Lifestyle, Arts & Culture

Body of Work — a Seismic Shift in Perspective Regarding Tattoos


“No ragrets” is probably the most identifiable meme for millennials on getting inked (or else Google “We’re the Millers”) alongside the hundreds of regrettable tattoo images online. If one thinks the above scenarios serve as cautionary tales for a lifelong commitment to permanent body art, the increasing number of inked individuals prove otherwise.

Tattoos have moved beyond the stigma of being worn on the body of gangsters to being a celebrated art form and a medium of self-expression. However, this does not mean judgment from people outside of one’s social circle has stopped. Everybody who has body art would have their own stories to tell, but this begets the question: “Who exactly are these tattoos for?”

This writer has his upper torso entirely inked, and he would place it in the 80:20 ratio, where the 80 percent is a reminder of the life lessons taken, while the remainder admittedly brings up the desirability factor. They are also good conversation starters because there are indeed good stories to tell about them. Is everybody fawning over them? That would be a hard no.

Self-expressions in the form of tattoos are democratic; the individual chooses the art through his own free will. It could also be said to be in the subset of freedom of speech, and likewise – lest it is forgotten – it could offend. As cute as butterflies are fluttering around the lower back, somebody would still label that as a “tramp stamp”, and all the “desirable” societal credentials would easily be thrown out the window.

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Society has taught us to believe that we can be whoever we want to be, including having every inch of exposed skin covered in ink. However, many have not come to the realisation that such a belief comes with its own set of terms and regulations – dream big and become a doctor, but you will be damned if you had tattoos and want to become a doctor. That casual association between frivolity and tattoos will be the glass ceiling for the doctor because his dependability will be called into question.

Yet again, many people have a utopian vision of society – everyone is perfectly receptive to all kinds of lifestyles. While the world is learning to be more tolerant, that vision is as literal as what the word “utopian” means – a fantasy. We are disregarding the fact that, as human beings with free will and regardless of the amount of “YOLO” (you only live once) one wants to be, every individual will have his or her preferences.

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Therefore, somebody will hate your tattoo – including elders. What happens next? Defensive mechanism kicks in, and it becomes imperative to tear down every wall that gets in the way, which means you will have to severe family ties. There is also that argument of one’s body being his to decide on what to do with it, and unless one owns his own island with a multitude of servants doing his bidding, it does not hold any weight.

Nobody in society lives in isolation, and it is actually fake news that all of our actions are inconsequential. You are free to do you, but the result requires one to own up to his actions. I will not speak for other people, but I know the bearings my tattoos have on others. Take, for example, when I was searching for an apartment in my T-shirt. A landlord refused my offer because she thought I was involved in an illegal business, and my job title was a front for it.

While it was small-minded of her to think so (because I would make so much money in illegal dealings and gone for bigger apartments), I could not blame her for not wanting to take the risk of losing her property. I learned a lesson, so the next time I went apartment hunting, I covered up in a long- sleeve shirt.

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The tattoos that we have define us as much as it also does not with its negative connotations. My body of work and my literal body of work is mine to keep, but I am also mindful of opportunities out there that will never be accorded to me, like potential partners who cannot accept a heavily-tattooed individual.

We can never have a sure-win in all life decisions, and that is a fact, regardless of tattoos or not. On the other hand, a misspelled tattoo like “no ragrets” will definitely cause heavy losses in the game of life.