Tattoos in the work place

21 08 2008

I have tattoos.  More than 1.  Less than 10.  I have multiple hours of work on my body and hundreds of dollars.

The first thing people notice when they look at me are my tattoos.  That is, unless I go out of my way to cover them.

I am lucky enough to currently have a job where my boss dictates the dress code, and also a really cool boss.  If he chose to let us wear jeans everyday, we’d be able to.  If he chose to make use wear formal business attire everyday, we would have to.  He is pretty lenient.  For the most part, I would define our dress code as “business casual”.  But it’s not even that serious.  I do work for the government, so you might think they would be a little more strict.  Let me just say again that my boss is a pretty cool guy.  When I first started this job, it was February in Pennsylvania.  Cold.as.hell.  I wore long sleeves and pants to work everyday, which covers all of my tats.  Now, it’s August, and while not as hot as some states, it is hot enough that I don’t want to wear pants and a sweater.

I wear short sleeves and skirts which show my tattoos.  I sit behind a desk where I deal with government officials (nothing too fancy, this isn’t D.C.), but mostly I deal with the local population.  Namely, old people.  Now, I have a huge tattoo on my arm.  Most people look at it and say, “Wow.  How long did that take?” or “Wow.  That is beautiful.”  But today I got something that threw me off guard.  I want to add that I do cover my tattoos at more formal events.  I know where and when I can push the boundaries.  Today my boss and another local government official held a “Senior Citizen Expo” where local businesses and companies set up tables with free stuff and tell them about services that they provide to senior citizens.  Generally, when it comes to old people, I try to cover my tattoos.  I was working the event, mostly taking pictures because I seem to be the only one who knows how to work a digital camera, and an elderly man walked up to me and said, “You were in the service?”  I didn’t know this guy.  I said, “Yes… How did you know?”  To which he replied, “Well, I saw your tattoo peeking out and I just assumed as much.”

I don’t know why this sort of threw me off guard, and I wasn’t offended by any means, but I was taken aback.  I remembered that when this guy was my age, the only people who had tats were in the service, and their tats were hearts with banners that said “Mom”.  Or of anchors if they were a sailor. When people ask me about my tattoo and what it means, sometimes I just say, “Well, I was in the Army and everyone had a tattoo.”  But really, I’m just too lazy to go into detail and why should I tell a stranger the motive behind my tattoos?

Why should anyone care about my tattoos?  It’s my body.  I’ll do what I want to it.

My biggest pet peeve is when people come into our office and look at me, but then completely ignore me and wait at the other person’s desk for help.  Like I’m going to eat their souls or something.  Hey, you know what – go ahead and wait at Joe’s desk.  I don’t mind.  I’ll just sit here and surf the web while he works.  I offered you help but if you want to wait, go ahead.

How about the age-old question?  — What are you going to do in 50 years when your skin is all saggy and your tattoos look so ugly?

I always say, “Who says I’m going to be saggy and ugly in 50 years?  Maybe I will age beautifully!”

(That’s not me, but she’s 50.)

Or — What will your grandchildren think!?

If my grandma had tattoos like I do, I would think I had the coolest freakin grandma ever!

Anyway, I just felt like ranting for a minute.

What do you think?

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12 responses

22 08 2008
Cool Stuff » Blog Archive » Tattoos Search Engine Results

[…] Tattoos in the work place […]

26 08 2008
David Levy

Tattoos in the work place is a tough one, for sure. We can wear what we want at work, but it wasn’t until the summer and I started wearing t-shirts that people noticed my one and only tattoo – my grandfathers initials – on my lower back, and their perceptions of me changed totally. In fairness, i’m probably not the sort of person who’d have one.

Thing is, the ”in 50 years” comment is a fair one, but at the end of the day (cliche alert!) as you say, it is your body and your choice. Maybe in 50 years you’ll regret it, maybe in 50 years, you’ll look at your arm and be proud that you were the sort of person who ”lived for the moment”. I imagine those sorts of comments say much more about the sort of person they are than any genuine concern for your future well-being.

My opinion – based on not knowing you at all – would be to judge things on an ongoing basis. If the management have no problems with you, that’s good, but perhaps if you find yourself being commented on, take a note to try and cover up a little more, or less, as the situation dictates. A lot of people are scared of people with tattoos, for a number of reasons – the association with pain, the abandonment of worry about how they’ll look, or the creative nature.

Don’t let it get you down 🙂

26 08 2008
Abby

I do generally cover them up, but sometimes it’s just too damn hot. We have A/C but the girl I work with is one of those “always cold” types. Lol.

26 08 2008
David Levy

Oh god… one of those!

Then you’re just plain screwed 😉

26 08 2008
David Levy

Oh, and PS (Can’t believe I forgot to say this) thank you for the comment on my blog! I’ll make you the CDs with pleasure. And yes, they are awesome!

26 08 2008
Bowzer

First of all, great piece, I have had this same conversation with my friends many times. As a schoolteacher, tattoos for me are a SERIOUS no-no. I hate to say it, but it would really undermine my authority with the kids if I had tattoos showing. I suppose the dress code at school would allow me to hide any tattoos I had anyway, but still. To each their own and all that good stuff, but I will admit that I do judge people that have tattoos in a professional setting. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the truth.

I guess it comes down to two things: what you want, and what your boss will allow. As long as both of those things are in agreement, then I think you’re in good shape 🙂

26 08 2008
Abby

@ Bowzer –

I would almost think that tats as a teacher wouldn’t undermine your authority, but make you kinda “cool”. I had a teacher in high school that was rockin with a huge back piece.

I agree somewhat about the professional setting, and that’s why I do tend to cover them as much as possible (seriously limiting my fashionable wardrobe!!!!) But, I feel that every year tattoos become more mainstream and I think that in time they will be completely acceptable, regardless of where you are.

2 10 2008
Kate

Okay, I think tats are awesome. It shows nerve to go through the pain required for tattoos. I say, screw people that judge you negatively for it. They’re probably ignorant bigots not worth your time.

I think tats are awesome. Getting stars on my fingertips and running down my neck.

15 11 2008
jdhays

Hey, I’m glad I found your blog. Great post! I admit to being one of those people who doesn’t “get” tattoos, but I’m interested in learning what it is that inspires people to get them. I hope you write more about this, maybe even an account of what it’s like to go to a shop and “go under the needle.”

15 11 2008
Abby

@JD –
I did a new blog just for you!

15 11 2008
delaney55

I didn’t get my first tattoo until I turned 50yrs old. Got my second one at 53 this year and plan on more. The one I got recently is on my inner wrist and has a butterfly and my daughter’s name. I decided to get it where it would be more noticed (though not as much as if it were on the outer wrist) because I felt I shouldn’t have to worry about where I get a tattoo. Being older, I don’t have too many areas of my body that are good spots. Yes, I am getting older and no I won’t regret any of my tattoos and I’ll just be an old lady with cool tattoos when I’m 70. Get over it people, tattoos are here to stay!

15 11 2008
Abby

@Delaney –
You are awesome!

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