Please Stop Asking Me What My Tattoos Mean

Of all the things guys say to me in bars, “what do your tattoos mean?” is but a few steps up from “what’s your sign?”, neck and neck with “my friend over there wants to know if you think I’m cute” and miles below even the middling “do you like The Smiths?”

This is not because I hate talking about myself (um, duh) or conversing with strange men (actually I mostly do, but let’s pretend), but because it’s a super annoying question.

(Related: What Does a Snake Tattoo Mean?)

When you ask what my tattoos mean (as in, all my tattoos), you are basically asking me to take you on a guided tour of my entire body, which is kind of an imposition on anyone, but especially someone you don’t know very well who, by virtue of being female and unchaperoned, is already feeling slightly wary of anyone who might come off as even having the potential to be creepy.

Do I have tattoos where you can’t see them? You bet I do. Am I going to show them to you or even intimate that they exist? Not unless I want to sleep with you, which I most certainly will not wish to do after you’ve asked me a question like that. (I’m currently in a monogamous relationship, but it’s fun to speak hypothetically.)

Actually, let’s back up a little. I realize not everyone who asks this question is trying to be creepy; some have just taken the wrong messages from the media.

While they’ve been helpful in normalizing tattoos to people who don’t have them, TV shows like Miami Ink have also given people skewed perceptions of how much tattoos mean to people and how openly they’re willing to talk about them. The truth is that not every tattoo has an explicit meaning.

In fact, most of the tattoos I have, I got for one very simple reason: I liked the way they looked, tried them on for size, liked how they looked on my body and wanted to make them permanent. Those flowery things on my left arm? They signify “flowers.” And those colorful, bird-like things on my right arm? They signify “birds.” Fascinating, I know.

Why is a person aesthetically attracted to one image over another? Why did I choose birds and not a pirate ship, a giraffe, or a naked she-demon with six flaming skulls for heads?

Well, why do you like the art that you like? You can probably give a decent explanation, but at a certain point, you have to admit you just dig it, man, for deep, Freudian, subconscious reasons that probably go back to childhood.

Would you like to analyze my childhood? Let me get the photo album. Just kidding, it’s at my mom’s house. And why did I choose to put the art on my body instead of on a wall? Do I belong to a subculture that’s brainwashed me into thinking tattoos are beautiful?

Basically, the answers to all these questions are simultaneously too short and too long and will make me feel like an asshole either way.

Conversely, some tattoos do mean things to people. Let’s do a thought experiment and say that my birds do not just represent birds, but four family members who’ve died of cancer. It’s kind of painful for me to talk about, but I will try to summon the courage, right here in this bar, on my night off, just for you, stranger. Maybe I’ll cry a little bit. You will feel so much closer to me afterwards. Do you see where I’m going with this?

I actually do have one tattoo that means something beyond “here is a work of art that I like enough to want permanently etched on my skin.” It’s a tray of toast and tea, and it’s a bro tattoo I have with my friend Jess because we like to eat breakfast foods and drink tea together. It’s kind of our special time to catch up on everything that’s been happening in each other’s lives.

I actually don’t mind talking about this tattoo, but you have no way of knowing that before you ask, do you? Or maybe I’ve overstated my case a bit and it’s okay to ask about one specific tattoo (choose wisely!), but if the person says something like “it’s personal” or “it’s a long story,” you shouldn’t push.

This is not to say that it’s never okay to comment on someone’s tattoos. After all, they are out there on that person’s flesh for all the world to see. I think a good rule of thumb is to treat them as you would any other aspect of a person’s style: hair, clothes, accessories, etc. Would you assume there’s a deeply personal meaning behind someone’s blonde bob? Here are some okay things to say:

“I like your tattoos, they’re so pretty.” Thanks!

“Who did those birds on you?” Jess Versus at 1228, she’s the best!

“What does that little tea tray mean?” Friend love forever!

Here are some dumb things to say/do:

“Did those hurt?” No, having twenty needles in my arm felt like a massage.

“What is your tattoo of?” If you’re unable to decipher this figurative drawing I’ve commissioned, I want my money back.

“How much did they cost?” How much money do you make?

“What are you going to do when you get married?” Wear a white dress? Drink champagne? Get lifted up in a chair by my relatives? How is this question relevant at all?

“What are you going to do when you’re old?” Be an awesome old lady with great stories to tell, hopefully. And saggy, colorful body art to distract from my leaking colostomy bag.

[stranger touches my person without asking (yes, people actually do this)] [I start digging around in my purse for pepper spray]

Are you starting to pick up what I’m throwing down? Basically, use common sense and don’t be a jerk. Far be it from me, a rock and roll degenerate, to tout the importance of proper etiquette, but some social codes exist for a reason, and a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.

Is it rude to ask people what their tattoos mean?

Is it rude to ask people what their tattoos mean?

You got the tattoo to get comments. So, shhh.

  • Ella Jane
    • I have a kite on my back. Anytime I go out with it showing, at least one person walks up to me and asks “is that a kite?”
    • I don’t understand. Why. YES, IT IS A KITE. what else would it be? it is a trapezoid. it has four panels and a string coming off it with bows. it is clearly blowing in the goddamn nonexistent wind on my back.
  • natalie:
    • Really? It’s got the little kite string and everything!
  • feline:
    • Next time someone asks you “Is it a kite?” Keep a seriously straight face and say “No, its a…” and then add something that it clearly isn’t, like an elephant or something. Usually gets rid of them and any further inane questions.
  • Patrick
    • Don’t worry, I cross tattooed women off my list immediately. You have already told me everything I need to know about you….
  • NotThumper:
    • I kind of agree with you. As for the author of this piece I think you’re over thinking it. In a bar with a bunch of single people asking about the tattoos is a way of making conversation and I doubt they’re trying to be creepy. How is it a tour of your entire body? How can someone ask about tattoos they can’t see and if they CAN see them then perhaps you should wear a bit more clothing. If you bother to mark your body with a ton of ink then it’s clearly a cry for some sort of attention so don’t b*tch when you actually get it.
  • Jamie Peck:
    • 1.) Because “tattoos” implies SHOW ME ALL YR TATTOOS
    • 2.) It is entirely possible to be creepy without meaning to
    • 3.) Someone can ask about tattoos they can’t see very easily, in fact
    • 4.) What an ignorant thing to say. It’s not a cry for attention any more than any visible style decision is.
  • Seriously?
    • Well if you know they aren’t trying to be creepy then you’re just paranoid or simply looking for something to be pissed about.
    • Annnnnnd most visible style decisions are decided on for certain purposes, same as a tattoo.You can try to justify your article all you want but it just sounds like whining.
  • Jamie Peck:
    • I would argue that a decent portion of creepy people are not aware of their own creepiness. It’s not my responsibility to figure out the intent behind something that creeps me out. Just because you don’t realize you’re being creepy is no excuse, just like not realizing you’re hurting someone’s feelings does not take away their right to feel hurt and receive an apology beyond a condescending “sorry you got mad.” I wrote this post partly so folks could educate themselves on how to avoid making someone else feel icky, which I think most decent people would like to do.
  • Quin:
    • Tattooed women are not all alike. There are plenty of reasons for getting tattoos, and plenty of different types of people get them.
    • If you don’t date tattooed women because you think they’re all alike, then you’re wrong. The only way that they’re all alike is that they don’t care about what men like you think of tattooed women enough to change their style for you.
  • Benedict:
    • @NotThumper:“ If you bother to mark your body with a ton of ink then it’s clearly a cry for some sort of attention so don’t b*tch when you actually get it.
    • ”Clearly to whom? To people without tattoos? Because of course they’d be the authority on “reasons why people with tattoos get tattoos.” Oh, wait…
  • Amy:
    • I wish everyone would read this! I only have one teensy tattoo that I got (7 years ago) because I really liked it.. and I still do! However, everytime someone asks me why I chose it, I always feel like they’re looking for some deep meaning behind it.
  • Ashley Cardiff:
    • I don’t think you’re whining.
    • A friend of mine has a tattoo (of a face) on his leg and the things people have said about it–to him and within earshot–have been kind of jaw-dropping, eg: parents herding their kids away, people loudly speculating about the face itself and then drawing insane (and mean) conclusions, direct harassment from strangers. Add to that, you’re a girl and people will use them as grist for hitting on you. So… maybe tattoos are just kind of a hassle?
  • LCT:
    • Love it. I don’t mind when people ask about my tattoo, because I love showing it off (on the back of my neck, btw), but just a random person in a bar? Yeah, that would be weird. And I totally agree with you that people need to be re-educated a little about personal boundaries.
    • As for the earlier commenters, I think their view of tattoos is a little outdated. Tattoos may have been a cry for attention in the past, but nowadays it really IS just an extension of personal style. They can be meaningful and personal, or they can just be a fun picture of a food you like to eat. Hell, they can even be ironic hipster tattoos. Point is, they aren’t really seen as rebellious anymore. Myself and many of my (20-something) friends and family members have tattoos and we’re pretty square, goody-two-shoe-types.
    • Maggie:
      • Agreed! I see my tattoos as an extension of my personality; they’re pieces of artwork that are there for me to enjoy. I find that people are a lot quicker to judge young women with tattoos, for a plethora of reasons, so it’s harder to accept that someone gets tattooed for decoration and not some deeper meaning.
  • Jenn:
    • I am not heavily tattooed, and both of mine do have further meaning beyond “flowers,” but I still don’t want to share it with some random stranger in a bar. Really? Do you really need to know the deep, personal story that led to me wanting something permanently engraved on my body. That’s like second date, at least.Also, when people walk up and touch my tattoos and then remark “Oh, I thought they would be raised,” it’s annoying on multiple levels. There’s the “you just touched me” level and the “you don’t really know a damn thing about tattoos, do you?” level.
    • Ashley Cardiff:
      • “people walk up and touch my tattoos and then remark “Oh, I thought they would be raised,” ”Oh my god this happens?!
    • Maggie:
      • That’s happened to me before! A lady who came in to my office one day actually grabbed my arm (one of my tattoos is on my forearm and pretty visible) and ran her finger over it, without asking, because “she wanted to see if it was marker or if it was a tattoo.” I’ve also had older relatives ask me how I’m going to wear a wedding dress with tattoos on my back, like it’s some kind of deformity or skin condition that’s going to prevent me from wearing a wedding dress.
  • Benedict:
    • All of my tattoos are hidden inside a shirt, so nobody knows unless I want them to. This, however, leads to being asked what my tattoos mean at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME:
    • A lady friend and I make it back to my place, her place, whichever, and we’re in the bedroom about to make the sex. Then my shirt comes off, and one out of every two or three times, this happens:
    • “OH MAH GAHHH, you have TATTOOS??? WAIT! WAIT, let me SEEEEE! Whoaa, what do they all MEAN???”
    • *facepalm*
    • Unfortunately, your pepper spray advice would serve me rather badly in that situation. So, Jamie, what’s plan B?
  • Cee:
    • You don’t have to tell its life story, condense it or lie about it and move on. You obviously have a need to express a story in your tattoos, if you didn’t want anyone to know about it, you could have written it in a diary or put it somewhere less obvious. It is out there because you want it out there and if you really have a problem with everyone’s stupid or creepy questions, cover up.
    • People are always going to be curious and want to make conversation, if anything you should be appreciative that people do pay attention to your artwork or were attracted by it enough to inquire about it. It’s like wearing a distinguishing piece of jewelry or a particularly nice is nice to be told it is nice, asked where you bought it..and so on. There is no need to be hyper sensitive about this issue.
    • Jamie Peck:
      • Nope, most of my tattoos are just decoration. Honest!
      • Like I said, it’s fine to comment on a tattoo as you would a dress or a piece of jewelry. I love compliments, and I love promoting my friend’s work to people. Just don’t ask overly prying/lame/etc. questions.
  • Eileen:
    • I always thought that you treated a tattoo as a more permanent version of an outfit (unless someone has just said “Look guys at the tattoo I got today in memory of my sibling who just died”)…but I will admit to asking about pain. Not “did it hurt,” but more like, “did it hurt more when you got that tattoo on your shoulder or the one on your arm,” just because I’ve thought about getting one and would like to know.
    • Although if I think about it, I only ask that question of people who are actually my friends.
    • Ashley Cardiff:
      • Yes! I think this is the main point: tattoos aren’t an excuse to bother strangers.
      • However, I’m inclined to believe that if you’re polite enough, you can ask most people almost anything.
  • Amanda Chatel:
    • Thank you, Jamie. I love this.
  • Nancy
    • I find it so annoying when strangers would ask me this, too. I mostly just find it annoying because it happens constantly, I’m getting really sick of it. But I don’t know what to say other than just to tell them, and it’d really take a while to explain the whole thing and what it means to me, so I never do it justice and then the strangers just look at me like I’m crazy and say “Oooohh….” What can I say that is short and not rude?
  • Dennis:
    • I’ve been getting most of my work from the same person as Jamie actually (that’s Jess at 1228 Tattoo!) and the most recent piece we’re working on doesn’t have any special meaning besides:
      • 1) I like flowers.
      • 2) I like graphic design work.
      • 3)I would like to combine those and put them on my body. It’s the piece I’ve gotten the most compliments about, as well as the one I’ve had the most strangers grab at. I totally get what Jamie’s talking about with the “guided tour” bit. If I’m out and somebody asks about one of my tattoos, I don’t really have a problem talking about it, as long as they’re at least relatively polite. But generally it leads to the question: “Do you have any more?” Well, yes, I do, but I don’t feel like getting half naked to show you. On more than one occasion, I’ve politely told people that I wasn’t really up to explaining everything, only to have people give me looks and tell me I’m an ass. As in, how dare I not immediately disrobe and show off for them? It reminds me of when little kids tap the cages at zoos and complain “It isn’t doing anything!”
  • Patrick:
    • Sorry, your tweety birds, barbed wire, Chinese symbols etc don’t mean anything except that you have no sense. Can’t wait til your 50-60 with some washed out tattoo regretting that you were ever so foolish. I see girls with tattoos and all i think is low class …….
    • Hanna Brooks Olsen:
      • Wow, that’s an exceptionally rude and horribly judgmental thing to say to a person you’ve never met.
    • Michelle:
      • Oh please. Low class? I’m significantly tattooed and can guarantee I’m.
    • LCT:
      • So, Patrick, what is your definition of class, then? Since most tastemakers in our society these days have tattoos?
    • Michelle:
      • Oh please. Low class? I’m significantly tattooed and can guarantee I’m better paid and more respected than any fool who thinks he can judge someone, specifically a woman, because she has tattoos.
    • Lady Badger:
      • How do tattoos equate low class? You know these things cost money, right? And usually a lot of it… And Hanna is right, but she did forget how awfully asinine it is.
  • Lady Badger:
    • I have a few tats also, and they’re all in places where they can be easily covered. But sometimes they peek out of shirts, the bottom of skirts/shorts, etc. This does not make it okay for someone to move my clothing to look at my tat. Same lines of touching it “to see if it’s raised”.
  • Patrick:
    • Tattoos are the bell bottoms of our times, sure to go out of style but this time you are stuck with them. Just saying what others are really thinking. Taste makers of our time? Lol that’s a good one!
    • LCT:
      • You want specific examples? Would you even recognize their names, though? That’s the real question…
    • K:
      • are you suggesting tattoos haven’t existed for thousands of years? oy vey.
  • midas:
    • The Pictures are awesome ! I like your tattoos, where did you get them? what do they mean? can i touch them.
    • Bighaus:
      • To funny lmao.
  • Patrick:
    • Well gotta go. Keep deluding your self and we’ll keep laughing at your foolishness………
  • LCT:
    • Lesson learned here: never feed the trolls. I always forget…
  • Vandelay:
    • Because as we all know, girls get tattos because they don’t want to draw any attention to themselves whatsoever.
  • Lindsey:
    • I think this article has the wrong attitude. First, look at the first picture in the article. Look at the left half. Menfolk probably approach Jamie Peck in a creepy fashion regardless of whether or not she has tattoos. Tattoos are just, apparently, the approach she dislikes the most.
    • Next, if it’s decoration, why get so defensive? “What do your tattoos mean?” “Nothing. They’re just decoration.” “Really?” “Yeah.” That is SO much easier than if you had tattoos that mean (private/complicated) things to you. When strangers or people I don’t know too well/at all ask me and I don’t want to talk about it, I tell them that I don’t want to talk about it. And then we don’t. I don’t think it’s rude when people ask me questions, and they understand that it’s my decision not to explore that line of conversation. Because I’m polite and I don’t get offended when people want to make small talk with me. Especially since tattoos, (especially large/visible ones) are still an oddity.
    • But, yeah, you should probably tell people it’s rude to touch strangers. One of my tattoos is on my back, so I can’t see when people walk up behind me and move my clothes. It’s rude! Don’t! Touch! Strangers! But you can only tell that to the people who are touching you.
  • LM:
    • I seriously thought I was the only person that got the “What are you going to do when you get married?” question. I was a little stunned, and I simply replied “Well, I should hope my husband knows about them by that point” which pretty much put a cap on that conversation.
    • Lauren:
      • Nope. I’m not even seeing anyone seriously but I still get that question regularly because I have tattoos on my shoulder and arms. I find it a ridiculous question to ask.
  • Megs:
    • I get that it can be somewhat annoying when you get overly chatty people who insist on knowing all about your tattoos, but personally I enjoy the fact that people notice and like to look at my tattoos. I didn’t get them to be hidden from others; of course I got them for me first and foremost, but I figure that it’s an added bonus that strangers find them interesting.
    • My tattoos don’t necessarily mean anything, and it’s easy to just say “eh, they just look pretty and I love them”, even if they had some deep meaning. Just because a tattoo may have significant meaning to you doesn’t mean you have to say there’s meaning. You don’t have to pique a stranger’s interest by saying “it’s personal” or whatever, just say they mean nothing.
    • Now imagine having the entire upper half of your upper arm and shoulder be practically one big mess of scar lines from cutting as a teenager. Whenever I go sleeveless, people stare. They tend to at least attempt to be polite, but staring at someone’s arm for an extended period of time, you tend to notice these things. Sometimes people ask- and I REALLY don’t want to ever tell a stranger what they are. But would I ever blame someone for asking me? Hell no. It’s something totally different, and people are going to be interested.
    • If you really have such a sore spot for being asked something so innocuous, maybe you should have thought about that BEFORE you have permanent art on your body. (Because art was meant to be appreciated).
  • rbttrooper:
    • I once had a complete stranger kiss the Virgin Mary tattoo i have on my arm. It definitely was a clobbering time moment.
  • MR:
    • Jamie, whoever did those ones, in the first two photo, is a really great artist. I don’t have any, but I do have a knife wound. Yeah, not as sexy.
    • Jamie Peck:
      • The flowers are by Elio at Fly Rite, who is retired now. The birds are by Jess Versus at 1228 tattoo. Both custom work. 🙂
  • Jennifer Wright:
    • If I ever get a tattoo, it’s going to be of a naked she-demon with six flaming skulls for heads.
  • Magda:
    • One of my best friends got these really detailed wings on her back like right when she turned 18, hers do have a (personal) meaning having to do with asecond chance at life, that she doesnt like to talk about.
    • But the question that she hates the most, that she gets every summer or when ever she wears a backless shirt is, “Can I touch them? What do they feel like?”
    • The answer is SKIN! They feel like skin! and NO! you cant touch them!
  • Jaydee:
    • I don’t understand you women sometimes. Its like when you go out wearing that mini-skirt well above your thigh or top that shows just enough cleavage for you nipple not to fall out, then you get mad when folks stare(mainly guys). Its like being a celebrity. Yes you get the fame and fortune, but it comes at a price…your privacy and extra attention.
    • When you advertise (extend yourself) you have to understand you’re gonna get the attention of your target audience and that audience you don’t expect. Let me just say, men love to look at and fantasize about women(I hope you know this). We’re wired to be attracted to you. If you have something else to notice, hence a tattoo, we’re gonna be just that more attracted to what you are.
    • Now let me say, I don’t condone folks(man or another women) touching you without permission. I think that’s over stepping your boundaries…even if you’re wearing that mini-skirt with the low cut top. Lol. I’m just sayin’.
    • SVJ:
      • Well, that’s two steps away from blaming the victim.
    • Sandra:
      • We like to have our cake and eat it, too.
    • Feminist:
      • What makes it okay EVER for men to treat women (HUMAN BEINGS) like an object? I truly cannot understand this logic.
      • Yes because I have woman parts it is obviously your RIGHT as a man to stare at them and treat me like an object. Just because a woman dresses a certain way gives you NO RIGHT to molest her, or OBJECTIFY her. Unless you’re implying that all men are merely animals completely incapable of self-control.
      • So next time you see a gal in a mini-skirt or a low cut top, imagine how you would like it if every girl you saw was staring straight at your dick. Or if that girl was your sister.
      • That being said, just because I have tattoos does not give you the right to ask me about them, and never touch me. I’m with the author on this one. The pepper spray is coming out.
  • Stephanie:
    • Actually more annoying then stupid questions or random strangers thinking its ok to touch you or pull your clothing is the folks that then want to tell you all about there/there boyfriend’s/ ex boyfriend’s/brother’s/sister’s/college roommate’s tattoos and the meanings. Geez a pink star for your niece! What makes you think I care?
    • JVS:
      • Precisely. Touching other people uninvited is NEVER okay.
      • Unsolicited “CHECK OUT MY TATTOO THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS!” is equally as repulsive, except in that case you now have to spend time trying to eek out of that situation without looking like a d*ck.
    • Then Quit Showing Them Off In Public! People Are Visual! You Are Pushing Them In Our FACE!!! Have Some Common Sense Or AT LEAST SOME MANNERS! P.S. Nice Tats.
    • K:
      • Wow, are you 15? I hope you’re not any older than that. your english teachers didn’t teach you sh*t, if that’s the case.
    • Kayla:
      • Um, I’m sorry … what? Would you grab someone by the hair because you like their hair colour? No. Well, then why is it “okay” to grab someone with a sleeve by their arm? I don’t know you, nor do I want to be touched by you. Go away, you small little man, nobody is pushing their tattoos in your face any more than you are pushing the World of Warcraft tshirt you’re probably wearing in theirs.
      • Yet again, just because we have them does not give you any right to them. It sounds like you need the lesson in manners.
  • Anna:
    • Agreed on all of this. I have no tattoos, but I have a very visible scar across my collar bone from a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. People who have known me for two hours at bars or parties love to ask me “what happened to your neck”, as though having to explain having cancer will enhance the good time I’m having with these total strangers. *Eyeroll*
  • Emily:
    • I have some script right under my collar bone, and I have had strangers come up to me and move my top over so they can read it. It’s really strange and kind of creepy. If people asked me what my tattoo said, I’d gladly tell them. They don’t need to physically touch a stranger without permission.
  • barely dumb:
    • All the complaining women with tattoos have to put this into perspective. Imagine you being a HUGE animal lover. And that you love dogs more than any other animal. And of all dogs you love German Shepherds. And you love them so much you bought 20 of them and dedicated your entire life to them and built them a stadium-sized grassy back yard complete with 24-hour automated frisbee and tennis ball launchers, back and belly scratchers and an endless supply of gourmet dog food.
    • Then you find a very attractive by walking by with a tattoo on his forehead that says “I love German Shepherds”, would you mention anything about his tattoo? Men feel the same way about all tattoos.
    • Oligonicella:
      • Um, guess what Sparky? You don’t speak for all men, only yourself.
  • Matt:
    • You got the tattoo to get comments. So, shhh.
    • Theresa:
      • People generally get tattoos for themselves NOT OTHERS!!!! SO SSSHHHHH
    • A:
      • Last tattoo I got for someone else was a matching one with my mother. Before that, one for my dead grandmother and before that, my dead grandfather. I’ve never gotten a tattoo so some creep could hit on me or some stranger on the bus touch me.
    • Tony:
      • One day you will get blitzed for asking rude questions
    • Nina:
      • You have no idea why any one does any thing to their body. So, shhhh.
  • Lisa:
    • People can’t seem to tell the difference between “notice” and “use as a potentially inappropriate talking point.”
      It’s not that we don’t want people to comment on our tattoos or notice them… it’s just that it’s not always an appropriate or reasonable thing to say at the time.
    • I think someone mentioned cleavage above? Sure, we expect you to notice cleavage, but going up to someone and using it as an ice breaker isn’t appropriate.
      Same deal.
  • tattoofinder:
    • No problem, we all know what they mean any way: You’re easy, you uglied yourself up, and you easily follow shallow trends.
    • Ness:
      • Whilst people like you make judgement on people who have tattoos, tattooed paople are not judging you for deciding NOT to have them….
  • Juan Diego Escobar:
    • You pretty girl, youre doing it right jajaja that’s just what i think when s/b ask me ’bout my tattoos, nice tattoos, nice article 🙂 thumbs up!
  • Chris:
    • I’m a guy and I get this all the time too. I agree that it can get annoying, but to be expected to some degree. It’s all in how one goes about asking. I think the people who presume tattoos must have some profound meaning are those who suffer from a certain cognitive dissonance, whereby they just can’t fathom why anyone would get something tattooed into their body permanently without it having some really important meaning. Yes, this is reinforced by the TV shows. It’s also reinforced by the fact that most of these folks probably just do not know anyone personally who has a lot of tattoos, so they don’t know what to think.
    • Those of us who are heavily tattooed just have a totally different attitude about it. There will always be those who just don’t understand where we’re coming from. They are the ones who should not get tattooed. It’s not for everyone and that’s fine. Just try not to prejudge those who are tattooed.
  • Charles Barkley:
    • O.K. I can see your point in this article, but overall you are just kind of being a self-righteous b*tch. If a dude is being creepy, of course you have a right to offended. But if someone is just interested a tattoo of yours, why automatically be so mean? Some people might be aesthetically attracted to them, and as you say, why ask why? Asking what they mean might just be they way they are trying to show they are interested. Who cares? You could take off your members-only jacket and be nice.
  • Debbye Leader:
    • Jeez, give me a freaking break. Who cares what your tattoos mean. By putting them on your body in the first place, you should expect comments about them. I have a ton of tattoos and I could care less when someone asks me what they mean. If you put a tat on your bod, people are going to be curious and look at them. If you don’t want comments about them, then put them on your ass where no one can see them except those you choose to.
    • zac wright:
      • If you say the words “tat” and “bod” you shouldnt be allowed to talk about this subject. you probably like tribal and other types of bullsh*t.
  • Natalie:
    • I’ve just got to ask… what lipstick are you wearing in the cover photo of your post? It looks great!
  • Tania:
    • Wow (about comments), this is why I am finally investigating why people get so angry about fashion. I like to dress ‘unconventionally’, as do shit loads of other people (not unlike tattoos), people ask me the same stupid questions. “what does it mean?” and “why are you dressed like that?” In high school I was given a nasty nickname because of it, which I have since embraced and gotten tattooed. 🙂 There is obviously something about expressing yourself artistically that drives people mad. It doesn’t seam to mater how many people on TV are doing it, people just get freaked out and nothing you say will satisfy them (shut them up) Of those people accusing lacking originality, I strongly encourage them to check out the episode ‘Simpsons already did’ it from South Park, it explains everything.
  • Tony:
    • I do my best to ignore strangers that ask me about my body art. I think everyone should. It is none of your bussiness.
  • tony:
    • It’s RUDE for strange people to ask you about your tattoos.
      it’s none of their business. A few times I have tried to start a fight with strange peeps that confront me about my body art.
    • Joel:
      • Maybe they’re just curious and interested in the beautiful artwork you may have on your body? I don’t go up to random people and ask for specific meanings on why they got their tattoos, because that’s obviously a personal question, but I will admire a piece from time to time and let someone know I like it. A quick “Hey, I love that piece you have on your arm there, where did you get it done if you don’t mind me asking?”. Is that really being disrespectful? If that’s being rude, I feel very sorry for you, as you must be the most intimidating and unapproachable person to talk to. Small talk is small talk, if it’s kept lighthearted, why all the hostility? Just be happy you have tattoos that people admire.
    • tony:
      • But Joel that person with the nice tattoo work did not get it so they can hear random comments on the street from strange people.
    • Aeva:
      • I don’t take it as rude at all. As long as the person seems genuinely interested (i.e. not a creeper), I am happy to explain my tattoos to them. Although my feelings on my own tattoos are not based off the approval of others, it still makes me smile when somebody else thinks something I have designed is aesthetically pleasing.
      • I often comment on others tattoos (if they strike me as particularly interesting or beautiful), and greatly enjoy hearing the stories behind them. Of course I would never pressure them to divulge that information if they didn’t want to, but I don’t see what’s wrong with inquiring about them.
  • Will:
    • People who get tats where everyone can see them are crazy to think some one might not ask. If its JUST for you put it where only YOU can see the dam thing. If your putting it in my face expect to get comments.
  • CatMan:
    • Tattoos are speech…if you don’t want a curious Cat to ask about a tattoo, don’t show it…if you show it, and you are questioned (or commented on) about it, accept your responsibilty for peacocking your body…
  • Who cares?:
    • If you don’t want somebody to ask you about the big blotches of ink sprayed across your skin (that are, let’s face, probably on display in a pretty overt way anyway) then don’t get big blotches of ink sprayed across your skin. Simple as that. It’s like saying “please stop looking at my tits” when they’re popped out the top of a push up bra and tank top. Just such redundancy.
    • Think much?:
      • lol, so what you’re saying is that if one understands that just cause she looks like a slut it may not mean she is one.. the other one must understand that if one acts like a rapist.. doesnt mean they are one.. honk honk..
    • Bighaus:
      • I’m wondering if you Know what redundant means? Because based on the context in which it was used I’m assuming not.
  • Louise:
    • I have “compassion is revolution” tattooed on my forearm and I really get annoyed now when guests at the hotel where I work read it out loud. They all do that and I don’t get it. They’re not asking a question, they’re just reading it out loud so I don’t know what to reply, I either ignore it or I say “yes” ’cause it’s just weird! It’s a strangely invasive attitude because they don’t say “oh your tattoo is interesting” or “do you mind if I ask you about your tattoo?”, they just read what’s on my body, out loud so I know they read it, and that’s it or sometimes they add “you’re a rebel” (??). But when people ask me what it means (although I think it’s pretty self-explanatory) I don’t mind explaining it ’cause they asked a question. I know it’s very visible so I shouldn’t complain but the “reading out loud and not saying anything else” is just weird and annoying. Seriously.
  • Bighaus:
    • I really enjoy this article and it is well written informative without being too snarky! I have my body covered in tattoos and I agree strongly with the fact that most of my tattoos don’t really signify anything other than art. I can also agree with the premise that CERTAIN questions can be absolutely ridiculous in nature and don’t deserve anything more than an eye roll and a “Really” (sarcastic undertone) . I don’t mind the attention or talking about most of my art because, like in a gallery, whatever art is on display is up to critiquing and analysis from the “viewer” of said art and as the canvass I have to realize that no mater how much I paid for a tattoo or how good or bad it is that even van gough and Salvador dalis works were considered less then average when they were first viewed…. therefore regardless of what anyone thinks it is still art and art is always subject to conversation and judgement it is inherent to the nature of art. With that said as far as the female in the bar being “touched” which is common place with tattoos I can understand that this would be cause for alarm, I how ever can not empathize becaus I am a three hundred pound 6 foot 4 30 year old male so the few people who do reach out to touch the tattoos (with the exception of attractive young ladies) are greeted with a prompt what the heck and a firm suggestion not to touch me. As far as creepers go…… well creepers gonna creep and fortunately for you you do have mace in those events. Really dig the article 🙂
  • name:
    • Then don’t get them! You do love the attention. Stop pretending you don’t, you turned your body into a billboard for a reason. God I swear, all girls do this.
    • If you really didn’t want attention for them, why are you broadcasting an internet article to the world about it? Your lack of self-awareness is downright staggering. I’ll tell you what your tattoos mean. They mean you think you are deeper and more complex than you actually are.
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