As I am writing this an older lady has walked by and shook her head a me. Another one the day before came up and asked why I had “defiled my body like that”. That’s okay though, words can’t touch me…
Tattoos, now more than ever, are incredibly common. It’s harder to find someone without at least one tattoo than it is to find someone with one. Still, having one, most likely in a coverable spot, is a lot different than numerous tattoos covering your entire body.
I am a heavily tattooed female, and my unconventional look has me standing out in the crowd quite often. Being a visual anomaly, I get a lot of stares on the train, sidewalks and most places I go, but I’ve gotten use to it. It comes with the territory. Stares I can handle, invasive questions I can handle too. “Ooo what does that say?” “Did that hurt?” “What does that one mean?”
I’ve become numb to these prying questions that I receive almost daily. Obviously it hurt, needles in your skin don’t exactly tickle. Also, If you can speak but not read the English language, than you should maybe question something other than what my tattoo says. And if it’s written in another language, chances are I don’t want you to know.
As nosey as most people can be, and as annoying as these repetitive questions can get, that’s not the big problem. The problem is the invasion of personal space that comes along with the curiosity of the onlooker. And that apparently the childhood lesson of “look but don’t touch” has decided to desist its teachings.
The other day on the train I had someone point at my arm and touch the tattoos on it, despite my obvious pulling away. A simple touch might be a bit of an understatement. They ran their hand down my skin as if expecting a physical sensory reaction to accompany the visual one. This wasn’t the first time I had been physically accosted in such a manner for basis of pictorial inquiry either. Though surely this person, along with the others like them, were unaware that what they had done was extremely rude, and so I held my tongue. But then again, how could they not know?
As soon as preschool hits and we are old enough to communicate, we are taught about personal space, and that your body is your body. It’s a crucial bit to understand in order to protect ourselves. So why is this vital piece of knowledge being lost with age? Is it another one of our human virtues being shredded along with patience and privacy?
I know sometimes tangible encounters can’t be avoided, but I’m not talking about a subtle hand on the back to politely encourage someone out of your way, or to get their attention. I’m speaking about the abrupt poking, stroking and flat out grabbing that a lot of people do just to get a better look. I’ve had a person go ahead and pick up my arm and proceed to rotate it in different directions, just to ensure all angles of the images on my skin had been taken in. All while I stood there, amazed by how inappropriate they didn’t feel.
I get it, tattoos look cool. The detailed work is extremely interesting to see, and I can understand how one might be compelled to get up close and personal. However, respect basic boundaries. Just because someone has alluring shapes on their skin that you don’t normally see, does not invite you into their bubble without permission. Yes I know it’s art and it’s meant to be experienced, but this is visual art, not textural so experience it with your eyes and not your hands. Is there really anyone out there who enjoys being caught off guard and touched by someone they don’t know? Doubtful.
You wouldn’t grab a person’s arm who you noticed had a large and interesting, coloured birthmark or scar on it and ask “ooh, how did that happen, tell me all about it, stranger”. No, chances are you wouldn’t, because you know that would be rude and none of your business.
Observe and ponder such uniqueness as you would anyone carrying something out of the ordinary on their skin, from afar. Unless invited in by the owner of the oddity, please keep your curiosity at bay.
Tattooed individuals should not be an exception to the rule of consideration and personal space, it almost boggles my mind that they are. You would think that a person who welcomes sharp and painful objects into their skin would appear less inviting to touch. But judging from my experience and that of my inked peers, apparently not.
I suppose common sense is still a thing which needs to be acquired, and thus the basis of this rant . Similar to restaurant etiquette, whereas nine times out of ten you don’t properly know it unless you’ve worked in one.
Now I’m not saying that the contents of the population can only understand the law of boundaries once they’ve gone and fused ink permanently under their skin, that would be ridiculous. No, my solution is much simpler than that. Just read this article and keep your hands to yourself, otherwise curiosity just might kill the cat.
This article was written by Tanya Sanca, a writer for dusk magazine.