Over the last 15 years, the culture surrounding tattoos and the people who have them has drastically changed. In July 2004, at the age of 17, I got my first tattoo, by the time school started the following September I had already collected my first four tattoos. Even then I was a spectacle, at the time tattoos were still stigmatized, the only people who had them were "criminals", "bikers", and people in the military.
It's 2017 and things have changed quite drastically. Everyone and their grandmother's all have ink, it has become something akin to a fashion trend. Does it bother me that I was looked down on for years because I was inked before everyone else? Well a little bit. But am I happy a huge part of my culture has gone mainstream and has become acceptable? Yes, yes I am.
I am an expert on the subject. With over 60% of my body covered in ink, I know what I am talking about, so when I lay it down for you, you can take it to the bank. Here are some of the things that you (the general public) need to stop doing when it comes to tattoos, and the people who are covered in them.
1. And this is the biggy, look but don't touch.
I have no idea how many times that I have been poked, prodded, grabbed, and assaulted by random members of the public. Pretend that we (the inked-up community) are museum pieces. Look, but please stop touching. How would you like it if we did it to you?
2. We don't care what you plan on doing with your own body.
Please, for the love of everything that is holy, refrain from telling us what you plan on doing with you own tattoos. Especially if you haven't gotten your first one. You want one? Good for you, do what you want, but please stop subjecting us to how your "future" tattoos are going to reflect your life story.
3. Your hands, fingers, neck, and face are not "cool" places to get a tattoo early on.
Sometimes I think that tattoos have become TOO mainstream. I have tattoos going completely around my neck and throat. I have them on both hands and all my fingers and thumbs. I even have the shadow of what used to be a tattoo on my face. I had to wait years before any artist would touch those parts of my body, I had to show them that I was willing to take the step into a "life-changing" area by covering myself in other places. They wanted to make sure I was ready to make such a commitment.
I know far too many tattoo artists who have had to turn people away because they wanted to get tattoos on these areas of their bodies without thinking about the consequences. Please stop it, you're going to regret it, start somewhere else.
4. Tattoos don't HAVE to mean anything important.
I can safely say that the TLC show, Miami Ink is the reason for the cultural revolution surrounding tattoos. I used to love the show myself, but if there was one thing that truly bothered me about it, it was the fact that everyone only seemed to get tattoos that "meant" something. It made everyone who got tattoos simply for the hell of it seem like idiots. Honestly, if you want to get a flaming skull flying out of your armpit, or Tweety Bird on your butt cheek, do it up, who cares. Do you put paintings on the walls of your home because they mean something to you, or because you just like the way they look?
5. YES, it hurts!
If I had a dollar for every time someone has stopped me to ask me if it hurt getting tattooed I would be an extremely rich man. Sure, different parts of the body hurt more than others when being poked thousands of times with a needle, but I assure you that there is no such thing as a painless tattoo. If you are looking to go the painless route, stick to Crayola markers and henna.
Here I will even help you out so that you can stop asking every tattooed person you meet on the street.
6. Stop asking us, "what are you going to do when you get older?"
Well, the simple answer, grow a big old beard and be awesome.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from taking part in the culture that I happen to love. I am all for it. But like any aspect of any culture, you need to understand it, and understand the people who take part in it.