It is a truth universally acknowledged that by getting tattoos a person is essentially asking the world to openly gape at them. Or so it would seem, from my experience so far. I recently got a rather large, rather visible tattoo, and since having it I've been stared at a lot on the street. It is a weird feeling to walk along and suddenly notice that many pairs of eyes are trained on your leg, let me tell you. Besides being stared at I've also been told that I will undoubtedly regret being tattooed, been asked what I'm going to do or how I'm going to cover my tattoos on my wedding day if I get married (sometimes the "if" gets a little extra emphasis), been told that "oh, I just find tattoos so ugly", and so on.
Normally these kinds of things don't bother me. I'm not a baby, and I'm entirely aware that tattoos aren't for everyone. I like my tattoos, and I don't mind if others don't share my high opinion of them. For some people tattoos are associated with a lot of negative things, and it takes effort to get past that. For others, it's purely aesthetic and they just don't like them. That's fine! People are allowed to think differently about things. That being said, I'd like to give you a few simple pointers in dealing with your tattooed friends and acquaintances, and these have more to do with plain old politeness than anything else.
- Please don't stare. Tattoos are interesting and somewhat unusual and the eye is drawn to them, but staring is different from looking. When I say "staring" I meant the look that judges as opposed to the look that just says "oh hey! a tattoo!"
- Do not touch them. I've had strangers poke and prod my tattoos and let me tell you, it is not an enjoyable experience. Unless you are absolutely certain that it is okay for you to touch a person, just don't do it.
- If you know the person quite well, it is probably okay to ask what their tattoos mean. Keep in mind, however, that they might not mean anything or the meaning might be intensely personal. If they say "it's personal" or something else that essentially translates to "I am not comfortable telling you" then don't press the issue.
- We all know what assuming does, and I recommend that you don't make hasty assumptions about people with tattoos. Don't assume that they are are bad parents, or that they don't have a good relationship with their family, or that they've fallen off of any variety of wagon and into the gutter (all things I have heard people say, sometimes right to me after seeing that I am tattooed). All sorts of people are tattooed and making hasty generalizations about them only makes you look silly at best and harshly judgmental/prejudiced at worst.
- Speaking of assuming, please don't assume that people will eventually regret their tattoos. They might, but they probably won't. When you say this, you are essentially saying "I don't think you are capable of making a lasting decision that will have repercussions throughout your life." That is a weird thing to say to people, especially if you know them well enough to have ever asked if they will get married or have children. Those are also decisions that will last a long time.
- If you tell me that I will look terrible when I am old I will probably say either "so will you, what's your point?" or, "actually, I'll look amazingly cool." Everyone is going to look old when they are old.
- If someone has a tattoo and you think it is great, you can tell them so! It's like someone saying you have a great shirt, or that your hair is looking especially fly today.