I am 24 years old with 4 tattoos. I love each of my tattoos for different reasons, and they each hold a special place in my heart and mind. I often find myself gazing at the artwork on my body, amazed at the possibilities and beauties of life that is self-expression through tattoo ink.
When I got my first tattoo, I had no idea the amount of questioning, entitlement, and ignorance that was to come. That is, how many random strangers, rude family members, and malice-intended “curious” people would think that I owe them an explanation for the choices I made for myself and my body.
“What does your tattoo mean?,” seems like a harmless question, right?
Assuming that someone’s personal choice to tattoo themselves is an invitation for anyone with decent eyesight to ask them about it is wrong. Some tattooed folks don’t mind explaining each and every one of their tattoos, and they may even welcome it! However, assuming that someone’s body is for your viewing pleasure, your consumption, and your speculation is harmful. (And I feel is somewhat connected to rape culture, but I won’t swerve onto that tangent today.)
My tattoo is visible, but please don’t ask me about it.
The fact is, the choices we make regarding our bodies are personal. They’re ours. Whether that be a dramatic haircut or color, a unique piercing, or even a scar. Nobody is owed an explanation for the choices someone else makes for their body. You don’t know if a scar on someone’s arm is from a childhood accident, a near-death experience, or a domestic violence situation (or all three). You don’t know if someone cut their hair to symbolize a big change after a bad break-up, grief surrounding the death of a loved one, or for medical reasons. And you really don’t know the reason behind such an intimate, individual decision that is a permanent tattoo. Heck, those reasons may not even be super deep, personal, or meaningful, but that still doesn’t give you the right to pry into someone’s business. Check your entitlement.
So save your demanding inquiries. Compliment my tattoos if you wish, but refrain from posing your “innocent” questions. Give others the chance to open up to you regarding their tattoos, just as you (hopefully) would any other piece of them.