Body modification is not a new concept to contemporary society. According to The Smithsonian, the earliest that tattoos have been present was c. 2000 B.C. Back then, tattoos were typically only seen on female bodies.
But now, according to a report conducted by USA Today, "about 38 percent of young people ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo." The controversy of tattoos continues in the workplace, at home and in many other areas of everyday life. Despite the common practice, many people are still hesitant to fully accept body art. Over time, it has become more accepted than it was in the past, but there are still many professions and careers that require tattoos be covered up while at work.
I have two tattoos myself. The first says "fighter" on my back and it represents the trials and tribulations that I have fought through in my life. The second is a dream catcher with a rose that represents my Native American heritage and the fact that, "The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.”
As a tribute to the beautiful body art that many people have gotten done, I decided to interview a few college students who have tattoos asking them to describe their experiences.
1. Natalie Kriley, Grove City College, 2020
Natalie Kriley is a sophomore at Grove City College who has a very sentimental tattoo with lots of personal meaning for her.
Explaining the meaning behind "Just Breathe," she said, "I got my tattoo in honor of one of my best friends growing up. She had cystic fibrosis, a lung disease, and passed away in February 2015, so last year, about a year after she died, I told my parents that I wanted to get a tattoo for her that she had always wanted."
When asked about her parent's reactions to her decision, she stated that, "my mom was super supportive and convinced my dad to be okay with it too. It was super scary getting it done, but the tattoo artist was awesome. The shop I got it done at was an old bank, so his station was in the old money vault, which was was really cool, and it barely hurt so it was awesome." I thought Natalie's experience was extremely unique, because I had never previously heard of a tattoo shop set up the way that Natalie's was. Overall, she's very happy with the outcome of her body art.
2. Chelsea Escudero, Florida International University, 2018
Chelsea Escudero is a senior at Florida International University who has three tattoos that mean so much to her. Chelsea told Fresh U that she "always knew [she] wanted tattoos." The decision was almost a no-brainer for her, but she then told me that research was a prime factor in the finalization of her tattoos.
"I decided to get my first tattoo when I was 18," she said. "I did my research, went with a tattoo artist that I knew because of other people who had gotten work done by him, and I was ready to go. I was nervous at first and of course not knowing how it was going to feel. But it wasn’t that bad, it just felt like someone was scratching me really hard."
After describing her experience in the shop, she discussed the meaning behind her art and how her loved ones reacted. "My tattoos symbolize, faith, hope and love. My family wasn’t thrilled that I had gotten them without saying I was going to. I always said I would, but I just didn’t feel the need to ask for permission. My friends say that they look cool, pretty and very nicely done. Getting tattoos is a way to express oneself artistically. I love my tattoos and I want more. I do like to think of what I want and placement because I know I will have them forever. But I love the ones I have and do not regret them at all."
Despite the various responses she received from her tattoos, she wouldn't change a thing.
3. Caleb Good, The University of Louisville, 2018
Caleb Good is a senior at the University of Louisville who has a body full of art. Each piece is unique and has a meaning of its own. Rather than the above students who only have one or two, Caleb told Fresh U that he "stopped counting after reaching fifty tattoos."
Even though Caleb has so many, he was able to pick out a few that are very significant to him. Describing his experience the first time, he said, "Going to a shop for the first time was a very nervous experience. You don’t know what to expect or how bad it’s going to hurt, but you eventually settle down and relax and it becomes one of the most therapeutic experiences you’ll have."
I found it very easy to relate to Caleb's experience because I also feel that getting tattooed is like therapy. When I asked him to describe further, he said, "I choose my artists based on the work they expert in. I’m a big American traditional fan so only those who specialize in it tattoo me. My family are supportive but also worry that’ll it effect my future. Tattoos to me are therapy. They’ve helped me through many tough times and help me come to love my body more."
While his closest loved ones are scared that he may not be able to get the job he wants, he doesn't feel that his tattoos will hold him back.
4. Leigh Diamond, Farmingdale State College, Grad Student
Leigh Diamond is a graduate student attending Farmingdale State College. When we spoke about her tattoos, I learned that she has seven in total, with plans to add more to her collection soon.
"The most meaningful ones to me are my avocado tattoo and my Linkin Park tattoo," she said.
You're probably wondering why an avocado, right? When I asked Leigh to tell me what that means to her, she told me that it symbolizes her relationship with her best friend of almost thirteen years. They decided to get matching tattoos to permanently signify what they mean to one another. She went on to say that, "I've been interested in art since I was a young child, so naturally I wanted tattoos because they're essentially pieces of artwork forever engraved onto your body." I could very much relate to her sentiment there.
In regards to her Linkin Park tattoo, she told me that, "It is intimate and meaningful to me because they have been the one band who has saved my life on numerous occasions as a teenager, teaching me how to confront my demons and instilling a sense of hope within me." Leigh said her significant other is a tattoo enthusiast himself so he has always supported her choice to get inked and her family has been equally supportive.
"My family has learned to appreciate them as an art form over time," she said.
5. Gabby Perez, Florida Atlantic University, 2019
Gabby Perez is a junior at Florida Atlantic University who takes pride in her body art. With a total of five tattoos, she told me she "isn't done yet."
When I asked her which tattoos are most significant to her, she told me that she has two that really stand out the most and "describe her perfectly." One is a raven sitting on branches with a quote that says “there is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion." For my fellow avid readers, I'm sure you know who this quote is by (if you don't, it's Edgar Allan Poe).
"Aside from Poe being my favorite author, the quote itself really spoke to me because of the way he describes beauty," she said. "I see myself as a very different individual with unique qualities and my strangeness makes me beautiful."
The second tattoo, which she just got this year, that holds a great deal of meaning to her is a cage on her thigh that includes roses underneath it. When she explained what the meaning behind this piece was, I wanted to cry.
"This tattoo represents the struggles and hardships I’ve gone through and how I’m growing from them," she said. "I’ve been in abusive relationships and situations that have made me feel trapped. But the cage shows an open door because I won’t allow these setbacks to hold me back from moving forward."
This is something that I'm sure many people, along with myself, can relate to personally. What a beautiful and effective way to heal from past struggles. When it comes to reactions from others, Gabby said that she's had some people judge her harshly based on her tattoos, but she's glad that her mom shows interest and support in her choices.
Tattoos are slowly becoming more accepted and understood in everyday life. While there is still some controversy surrounding the choice to ink your body, many are beginning to come around to the practice. As a tattoo enthusiast myself, I hope to live to see the day where nobody has to face judgement based on their body art. A person's body belongs to them and it should never be policed by others. Tattoos are beautiful and they do in fact tell a story that people can keep with them forever.
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