Matthew Munson: To ink or not to ink?

Once the province of sailors, prisoners, and rebellious types, tattoos have become a part of mainstream culture. In the interests of full disclosure, I feel strangely compelled to tell you that I have a tattoo – of a snake on my upper right arm. First, let’s talk about the pros of tattoos.

  • A tattoo is a form of self-expression. You can display your individuality without having to say a word; they say something about that person.
  • You become part of an informal network of fellow tattoo enthusiasts. It encourages people to see past first impressions and talk to other people who have been inked – it’s a visible sign of an enthusiasm you have in common.
  • Tattoos can still look good as you age. With proper care, and the help of new and improved tattoo inks, a tattoo can look amazing for decades to come; mine hasn’t faded in over six years so far, and I’ll be managing the inks in the future.
  • You can use it to remember an event, a person, or a passion that you love and care about.

There are often assumptions made about people with tattoos, especially for people with visible ones. I made a conscious decision not to get one that was visible tattoo – one that I could hide when I wanted to – in order to make sure that I wasn’t judged when going for job interviews and so on.

I don’t mind admitting that, when I’ve met people with neck or face tattoos, I’ve wondered why they’ve chosen that path. It can sometimes prevent people from getting work, and anyone paying for a facial tattoo must have considered it. Okay, it’s not universal, but it certainly is common.

I can remember working in customer service jobs where the hiring managers wouldn’t hire people with visible tattoos, and any tattoos they did have had to be covered by clothes or make-up while on duty at all times. Some managers were very strict about this.

I felt … uneasy about that, as I suspected that we were missing out on some good recruits because of some often small tattoos. However, when I met someone with a flame going up the entire left side of their face applying for a job in a public-facing communications job, I suspected that might have been a step too far.

So there you have it; are tattoos always a good thing or sometimes negative? When you have a swastika tattooed to your forehead, it’s certainly a useful way of indicating that a job in social services might not be for them. However, a single tear tattooed next to someone’s eye, or a full sleeve up someone’s right arm, might not always be so bad.

My tattoo runs from my shoulder down to nearly my elbow, and I sometimes hide it with a jacket or a long-sleeved shirt if I’m sure it won’t be well-received.

Is that the right thing to do, or am I over-analysing the situation?

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