green ink on her arm. But, of course, being the kind of rebellious 14 year old who would let her buddy tatoo Fuck the World on her arm, and love’s a bitch on her other arm in the first place, I was not about to admit that mom was right.

    So I grabbed a steak knife and a bottle of rubbing alcohol and proceeded to peel off my own scabs in the most disgusting manner possible. I’m kinda glad I did. Those things were NOT art. And I’m still a little disturbed by what mom’s reactions to my self-mutilation says about our relationship. I’m just glad I tested that hypothesis then, rather than getting an ugly surprise later, when I might have actually needed help or something.

    I got a deal on a REAL tat, just before my 17th birthday, when I was in the States. A truck driver at a 76 was stuck without a load for his 5th day, and needed some extra cash, so he was advertising cheap rates for his art. He had a proper gun, and new needles and the rest, and he had a decent little shop set up in his hotel room. He was good, and he only charged me $20 for a detailed 6 colour butterfly about the size of a silver dollar. I was pleased with that one. I still am. But I decided to take the good advice of my close friend, the sailor I’ve mentioned here before. He said your body, do what you want. But wait until you’re 21. You might change your mind by then.

    Smart man. Didn’t he have me pegged?

    My butterfly is on my hip, just visble when I wear bikini panties. Unfortunately, I’ve had 2 kids. My stretch marks are silvery and small, so I can’t complain. I can’t see them at all when I tan. But they run right through my tat. So my poor critter looks like somebody tried to pull its wings off and just pulled it all out of shape instead.

    Now that I’m sure I won’t be having anymore kids, recolouring my critter is on my to-do list. YAY! 🙂 If I weren’t dealing with so much grief from our Law&Order gvt., I might even consider getting more. But you are SO right, Ren. People are idiots about it. For me, some types of self expression just aren’t worth it. I’ve always wanted blue hair too, but that’s a line I don’t dare cross with all the policing that goes on in the places I frequent.

    I LOVE ink on other people. Tats are sexy.

  2. I have four and Mr Daisy wants me to stop… I think he knows I’d have as many as Kim if left to my own devices.

    Would love this on my back, really big. Someday I will:

  3. Have you ever heard the The Who song “Tattoo”?:

    My father beat me
    Cause mine said “Mother”
    But my mother naturally liked it
    And beat my brother
    Cause his tattoo
    was of a lady in the nude
    and she thought that
    was extremely rude

  4. rachel cervantes says:

    I have to admit, I have to fight an automatic negative reaction and tendency to stereotype when I see tattoos. I dislike the fact that I stereotype, but I’ll not apologize for it. The time for apology is when I stop challenging the stereotypes. I’m much better about it and I know a number of very fine people (superior to me in many ways) who ave tattoos. It’s that initial response I am still struggling with. Tattooing is becoming fairly mainstream and that will help with acceptance. And I do champion acceptance. Except for my kids..please, kids, no tattoos!

  5. rachel cervantes says:

    Haaaa! Would that I could re the BMW. I’d make it a Lexus, though.

  6. Mr.Grim says:

    …..but you have to admit that the sterotype does fit sometimes. Like me, I am a guy, I have many tattoos . Am I a tough guy ? Maybe. Am I a badass? I am the Baron Of Badassery (BOB). I will totally admit that the sterotype does not always fit. I know alot of people who went out and got a 2 inch tattoo that they proudly roll up there shirt and put on a tough guy face like they are an extra from Sons of Anarchy. Because of this I find tattoos on guys and girls not a sterotypical thing anyore . Everyone can buy them. Now scars… them, I have a few myself, mostly on my forehead. Scars you dont go out and buy. Life gives them to you, if you want them or not. They tell a story. Branding to me is like tattoos, you can go out and buy them. I guess my point is be proud of your tattoos , or lack of, your fraternity branding…..but most of all be proud of your scars. Inside or out you wear them well.

    • Ren says:

      scars are the true road map of life! Baron of Badassery…I like it!

    • Ren says:

      i also have a pretty cool scar. I have had a whole lot of people ask me if I was a firewoman or in the military over in Iraq and thats how I got it. I have always said no to both of those questions. I do think that one time when someone who as annoying me asked what happened to my neck I did respond “freak grain thresher accident” though….

  7. Erik Schwarz says:

    Tattoos and mothers: there is a book in there somewhere. When I first contemplated tattoos, in my late teens and in the late 1970’s – before they became fashionable and when they still were associated with military men, convicts and bikers – I raised the subject with my mother. “Of course they look lovely, dear,” she said, “but remember they make an easy identifying mark for the police.” Proving that she had drawn an accurate bead on my lifestyle and knew exactly what to say. Her sangfroid about tattoos was honest though: her beloved father Oscar had a full set.

    Of the various designs you describe, Ren, the most intriguing to me is the Kali Naga. This is an unusual murti, or form, of the goddess. I am far from knowledgeable about her, but Kali is inter alia a mother figure. Some of the best religious poems ever written IMHO are those of Ramprasad, her 18th century devotee. He often addresses her from the perspective of an exasperated, somewhat conventional child. “Why do you go around nude? Mother, is it a virtue in our family to trample your husband underfoot? You’re nude, he’s nude; both of you roam the cremation grounds. Oh mother! We’re all ashamed of you; please go get dressed. You have thrown away your jewels and put on a garland of human skulls.” This translation loses the beauty of the verse but conveys, I think, its tone.

  8. Erik Schwarz says:

    P.S. Your grandfather has, or had, the most badass of all possible tattoos. His numbers add up to “I have been to Hell and back.” Everything else, including biker and jailhouse tats, is kid stuff by comparison.

  9. slutpryde says:

    I find this whole post very anti-slut. Shame on you all.

    Has it ever occurred to you that we get tramp stamps precisely because we WANT to be seen as sluts??? That we know the true power of a woman is between her legs, not ears? And don’t hesitate to use it to our fullest advantage?

    And sure as hell don’t need to be judged for it by some catty Stepford wannabes.

  10. Xena says:

    Did sp go to the Evelyn Woods school of context analysis or what? Did she totally miss the part about the author’s work history and life/education BALANCE?

  11. slutpryde says:

    I’m sowwy. Am I the only one here who waves her tramp-stamped slut flag with unabashed pryde?

    Yes, I objectify and use men solely for their cocks & sperms. I take what I want from them and give no apologies. Isn’t this what feminism is all really about, gals? 😉

    • Ren says:

      GET OFF MY BLOG YOU FUCKING TROLL..hello stupid little wanna be…porn actress, stripper, everything you wanna be when you grow up? I AM IT… It is soooo past your bed time kid, curl up on yer pillow and come back when ya gotta a brain.

      Nothing wrong with being a slut or liking sex at all..but if you think that is all you are? Big problem, and i am too antisocial to even deal with that shit

      • slutpryde says:

        Pipe down kitten. I’m not going to get into scoreboards here (don’t need to brag or prove myself to some e-wannabe), but I score more than Dirk every night. And I do it for free, for the pure love of meatstick.

        I’m not a cheap whore, I’m a damn slut. And the last people I need to be demeaned for it is a bunch of clucking hens.

        But as usual, jealousy rears its ugly head anytime I mingle with females, so I rarely even bother anymore.

        • Ren says:

          ROFLAMO and i would be jealous of you…why again? You came here seeking attention cupcake, not the other way around. HAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHA.

        • Mr.Grim says:

          I hate to tell ya, everyone scores more then Dirk, especially now. Since you are a local “gal”, this should be fun.

        • Kim says:

          “Meatstick” and “clucking hens” total dude-speak. You ain’t no chick. BOOOOOOORING.

          For the record, we have no problem with “sluts” around these here parts. We just don’t call them “sluts” as there ain’t no such thing.

    • Ren says:

      Oh and kid..tell me about yer fucking tattoos, rebel.

  12. rachel cervantes says:

    “Gals?” Piss off.

  13. rachel cervantes says:

    Ren, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts this “gal” has a penis.

    • Ren says:

      eh, i say “gal” all the time…but I recognize and certain lack of writing skills from a recent troll…and it is WAY past her bed time…

      I mean really, I am so stepford and anti slut, yeah?

      • rootietoot says:

        Hey, let’s all us gals get together and watch Golden Girls reruns while we paint each others toenails (because we can’t reach them ourselves) SexKitten Pink! I’ll bring wine coolers!

  14. ernest Greene says:

    Personally i’ve been thinking of having a T-shirt printed that says:

    Yes, they hurt.

    No, they don’t come off.

    How much they cost is none of your business.

    Save me a lot of useless fucking conversations.

  15. Xena says:

    Yeah, the first thing I did when sp showed up was go back and check the green on that gravatar against boobiething’s green. No match. But wordpress does have some features that can help shrewd commenters make a decent educated guess about whether or not another commenter is sincere. We all KNOW Austin Powers/sp/Mr.Boobiegawker is a silly British troll. Might even be Lord Sod or one of his buddies. Some of the concern trolls I’ve seen are actually very good at threadjacking, so I rely more on these features with those twits.

    But I’m not about to explain it in the presence of the troll. Last thing I’d want is to help him.

    Hugo gets more hatemail than any blogger I’ve seen yet. If delete and ban aren’t enough to get rid of your idiots, Ren, Hugo has the Excalibur of troll blasting systems on his site, URL trackers and all the rest. Check him out. He might be able to hook you up.

  16. Kim says:

    Aw, Ren, sorry I’m so late on this, thanks for the dedication. (I just got 3 more tattoos on Monday, BTW.) Love this post. In general on tattoos, you either get it or you don’t. I couldn’t even tell you why I like ’em, other than always kinda being of fan of something outside the pale. One thing I forgot about tattoos: they fucking hurt! Forgot how much — this new one is on that tender skin on the inner bicep. FUCK, glad that’s done!

  17. I am seriously contemplating getting a tattoo for the first time in my life. I used to be super-afraid of needles–but I can handle them fairly well now. I love art. I’m old enough to not get something stupid. I’ve seen a huge array of tattoos over the past few years, good and bad. I know exactly what I want, and where I want it (arm).
    But your words make me pause–I don’t want to be judged. I’m over being judged as “slutty,” that’s so high school for me. (Money’s also an issue, but I could set some aside from the next few paychecks and get it in a few months.) But I can’t stop thinking about this idea…

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