I Want You To Look At My Tattoo, But See Me


Let’s face it – depending on its location and size, if someone has a tattoo, you’re going to look at it. Maybe you won’t gawk or stare at it, but it will probably grab your eyes. If you really like it, you’ll probably keep looking back at it.

Tattoos have a bad reputation. When most people think of tattoos, they’ll likely think a guy is involved in a gang and/or some kind of criminal activity, or that a woman has an “edge” to her. Most people simply do not expect clean-cut men or “proper” women to have ink.

Tattoos are a particularly taboo subject in the workplace. Most people – usually ones without tattoos – will advise those interested that if they must get one to get it in a place that is either easily covered, or will not show when wearing a work shirt or dress.

They can’t show because having permanent ink injected into your skin automatically makes you a bad person. It makes you an unreliable employee; it makes you an unfit partner in the eyes of your significant other’s parents; it means you’re a rebel – insubordinate, untrustworthy, sure to cause trouble.

And of course, it means you make poor decisions.

It means you live in the moment, and you don’t think long term. It means you probably suffer from Peter Pan syndrome and think you’ll be young forever, or that you figure you’ll deal with any effects of aging when you actually start aging. And your grandchildren – what on earth will your grandchildren think with they see the product of a decision you made decades ago?

In January, after a solid two years of thinking about it, I finally pulled the trigger and got my first tattoo. It runs along the side of my right forearm and came out bigger than I expected, but I love it nonetheless. It’s also the first of what will be many.

My mother hates it. She’s always hated the idea of me getting a tattoo. But then again, if I didn’t do everything my mother was against, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I finally decided to ask my mom what her problem was with it.

“It’s big,” she said. “I feel like it’s very, ‘Look at me!’”

Initially, I was offended. Then I thought about it. She had a point. I did want people to look at it. Part of the reason you get a tattoo is to show people or for them to look at it. But I still want them to still see me.

To me, tattoos are wearable, permanent art. They express character and individuality. They often show what you’re passionate about and – not in a combative way – that you don’t care if other people know it.

In work, I don’t think that tattoos are as taboo as they were say 30 or 40 years ago. Tattoos are becoming increasingly more common and, in my opinion, should play no factor into whether or not you are considered for a new job or how you are viewed in your current one.

In love, I don’t want someone to be interested in me because they think the visual appeal of tattoos are sexy. I would rather they be interested because they think the concept of tattoos are sexy (individuality; expression; you know what you want and follow through with your desires) than just the physical appearance alone.

In life, I don’t want someone judging me because I have a tattoo. If they can’t (or won’t) take the time to get to know me because they have already made a pre-determined notion about who I am simply because they see a tattoo, then truthfully, I don’t want to know them.

So look at people’s tattoos — odds are, they want you to look; but don’t judge, and more importantly, when you look at the tattoo, make sure you still see the person.

thumbnail image – angelo Yap