It's quite difficult to write how I feel about tattoos or how I feel about how other people feel about tattoos simply because I have such an opinion on the matter that I'm not sure how to word it in a way that does justice to my thoughts. It's strange that something I'm so passionate about is so difficult for me to word. But I'll start simply; my stance on tattooing is defensive - not because I feel the need to excuse my reasoning for getting the tattoos that I have, but simply because there is no black and white answer regarding the prospects you have in life whether you have tattoos or not. It frustrates me to another level when people say you'll regret tattoos later on in life, or that you won't get a job if you've chosen to tattoo. To me, this is ridiculous. Maybe it seems like complete shit on such a personal level because, for me, the life that I want to pursue is not one that can be discriminated against according to personal preference. Wanting to pursue photography is a career in which self expression is vital, maybe this is why I have a predisposition to body art, or maybe it's not, but having a picture permanently on my wrist is not something that's going to stop me getting where I want to be because, frankly, how can a tattoo define a personality, a motivation? How can it characterize self-worth or determination? If anything, many tattoos are permanent motivational reminders. Yes, it's true that you don't necessarily need to get something written on your skin in order to remember it daily, but that's just the thing with tattoos - some people are more inclined to go for it and some people are not and there is no difference in the credibility between the two and no reason why one is going to get further in life than the other. For me, a tattoo is a form of self expression as much as what clothes you wear or what color you dye your hair - it is also an expression that is becoming evermore accepted in the workplace, just like it should be and should always have been.
My first tattoo was a bow on my wrist. I had to use someone else's ID because I was underage at the time, but I have never been so sure about anything in my life when I got it done. I used the three month rule, in that you wait 3 months before getting it to see if you still want it, and it was excruciating waiting so long that when it finally came around I was even more sure than ever. I got it done at lunch time while in lower sixth, November this year marks the 4th year that I've had it and it is still my favorite tattoo to date. I'm not sure whether this is because it was my first or because it marks the end of a time in my life that, without going into any detail, was so confusing and somewhat difficult for little young me. Seriously, I still love it as much as when I first got it done and every time I brush my teeth in the mirror and see it on my wrist, it makes me happy. I absolutely love it four years down the line and I can't see a day when I won't. I now have four tattoos, two on my left wrist and one on my rib. I already have plans for more. I think they are an exceedingly beautiful form of art and that is an opinion of mine that will never change. I have always been drawn to tattoos and I will be for many many more years to come.
Before I warble on, I'd like to make it clear if I haven't done so already that I strongly believe tattoos should have a personal appeal and that the argument I've been making up until this point is categorically one for tattoos with meaning. A famous tattooist once said that if a tattoo doesn't "tell a story" then it is not a "valid tattoo". While I can't say I agree completely with this opinion, I do think it is fair to say that a decorative tattoo has the capacity to become irrelevant and therefore regrettable. That I agree with and can fully understand. In this post, I am talking solely about tattoos done with feeling, emotion and a cause, tattoos that I don't think have the capacity of regret. It's like a different take on that famous saying; "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel". A 'pretty' tattoo for aesthetic appeals sake and nothing else - well of course that can be regretted, you'll forget why you did it, you'll forget what the point of it was and I can safely say that when you're 85 it's hard not to argue that you won't regret getting a tramp stamp done when you were 18 and single. But a tattoo that was done with feeling, with a cause, a memory, a reminder of something special, THAT can never and will never grow old in my opinion. It will never be something you didn't feel at one point, it will never be something that hasn't made you who you are today, and it will never be a meaningless mark on your body that you thought looked pretty when you were less fat and wrinkly. It's a reminder of something, of a time in your life when something was important enough to permanently write it into your skin. It is not just a pretty pattern than can age and become irrelevant to your future life like a meaningless tattoo can, it is part of you and where you've been.
Not to completely discredit my entire opinion but just because it is impossible to implement my point without using this seriously overused quote - but it's true, you really do only live once. And seriously, excuse the cliche - but how can you regret something that once made you smile? Regardless of whether tattoos fade and people change and life moves on, you are not the person you are today without your past and every choice you made. Maybe one day I'll wonder why I thought it necessary to get something my seventeen year old self wanted permanently etched into my wrist, but I can safely say that regret is a word that will never ever cross my mind in relation to the way I've treated my body. When I get to seventy I can promise you that I will look back on every single mark on my skin and remember how I got to where I am, the stupid things I thought, the stupid things I did and the stupid choices I made as well as all the good things - in the end all reflecting who I've become. Partly through bruises and scars I'm sure, but notably through the color that has been permanently inked beneath my skin. Natana Whakaari said of tattoos; "it will be your ornament and companion until your last day" and personally, I would rather die covered in a life full of memories than with nothing at all.
A tattoo is an affirmation: that this body is yours to have and to enjoy while you're here. Nobody else can control what you do with it.