“OMG! What is that!?” is a question I hear too often in dimly lit bars and frat house living rooms. I don’t know what's in the chemical composition of alcohol that makes people forget what a tattoo is, but apparently it's strong at this school. Let me start off with saying that I have a rather large piece on my right shoulder and in the past two years at Penn it has always been an odd conversation starter.
The only thing worse than wearing a dress where you can see the whole tattoo is wearing a shirt that only lets a little peek out. I don’t mean to say that I hate people looking at it or talking about it, but having it peek out seems to be an international code for “you should probably touch me and/or try to move or take off my shirt to better see this mysterious thing.”
I think the reason Penn students treat tattoos like a weird rash is because they're kind of rare here. When I was growing up, most people I knew had tattoos. It was the 90s in California, a boom for the tattoo industry, where every 20–something had to have a some ink. You can imagine my surprise coming to Penn and not seeing very many people with these seemingly foreign skin pictures. That isn’t to say that all people at Penn don’t have tattoos, but there's a relatively small number of us. Come on, we're all young and reckless, right? Aren’t these the exact years when should be going a little “tattoo crazy?"
When talking to Penn students about tattoos, one of three topics comes up. The first is “I want to get a tattoo, too, but I don’t know what to get.” I am not sure if people want me to give them advice on what to get (not that I would know that) or if they want to seem cool. Either way, I worry that these are the kind of people who end up with hearts, butterflies, daggers or some other hackneyed mess. The second is a classic go to, “did it hurt?” I am desperately waiting for the brave soul who makes this into a pick up line in a “when you fell from heaven” kind of way, but alas… a girl can dream. But in all seriousness, anyone one who says tattoos don’t hurt is lying to you and you should not trust them. The third and possibly most bizarre response is “don’t you want to get a job?”
Yes, some jobs frown at visible tattoos, but that is why most of the Penn students have them in at least somewhat discrete places. I am definitely in the pro–“make–some–art–on–yourself” camp, but it's really nobody else’s business if I choose to get a little inked up. It has a long–standing tradition and if done right can be one of the best experiences you can have with your own body. This being said, no, I don’t think you should get art permanently etched on your forehead. Businesses are not going to like that. But if I get a job that requires me to wear a skimpy tank top, I don’t think it's going to be a job that cares if I’m a little inked up. But who am I kidding, I'm a history major, I'm never going to get a job.