Old 07-06-2005, 09:34 PM
Misnomer's Avatar
Misnomer is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 8,092

Who is your tattoo for?

A long time ago, on a message board far, far away, I had a conversation with someone about tattoos: I was asked why I felt the need to broadcast information about myself to anyone who happened to see one or both of my tattoos. I replied that my tats weren't for anyone but me, and that, in fact, one of them is almost always covered. I said something about them being reminders for myself about what's important: the G-clef on my ankle reminds me that music is my heart and soul (handy when my job gets stressful), and the wolf on my upper arm reminds me to stay grounded spiritually (handy just about all of the time). But then I was asked an excellent question: why do I need permanent, visable reminders of things that I claim are so intrinsic to my being? I think the exchange ended with me saying something like, "Huh. I don't know." Several years later I still think about this question from time to time, and I still don't have an answer.

I know that I didn't get my tattoos in order to show them off; they are not for other people. As mentioned, the wolf is hardly ever visible, and the G-clef is seen more often but I usually make no effort to either expose or cover it: I just wear what I want. I'll admit that sometimes I do deliberately expose or cover it, but generally I forget it's even there -- and I certainly didn't get them in the first place for anyone but me. But on the other hand, I'm not worried that I'll forget what's important to me if I don't see them in full color on my body every day. I'm not sure exactly why I got tattoos, I just know that I wanted them and I thought carefully about them and I haven't had one day of regret since having them done (in '94 and '98). I feel that the answer lies somewhere between "for me" and "for others" -- or maybe tattoos aren't about who sees them, at all.

So, I turn to my fellow inked Dopers for your insights and thoughts. Who is your tattoo for? If it's for you, as a symbol of some significant life event, please answer the same question I was posed: why get a permanent, visible reminder of something you're unlikely to ever forget? If it's for others, why? Is that just your personality? Is there also a bumper sticker or two on your car?

Replies from the non-tattooed are, of course, also welcome; I'm just particularly interested in what other folks with tats think of their reason(s) behind them. Maybe sorting through everyone else's truths can help me discover my own, and can help me come up with an answer to "why do you have tattoos?" that goes beyond "because."
Old 07-06-2005, 09:45 PM
fubbleskag is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Fishers, IN
Posts: 1,723
my tattoos are about my family. left arm for my father, right arm for my mother, back for my brother (cuz he ain't heavy). so far i only have two pieces finished, but i have two more already drawn and several more envisioned in my head.

that said, i cannot with any honesty deny that i like the way they look - and it's no coincedence that i've never been known to wear long sleeve shirts and the first two pieces are on my forearms, plainly visible to just about anyone, anytime.

left arm & right arm
Old 07-06-2005, 09:50 PM
Liz is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: The 38th Parallel
Posts: 1,499
My tattoo is for me -- a symbol of my favourite animal that symbolizes my own strength and personality. It's on my upper left arm, so it's shown quite often as I wear a lot of tank tops, which is just coincidence. That said, I like the way it looks and have gotten a lot of compliments on it -- once even by a nun!

http://pictures.greatestjournal.com/...4152761/476707 <-- It's going to be a shoulder to elbow sleeve with background scenery and some text once I stop being so lazy and get back to the shop.
Old 07-06-2005, 09:56 PM
Jonathan Chance is offline
Domo Arigato Mister Moderato
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: On the run with Kilroy
Posts: 22,664
My kids.

Right upper arm: heart with 5-year-olds name and birthdate. I had it done on her first birthdate.

Left upper arm: Waiting for the new baby's first birthday for similar.
Old 07-06-2005, 09:56 PM
Glory is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 2,691
My tattoo is for me. It's on my upper back, down my spine and is not normally visible. It is 4 traditional Chinese characters, a Chinese proverb that means "Dripping water can eat through stone." I got it a couple of months ago to celebrate my 55 lb weight loss - it's very meaningful to me, it's a reminder not to mess up. Losing weight is easy, keeping weight off is difficult. I have to keep up all the small changes that led to success.
Old 07-06-2005, 10:05 PM
belladonna is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Ohio, USA
Posts: 2,784
Left shoulder--an abstract circular design of night and day. I really can't claim it has any deep spiritual meaning, but I do think it's very fitting for me. I like the duality of it, the reminder that the dark is balanced by the light.

I've got another on my ankle that, sadly, was for little more than indulging an intoxicated whim. I don't like it nearly as much, but I've come to appreciate it as a little warning to think things through.
Old 07-06-2005, 10:13 PM
tremorviolet is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: beayoootiful Austin, TX
Posts: 4,205
I've got three: an orange goldfish on my calf, an orange koi across my lower back, and a small orange rose on my left hand. Why? 'Cause they're pretty and I like orange and goldfish. No special meaning. (I'm not particularly deep) Although I originally intended the one on my hand to prevent me from ever getting a "real" job. Hah! I sure foiled me. I work in a cubicle...
Old 07-06-2005, 10:16 PM
FilmGeek is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Portland, Obamagon
Posts: 5,165
Left inner ankle.

It's a tattoo of a drawing I made of a camera operator. It does help remind me of my calling, which I need right about now.

No bumper stickers (they tend to anger me).
Old 07-06-2005, 10:57 PM
pokey is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,590
Mine are for me 100%. They are even upside down so they only look right-side up to me. I don't try to explain them to people very much because it sounds stupid, but they make me happy. I feel lucky to have them, and they remind me that I'm lucky.
Old 07-07-2005, 07:51 AM
Trunk is offline
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Location: Baltobama, YesWeCanyland
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Originally Posted by pokey
I don't try to explain them to people very much because it sounds stupid. . .
Old 07-07-2005, 12:30 PM
pokey is offline
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Posts: 1,590
Originally Posted by Trunk
NOT! what I meant.

My story sounds stupid. Other people's stories usually make more sense than mine. Mine comes dangerously close to involving an inner child.
Old 07-06-2005, 10:18 PM
Snowboarder Bo's Avatar
Snowboarder Bo is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Las Vegas
Posts: 25,594
My tats were also chosen after some deliberation. For me, they are an immediate signal to those who see them that says "this is the type of guy you are talking to".

The peace sign is on my right arm. Peace is right. This is the way I try and conduct myself: peacably. Although I am a fairly confrontational person, I don't bully people, I don't coerce, and I don't allow that to happen to me. The rainbow color scheme was inspired by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition... no, I didn't ever do anything with them, I just liked the idea that the name was all-inclusive. I'd like to see all peoples get along with each other. Plus, I mean, come on... rainbows look cool.

The anarchy sign is on my left arm. Anarchy is what's left. This is my commitment to self-sufficiency and self-governance. A declaration, if you will, that I am and will be responsible for myself and my actions.

Of course, the seeming dichotomy/disparity of the 2 tats sends lots of people into a tizzie, and even scares a few, but all-in-all that doesn't bother me. If someone can't "get it" then they prolly aren't people I would want to hang out with anyway. Some of the inspiration for them undoubtedly came from many readings of Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Professor de la Paz's discussions of Rational Anarchy (I know it's not practical in real life, but I like having an ideal to strive for, eh).

I also want: the entire Appalachian Trail on my right thigh, but only after I complete it (1878 miles to go! approximately). Also the trail to Havasupai, from Hualapai Hilltop all the way down to the Colorado River (this is the most beautiful, amazing place I have ever been to... I have spent 42 days of my life down there, and I intend to spend more than a year total in that canyon before I die). The other one I have ready to go is this picture on my upper back and lower neck. It's a depiction of the Alaskan sun god by Joe Wilson. I like the colors, the imagery, and the notion of paying homage to something that is not just an essential part of life as we know it, but a source of beauty and strength as well.

As an aside, I don't find many people with just one tattoo. They are addicting, and it doesn't take long after the first one that people start thinking about another. Is that true for people here? (Sorry for the minor hijack, Misnomer.)
Old 07-06-2005, 10:46 PM
Telperien is offline
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: in this here chair
Posts: 5,555
My tattoo is a reminder that the results of some decisions hang around a lot longer than you'd think. Half the time I like it and half the time it just gives me intense feelings of "stupid white girl."
Old 07-06-2005, 11:05 PM
Flipstrip is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 296
My tattoo is of a black cat with blue and purple dragon wings. I got it because I liked it, and have never regretted it. Not many people see it because it's on the inside of one of my calves and I usually wear pants. Usually people are surprised to find out I even have a tattoo. (Must be that librarian look my hubby says I have.)

And I never had bumper stickers, but I did use to have a TON of buttons with sayings, so maybe it is related to that impluse after all.

To answer Snowboarder Bo's question, yes tattoos are addicting. For years I've planned out other tats to get, and I've just never been able to get them.
Old 07-06-2005, 11:16 PM
The Hamster King is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 10,138
I have the Utah Teapot, in wireframe, tattooed on my right shoulder. It's definitely just for me -- you can't see it even if I wear short sleeves. I got it after I shipped my first game.
Old 07-06-2005, 11:28 PM
Fuji Kitakyusho is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Posts: 1,052
For me. Uppercase Greek letter "Omega", upper left arm. Without going into great detail, this mark represents something that I could never possibly forget, mark or not. What it does do is prompt me to reflect on that memory every time I see it, and remember what I did to earn it. This has a significant effect on my self-image, and my behaviour.
Old 07-06-2005, 10:49 PM
Liz is offline
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Location: The 38th Parallel
Posts: 1,499
Originally Posted by Snowboarder Bo
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v326/snowboarderbo/mytats.jpg]As an aside, I don't find many people with just one tattoo. They are addicting, and it doesn't take long after the first one that people start thinking about another. Is that true for people here? (Sorry for the minor hijack, Misnomer.)
So true. I have a sticker on the side of my monitor that says "It's ten years to your first tattoo and 10 minutes to your second." I've only got the one, but it's the centerpiece to a sleeve, and I already have my other arm planned out.
Old 07-08-2005, 01:29 PM
js_africanus is offline
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Small City, Michigan
Posts: 5,162
My left testicle. Nobody admits that my tattoo, which is a series of dots that were used to line me up for my cancer radiation treatment, is a real tattoo. Of course, none of those people actually gave up a testicle for a tattoo. So to them I say :-p
Old 07-08-2005, 01:59 PM
Casey1505 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Scranton PA
Posts: 6,523
An old boss of mine has the same tat. He would say that he must have been half nuts to get a tattoo there.
Old 07-08-2005, 05:09 PM
Misnomer's Avatar
Misnomer is offline
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Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 8,092
Originally Posted by js_africanus
Nobody admits that my tattoo, which is a series of dots that were used to line me up for my cancer radiation treatment, is a real tattoo.
My best friend's wife has a similar series of dots on her back, and she refers to them as her tattoo. She still has her back, though.

Originally Posted by Casey1505
He would say that he must have been half nuts to get a tattoo there.
Old 07-09-2005, 01:24 AM
Flutterby is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Penumbra
Posts: 6,589
My tattoo is flash yes (probably worse so than your wolf, I recently saw it on the wall at those air brush places they have at the fair ).

It's a dragon. I love dragons, always have. I think it's tied in with my love of dinosaurs (which I am rediscovering). When I walked into the tattoo parlour I knew I wanted some kind of dragon, simple but nice and not too expensive. Hey, I was a student on a budget.

It's on my left shoulderblade, and people don't usually see it unless I wear spaghetti straps or something sheer, it does peek out a little from certain tops though.

Who is it for? Me. Just me. I decided when I was 11 that I wanted a tattoo. I didn't settle on what until I was 17 and I didn't get it done until I was 19. Why? No reason but the fact that I love dragons, and to me they are a reminder of the heights your imagination can take you.

I do have my next tattoo planned, this time I want a Ravnos cross with a rose around it (preferably a Toreador rose, but I think it might look weird so a regular rose will have to do). It's a geekish thing to do, maybe as much as getting Elvish tattooed on yourself somewhere (which I would have done if I knew how to speak it, but since I don't I think that would be too much).

When I get it done it will also be for myself, and most likely some place easily hidden. I don't need to frighten the grandmothers and my father more than necessary.

I've seen the baby footprints before, which is an awesome idea except I don't have my son's footprint..
Old 07-09-2005, 01:49 AM
Large Marge is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: the state colored red
Posts: 1,554
Mine is for me. It's not visible when I'm dressed. It's a nature scene that I drew myself, and it is a depiction of what I consider to be "church."

I'm going to get another one that I've drawn that is sort of a family crest. I was adopted as a baby, and for 26 years, I had no idea who my family was. When I found my biological family, I decided to honor that with a tattoo of my heritage. I'm just looking for an artist.

I don't have a car anymore, but when I did there was one bumper sticker on it that I had custom made on the Internet. It read: I MISS BILL.


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