This is how you should actually proceed in complimenting someone’s tattoos.

As a woman with multiple visible tattoos (especially now that the weather is not conducive to long sleeves), I have had so many terrible experiences with people attempting to “talk” to me about my tattoos that I can’t remember a good one. It’s frustrating because as much as I got these done for myself, I still appreciate someone else appreciating them, the same way a person would compliment a new hair color or dress.

People think that complimenting someone on their tattoos is an awkward experience because they think the person will be all uppity about not knowing the culture and all this stuff. I would so much rather someone with zero ink tells me that they think my tattoos are beautiful than have some asshole think he knows better than me. Common courtesy is the best policy when it comes to complimenting someone’s body art. Tattooed people are people too.

People think that complimenting someone on their tattoos is this awkward

Disclaimer: This really goes for any person, not just women, but because I identify as a woman, I can really only speak for my experience. This is also coming from my own place of frustration by having strangers just not understand. 

Here’s what NOT to do:

  • Grab someone’s arm, poke them, or really touch them at all. Why do people feel the need to touch me? Do you think because I have gotten tattooed means I all of a sudden enjoy being touched by a stranger on the subway? No. Go away.
  • Just stare. It’s rude when someone doesn’t have tattoos and it’s even more rude when they do.
  • Insert your own two cents. ”Your tattoos are beautiful but don’t get any more.” “The art is gorgeous but a girl like you doesn’t need tattoos to be pretty.” “But what will they look like when you’re older?” You are not my mother. Fuck off.
  • Rattle off the thousands of ideas you have about what to get on your body. I am not a tattoo artist and I literally couldn’t care less about what a stranger gets tattooed on them.
  • Ask if it hurt. Yes, it hurt. No, I don’t know if it’ll be as bad for you because I literally do not know you. You are your own autonomous person and despite my ability to already know what you’re going to say about how it’s not the pain that’s keeping you from getting it, you just can’t decide what to get and that’s why you haven’t gotten it done yet, I am not telepathic and cannot tell you if you’re going to be in pain.
  • Ask if it means anything. Once again, I literally do not know you. For me, my tattoos mean I liked the way they look, but some people get memorial tattoos or tattoos for survival of addiction or illness. Pretty sure they won’t want to talk to you about that, though.
  • Use it as a pick-up line. Please, do not lead into a conversation with my tattoos and think that I owe you anything for talking to you about them. I am not interested.
  • Say “excuse me.” It’s common courtesy and it just makes you look like you’re a good person because you actually care whether or not you’re bothering someone. This also goes for any time you’re thinking about talking to a stranger.
  • Talk about the artwork. Tell the person (if and only if they seem like they are interested in talking to you) that you’d love to know who the artist is if you genuinely care about potentially getting tattooed by that person.
  • Think of the compliment before going up to someone. A good rule to stick by is to compliment someone’s tattoo the way you would compliment them on a piece of clothing. I.e. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you but your tattoos (or shirt/dress/jeans) are really awesome/beautiful/cool/rad.” Bam.

That’s it. Seriously. It’s really not that hard.

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