Thought Catalog
March 21, 2014

3 Excellent Reasons Why People Choose To Get Tattoos

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Truth be told, the author is right in some sense, tattoos are not for everybody. Tattoos are not for the shallow people who cannot see beyond skin deep. They are not for the realists who cope with the sudden departure of a pet by watching the news. They are not for the free-spirit that has multiple quotes she lives by and is proud to show off her bitter sweet love quotes by Anais Nin or her battle quotes by Winston Churchill.

As an Asian Woman with ink, I turn heads everywhere I go and I have grown accustomed to the usual questions that accompanies – the whys, how, when and what. I am not supporting people to go ahead and be reckless and ink their entire body with ‘tramp stamps’, I am merely providing an insight on why we are inked, and why we wear them proudly.

1. Memories

It is more than preserving something for eternity; it is much more than just a stupid picture of a pet or a family member. For many, it is about closure, it is about closing/healing a gap left by the demise of a beloved. It is about continuing with life, feeling as though their loved ones had never left their side. I once met a guy at a tattoo parlor, I was 18 then, and he was 29. He had a fully inked left arm sleeve of the 18 levels of hell (an Asian mythology that there are 18 levels in hell where endless suffering takes place) which continued to his entire front of his left torso. But his right arm was the complete opposite, there was only one tattoo – a realistic tattoo of a delicate hand grabbing on to his elbow complete with shadows and creases on the skin. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked – what does that tattoo mean? It has been close to a decade and I still remember his words: “This is where my ex-wife first touched me; she grabbed my elbow while we were crossing a street.” He had it eternalized by inking it onto himself (I later found out that his wife passed away in a hit-and-run accident two years back).

2. Art

Art exists in various forms, some take to the streets to display their liberal take on politics and society in the form of rebellious graffiti. Others paint abstract paintings and display them in an exhibition that fetches a handsome price. But art itself is a form of expression – to express feelings, characters or even a single thought on a canvas and to me (and to many others, I hope), our body is the best instrument. We will ink which ever body part we like, in as many (or few) colors as we like because this canvas is ours and we really do not care if you are able to appreciate our art or otherwise.

3. Love/Passion

This basically summarizes why people with ink, have ink. It could be a rash decision to tattoo a Mickey Mouse on your back, which you may end up regretting when you are about to put on your wedding gown, it could be a boyfriend/girlfriend’s name, it could be a love quote, a tribal design with no touching story behind it, it could be a portrait of your parents, a tattoo of your grandmother’s specs, it could be a signature, a song lyric, a single word in another language which signifies strength, faith, courage or love. It could be anything at all. The bottom line is, we went through the design, the pain to have it inked on us, and if that isn’t love, or passion at one point or another, I don’t know what that is. So do not judge us because you do not or cannot understand our reasons. Having ink doesn’t mean we do not eat healthy, that we do not work out or that we do not respect our body. We do not judge you for being narrow minded, do not judge us for being openly expressive. TC Mark