To Ink or Not to Ink?

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Tattoos have become a popular accessory to have on your body over the past few years, but unlike clothes, they stay – trust me. Some people get tattoos for a laugh and if you’ve ever seen the show Tattoo Fixers, you’ll know what I mean. Several people of all ages come into the edgy pop-up shop with dire tattoos, ranging from the words “Chicken Nugget”, which two girls acquired whilst drunk on the strip of Magaluf, or a badly drawn star on the ankle that was done with a sterilised needle at a skate park at the age of fourteen.

Sometimes people seem to forget that these don’t scrub off in the shower. They are now a part of you for life. A pretty daunting prospect to some, but for others, it’s something sentimental – just for them, no one else.

A few years ago, there was a segment on ITV’s This Morning, discussing the stigma surrounding tattoos, and whether celebrities who proudly show off their ink are bad role models. Do these tattoos makes them defiant against a social norm, or unprofessional in the workplace? Of course, Britain’s resident loud-mouth Katie Hopkins was putting forward her argument against tattoos, claiming that when people are young and impressionable, they will do anything to emulate their idols; whereas a little-known X Factor contestant claimed that they were works of art.

I can see both sides of this argument, but I can’t necessarily agree wholly with Hopkins that the entire population with tattoos get them to imitate their role models. What people choose to do with their bodies, whether that be piercings, tattoos, or even just expression of individuality through clothes, or even eccentric hair cuts or colours, is their own choosing. Yes, there is an argument for people being impressionable, but people are influenced by everyone surrounding them – their parents, friends, teachers as well as what they see on the internet. But these tattoos that take the shape of 1950’s pin-up girls, animals, or philosophical quotes, do not have to imply that someone is a bad role model. Your lecturer could have a cheeky tattoo concealed under that beige jacket of theirs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t listen to them, because, after all, they are there to teach, not show off their body art.

People who have tattoos themselves, may not even have them on full display, out of their own want for privacy, because their tattoo is for them, and them alone. They may be small and easily concealed so they are allowed to express themselves but keep it private. Tattoos can be described as an expression of one’s personality, or inner self, or they may be an attention-grabber which is made to shock, or provoke a conversation or questions such as “Why that?” or “What inspired you?”. Inspiration can vary from person to person. It could be in memory of someone close to them, an obstacle overcome, or simply that they just like the design. But who are we to say that these people are in fact bad people or bad role models to others? Are these people automatically less credible just because they brandish a lyric from their favourite song on their arm? Are you going to discredit my article when you find out that I got my first tattoo only a few weeks ago? Yes, it is arguable that some tattoos can be obscene and ridiculous, but on the other hand, some tattoos can beautifully done and can be considered works of art.

Yes, the prospect of being drawn on with permanence can be frightening, but sometimes you have to grin and bear it – literally. But you have to be sure that this inking is what you really want, or whether you’re doing it to be different just for the hell of it. Just keep in mind that this is for life, and not only for a few hours like the temporary tattoos that you used to stick on with a wet sponge when you were seven years old. You have to be sure that this expression of yourself is something you’ll be happy showing your parents, or and that it won’t inhibit your career in later life. Yes, tattoos are great to show off to your mates, but they really aren’t when you wake up and realise you have the word ‘Potato’ tattooed on your chest. Tattoos take time, so my advice is: take your time. Plan it carefully, and make sure you’re happy with decision, and that you don’t waiver over your choice in the days leading up to your first inking. Better yet, if it has some sentimental and personal connection to you, it makes it worth the pain.

An expression or not, tattoos do not dictate whether someone is “bad” or not, Hopkins. People are free to make their own decisions, but if a young eighteen year old decides to copy their favourite singer or actor and get that initially horrifying inking, remember that they made that choice, and that if they regret it in later life, it was exactly what they wanted at that point in time. If you’re looking for someone to pin the blame on, don’t blame their role model, because we have no idea what the reason or impetus was for their tattoos. It shouldn’t effect their personality, or whether they are “good” or “bad”. So remember the next time you meet a respectable young man or woman, if you catch a glimpse of their personal inking, it does not effect who they are as a person, or make them less competent than others at their job.

The rush of your first tattoo is such a good feeling but just remember to be prepared. Oh, and also, the pain isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

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History student and new Features Editor for 2016/17. Consumer of chocolate, of tea and vodka, voyeur of Scandinavian crime dramas , and writer...or attempting to anyway.

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