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.”