Getting a tattoo is a rush. As the needle cut through my skin I was babbling, I was breathing fast, I was a little sweaty, I felt alive. I was secretly nervous that this was a big mistake.
But when the tattoo artist finished, I felt elated. He did such a good job. Riding on my tattoo high, I came home to my boyfriend. He didn’t say much and I could tell he wasn’t happy. I told him I was getting a tattoo beforehand, but didn’t ask his opinion on the matter.
He finally said, “If you get another tattoo, there’s going to be a problem.”
My heart started to pound. I already felt insecure about revealing my freshly cut tattoo to the world and by the tone of his voice I knew this wasn’t going to be a fun conversation. I took a breath and pressed for more information. “What sort of problem?”
He said, “I won’t be attracted to you anymore.”
I was shocked. I didn’t think he would be over-the-moon happy about my new tattoo, but I didn’t expect that a tattoo could elicit such a dramatic reaction.
I already had one tattoo before we started dating: a small, three-leaf clover on my lower back to the east of the tramp stamp area; although some would still call that a tramp stamp. My boyfriend accepted the tattoo and even complimented me on it.
He explained that he was not happy about this tattoo, but he felt that two tattoos were fine. But somehow three tattoos qualified as tacky. This logic made no sense to me. How does the small leap from two to three tattoos automatically make me a tacky person?
For the next few weeks the fighting and arguing raged on. He said I should respect his opinion. Fine. But is it fine? The whole thing still felt unfair.
Not only did I feel like he was giving me an out-of-the-blue ultimatum, but I felt like I was being held to an unreasonable body standard. What if the tables were turned? Should I threaten to end our relationship if he doesn’t maintain perfect biceps at all times? And shouldn’t true love trump these beauty standards? Did he love me?
He was right about one thing: I should have been an adult and talked with him before I got the tattoo. I decided not to start a discussion with him beforehand because I feared he would change my mind.
Now, I see that if I had explained why this tattoo was meaningful and important to me it would have helped him understand a little better, and most importantly, reaffirm that he is a vital partner in our relationship.
Now that I have been warned about inking myself for a third time, should I risk my relationship over a tattoo?
My response was and continues to be, “My body, my money, my choice.”
In short: I started planning on forbidden tattoo number three.
Through this whole tattoo process, I’ve learned that sporting a visible tattoo is a conversation starter, and not necessarily a positive one. When I go to work, when I go to a party, when I meet friends or family for lunch, I quickly gather the group’s consensus on tattoos without saying a word.
I’ve come to understand that opinions about tattoos fall into three categories: indifference, approval, and sheer disgust.
The ring leader of the “sheer disgust” category is my boss. He is old-fashioned and when he saw my tattoo I thought he was going to faint.
I finally had a discussion with him about it. He told me my tattoo was ugly. He told me I should have come to him before I got it because he would have talked me out of it. Talk about lacking filters or boundaries.
The worst part was that he felt so strongly he started to cry. This has made going to work uncomfortable. I consciously try hiding my tattoo by holding my arm in certain ways. Inevitably I forget to hide it, catch my boss staring at the tattoo, and each time this brings back the memory of him crying in his office.
Despite the reaction I’ve received from my boyfriend and my boss, the U.S. has become more accepting of tattoos; or at the very least indifferent to tattoos.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the public at large feels that tattoos have not made society better or worse; they feel indifferent. For a long time, tattoos and piercings were seen as a part of marginalized society. But over the past ten years these types of body modifications have become more accepted now that 10 percent of Americans are rocking tattoos. So if you’re reading this and planning to get a tattoo, most likely you will not receive the same extreme reactions that I did (fingers crossed).
I still have my job, and my boyfriend and I are still together. I have no plans of covering myself in tattoos. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my style.
Despite the negative response I’ve received from the two people I spend the most time with, I would still get another tattoo. If I am inspired by a symbol or image that is meaningful to me, something that is beautiful, a tattoo that I think would look super cute on the nape of my neck, I would definitely get it.