An artist told me, "No matter what type of tattoo you get — or don't get — people will judge you." I believe this is entirely true.
While the grandma in the grocery store may hold her purse tighter because she thinks I may be in a gang, I find that some of the most judgmental people are those with tattoos already.
Some tattooed folks call me a poser because my tattoos hide behind short sleeves. "Why don't you get tattoos on your forearms, hands or neck?"
My answer: "I like to blend in." Also, my arms are prime real estate, and I haven't found something I'm willing to put there. I'm just not a fan of too many visible tattoos.
I keep my ink hidden because I keep that part of me hidden. Whenever I go to a job interview, I hope that my possible employers won't decline to hire me because I like a Japanese painting so much I permanently etched it into my skin — but I won't risk that.
Others with body art may consider my tattoos bourgeois because I planned for ages, found the best artist, paid tons of money and spent days at the shop. While ideas have come to me while drunk, I've never gotten a tattoo while intoxicated. None of my work is from prison or related to gangs — if there's a gang dedicated to Star Wars and robots, tell me. I'll join. Other than that, I'm waaaaay too boring.
I certainly don't have any artistic talent. My tattoos came from trained artists, not from friends screwing around or a buddy's buddy who loves watching "Miami Ink." None of my art comes from a Bic razor and a Bic pen. Call me a germaphobe, but my artists sterilized every needle.
Since tattoos are permanent, I want mine to look as good as possible. While some of my tats are dorky, I don't want to show up on a website when you Google "shitty tattoos."
The only tattoo that I didn't want is from my little brother. He stabbed me with a pencil, and the lead scarred me forever. Does that count?
Some folks think that because I've gone under the needle, I'll instantly befriend an inked person. That's not true. Once, a guy saw my Darth Vader tat so he showed me his favorite work: "SKINHEAD." Not quite the same thing.
I judge myself: I have tattoos that faded, are unfinished or just don't mean anything.
I judge others, too. Did you get that barbed wire because you were a prisoner of war, liked the 1990s Pamela Anderson movie or because you thought the design looked cool?
Like life, tattoos shouldn't be a competition to be the biggest or flashiest. What works for one may not work for another.
Maybe I'm a pretty boy with fancy tattoos and I should go wilder. But as clichéd as it sounds, I like my tattoos. They fit me.