Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Tattoo Taboo

I never thought that much about tattoos. Jen has two, but I don't have any, but I'm not opposed to them. I've never been able to think of something I like enough to go ahead with it.

I always kind of lumped tattoos in the little box in my mind occupied by decisions made by other people that were of great importance to them, but none of my business, like their choice of partner or the pets they keep. I've always thought, if you have tattoos, that's great, and if not, that's fine too.

I bring this up because Radio Times had a piece on tattoos last week.

I tend to like NPR Interviews for several reasons. The first is that they seldom have an agenda beyond letting the guest speak. They book a subject matter expert and ask a question and allow the guest to answer the question in his or her own words, taking as long as needed. To me, allowing the guest to speak is the important part. Surely everyone has known the frustration of reading about their favorite hobby in the local paper, only to discover that the reporter got it exactly wrong, misinterpreting some key point that totally skews the coverage.With NPR, you're not playing whisper down the alley. By getting the information directly from the source, you're more likely to get it right.

The second reason is that I always got the impression that WHYY booked guests who were just really interested in their subject matter. I'd listen to it at work outside of Philly all the time, and even if it wasn't something that I'd think I be interested in, I found myself sucked in by the enthusiasm they brought to the table.

For this piece, they booked Tim Pangburn, a Philadelphia tattoo artist, and Laurie Ruettimann, an HR consultant with a bunch of tattoos of her own, but who had previously been in a position of rejecting potential candidates because their tattoos conflicted with the corporate culture.

It was a really interesting hour, and I urge you listen at the link above if you have any interest at all in the subject. The thing that surprised me was the amount of hostility in the corporate world towards people with tattoos. I forget which guest referred to visible tattoos as "job-killers", but the other guest immediately agreed.

That was just astounding. I mean, it's 2013. It's a personal choice. It's expression. When Lily was in the burn ward, I remember one of the nurse's aides had a collection of multi-colored superman shields visible. I remember talking with her about it, and the decisions that went into acquiring them.

And while people in corporate culture are certainly judged to a large extent by how they conform to that culture, it's ridiculous that a single tattoo be a disqualifying factor on its own. A friend related the story of someone who received a negative note on her performance review regarding her tattoos. That's bullshit! You wouldn't write up someone because you didn't like her haircut. I might think "Oh, I like/don't like that particular tattoo", but it's silly to pass immediate and irrevocable judgement on someone simply because of how they choose to look.

I have plenty of friends with visible tattoos. My friend Frederick has a bunch, and he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet. When we had Jen's birthday party, three of the people there had phoenix tattoos and somebody quipped they should be the Order of the Phoenix.

Another friend has generously allowed me to use a picture of her tattoo for this post.

I asked Lily what she thought about tattoos, and she said, "They're cool," and when I asked her if she wanted to contribute to the post, she had this advice for people,"You should never get a permanent tattoo unless you've tried it with a regular tattoo in the same exact spot to make sure it turns out right."

(I think it's adorable that she calls temporary tattoos "regular tattoos". )

If she wants a tattoo when she's old enough, that's fine. (And apparently, "old enough" in Philadelphia is 16, which blows my mind) and if not, that's fine too. By the time she's old enough to get one, she'll be old enough to make the choice.

1 comment:

  1. I have to laugh at the whole visible tattoo thing being a show stopper in the corporate world. Because, you know, the suits on Wallstreet have done a pretty good job of screwing all of us over despite that they look the part.