One of my plans this weekend is to hit up the Field Museum with a friend. Well, first we’re going to the Shedd Aquarium to flip off the dolphins, but then the Field Museum. The reason for all of this is two fold: because I can’t drink while I’m on the Whole 30, and because the museum has an exhibit on tattoos that will run until September of this year. Both of us are tattoo enthusiasts, so we figured we would take some time to check it out.
As best as I can remember, we never really had an active dialogue about tattoos in my household when I was growing up. If there was one, it was usually my dad saying that we had to wait until we were 18 to get one, and if we got one it had to be easily covered up by a dress shirt. There was never a conversation that ended with “If you get a tattoo I’m going to fucking kill you” or anything like that. It was made very clear that my parents weren’t fans of tattoos, but once we turned 18, we were free to roam.
The thing is, I feel like getting a tattoo isn’t as taboo as it once was. I remember growing up and hearing my friends talk about how if they got a tattoo, their mom would kick them out of the house. Some people were told that if they got a tattoo, there was no chance that they’d be able to get a job once they graduated college. Personally, I think that’s really fucked up; especially in a day and age where if you don’t have a tattoo, you’re probably kind of lame.
Yeah. I said it. We could make arguments all day about whether or not having tattoos will have an effect on your career—and in some cases, it might—but that’s not stopping people from getting them. In fact, a New York Times poll from 2014 said that the percentage of Americans getting tattoos nearly doubled from 21% to 40% between 1999 and 2014. Judging by the people I hang out with and the bars and coffee shops I frequent, I’d venture to say that number hasn’t gotten any lower.
I think a lot of the apprehension that comes with tattoos is that people feel pressured to have some kind of deeper meaning behind them. That if something’s going to be on your body for the rest of your life, it has to have a profound impact on your personality. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t; one of my tattoos is to remind me of a really important time during my life. But who’s to say that you can’t go out and get a tattoo because it looks cool? Do you like elephants? Go get a dope elephant tattoo. Show that shit off, it’s a part of you now.
The fact is, not every tattoo has to have a story. If you truly love a piece of artwork, why not get it inked on and take it with you? And vice versa, if you see someone with an awesome tattoo, maybe they don’t have a meaning behind it; maybe they were shopping around and thought it looked cool. Isn’t that kind of the point, too? Even if your tattoo means something to you, somewhere in the back of your mind, I’m pretty sure a part of you is thinking to yourself, “Holy fuck, I look sexy with this thing.” And that’s okay! If you’re feeling yourself, who cares?
Sure, tattoos used to be a sign of counter-culture. You either got one if you were trying to rebel, or if you were a sailor. But it’s not 1943 anymore. Tattoos are more common than ever, and the likelihood of you looking unprofessional because the scroll on your back shoulder is exposed during a work outing is pretty much out the window. Now, I’m not saying to go get a face tattoo that will frighten children. That may be excessive. But if you want to express yourself and have something permanent to show off, give tattoos a shot..
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