By Ally Balcerzak
Around my 19th birthday I got my first tattoo. It was a circle of bass clefs on my back
shoulder and I had wanted it since I was 16. When I showed it to my parents later
that week, they had nothing bad to say about it, but five months later at my cousin’s
wedding, the rest of my family couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves.
My favorite comment of the night wasn’t even made towards me, it was said to my
father as I stood next to him. “Why would you let her get that?” Asked his mother,
“You let her ruin her body.” I took that moment as my cue to leave before an
argument started. As I sat back down at my seat I couldn’t help but wonder what the
big deal was. Did my tattoo make me a bad person? How could a simple piece of art
ruin my body?
There has been a stigma surrounding tattoos for centuries. Many religions are
against them, and some won’t even allow you to be buried in their cemeteries if
you’ve been inked. Older generations often look down on tattoos as well, finding
them to be a part of teenage rebellion. But the fact of the matter is, a tattoo is merely
an expression of oneself.
Granted some people get tattoos that aren’t meaningful, but for many of us each
piece tells a story. My bass clefs represent my love of music and the nine years
I played the cello as a child; while my strawberry with the words “Let it be”
represents my mother and mine’s favorite band, my childhood, and one of my all
time favorite songs. I have friends whose tattoos are in memory of parents and
grandparents, and friends whose tattoos represent once in a lifetime experiences.
When I am in professional situations I am expected to make sure my already non-
visible tattoos are covered in order to “fit in.” On more than one occasion I have
been told that getting a tattoo was crazy because it isn’t acceptable in the corporate
world, but frankly I think that’s wrong. Having a tattoo does not make me a criminal,
an idiot, or a burden on society. All it means is that I found a piece of art that speaks
to me so much I want to carry it with me forever.
Oftentimes, when people first find out I have two tattoos, they are shocked. Not
because they are ugly or in strange places, but because I don’t “look like someone
who would have one.” My favorite reactions come from those parents who think
I’m a “wholesome American girl.” That initial moment when they first see one of my
tattoos is priceless because their faces go from shock, to judgment, to anger, and
then finally end up on acceptance, all within a matter of seconds.
Just because someone has a tattoo does not automatically make them a bad person.
We are functioning members of society just like everyone else. The only difference is
we have a little bit of badass permanently inked on our skin.