September 16, 2011

Are Tattoos Taboo?


Tattoos have a colorful and tumultuous past in most Christian communities. The attitudes towards marking one's body with ink are varied to say the least.

I never gave too much thought to the debate until recently. Then, in honor of her eighteenth birthday, my sister Rachel got a tattoo that she had been talking about for some time. Despite the forewarning, I was very surprised when Rachel approached me in the registrar's office showing off a very permanent addition to her physical appearance that she had frolicked off and gotten without my knowledge. It's not that I wasn't okay with her decision.

I was just . . . surprised.


Isn't it darlin'? That's a real verse! Look it up.
Rachel's tattoo inspired me to address some of the concerns that people of faith have regarding body art. This mission took on the form of a list of pros and cons. Let me know what you think.

Pros of Getting a Tattoo

It's a permanent representation of something that is important to you. The things you surround yourself with are the things that you value most. Carrying a piece of yourself in the form of a tattoo is like affirming your identity to the world.

It can remind you of important truths. Rachel needs to remember that she has been remembered. Not that God ever forgets her, but in the grand scheme of things, He always keeps her in His heart and makes sure to take care of her. What a great truth to carry with you always!

It can be a great conversation starter, which is great in the case of Rachel's Bible-based tat because it can lead to witnessing opportunities. "Hey, what's that on your wrist?" "Oh, it's my favorite verse." "Wait, your name is in the Bible?" "Yeah, great, huh? Makes me feel special." Viola. Conversation. 

It can be an artistic outlet. Would you believe that Rachel drew that tattoo by hand? Not only did she design it herself, that is her handwriting forever scrawled on the inside of her arm. If that's not expressing yourself through art, I don't know what is.

Cons of Getting a Tattoo

It can make you less attractive to employers. People from older generations link tattoos with people who are irresponsible and rebellious. Of course, this is not always the case, but it's too easy for the people who will one day be hiring you to write you off for your unprofessional appearance.

It automatically rules you out for certain members of the opposite sex. So tragic, but so true. The same way that being blonde will rule you out for some potential dates, being too short will rule you out for others, and having a tattoo will rule you out for others. Some people just don't find body art attractive.

It can cause health problems. Urban horror stories about dirty needles aside, getting a tattoo is arguably unhealthy. Nowadays, some medicines are being administered through application to the skin only with excellent results. If putting something on your skin can cause such changes to your body, how much more is injecting something into your skin doing? 

It may cause some people to associate you with a type of person that you are not. This goes along with the first con. Right or wrong, many people associate tattooed individuals with people of ill morality in one sense or another. I once asked my husband if he thought it would be sexy for me to get a tramp stamp. He replied, "Not in a good way, hence the name 'tramp stamp'."

It won't look  as good when you get old. I don't want to dwell on this unpleasant visual for too long . . .

When it comes down to it, there are a handful of reasons why getting a tattoo could be a good idea, but notice that most of my reasons hinge on the assumption that you are a getting a tattoo that is meaningful to you. Winged unicorns and cartoon genitalia with faces will never be a good idea under any circumstances. On the other hand, as far as cute and classy tattoos go, I think Rachel's takes the cake. It is simple and meaningful rather than showy or obnoxious.

In other words, happy eighteenth, Rach. I approve :-)

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