Top 5 Reasons I Don’t Want a Tattoo

That tattoo reads: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” A verse from the Bible.

I’m wiping the grease off my face with a big napkin because today is Deep-Fried Friday. And just before the weekend, I’m talking tattoos.

When I was growing up (born in the 60s, people), tattoos were not common. I glimpsed them on former soldiers, punk rockers, and the Banditos biker gang who came through town and hung out our local park on Sunday afternoons.

The public display of tattoos has grown exponentially in the last thirty years, with more tattoo parlors in my community than coffee shops and McDonald’s. I was recently reading a CNN article about how young is too young to get a tattoo and noticed an interesting comment. It is printed as written by Greg Kells:

I’ve been a professional tattooist since 1993 and have worked in several states. I won’t tattoo anyone under the age of 18, regardless of the law. Even at 18 there are tattoos I either won’t do, or will try my best to steer people away from. Here’s a short list of terrible ideas. Don’t get your hands or face tattooed unless you are a tattooist or someone who will never be forced to look for a mainstream job (you’re not able to make that judgement call at 18 or 19 years old). Don’t get a band name or logo on you, chances are you’ll outgrow them or they’ll just start making terrible albums. Don’t get anything political, you won’t have the same political philosophy in 20 years, but you’ll have the tattoo. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t get something you saw on a celebrity. They have notoriously bad tattoos and inspire horrible trends in tattooing. Remember when tribal on your lower back was cool? Now we call it a tramp stamp and laugh at it. Those motivational quotes you’re thinking about getting on your ribs, we already call them the “sk#nk flank”. Don’t get “trendy” tattoos. Parachute pants used to be cool. Imagine if you bought a pair in 1983 and were never be able to change out of them. Contrary to popular opinion, don’t try to make your tattoo have deep symbolic meaning, what you think is deep and symbolic right now, will seem saccharine and juvenile in a few years. It’s fine for a tattoo to have some meaning, but don’t overthink it and try to jam your entire life philosophy into a 2″x2″ spot on your ankle. That’s the advice I try to give all my clients, not just the young ones.

His advice seems pretty solid, and it got me to thinking about my own complete lack of desire to ever get a tattoo. While I have plenty of friends and family with tattoos, I personally don’t want one. Here my own Top 5 Reasons for Not Getting a Tattoo:

1. Needles. That’s how I hear these things are made. Seriously? I did everything humanly possible to avoid needles as a child. My pediatrician’s nurse was my evil nemesis who couldn’t wait to stick a sharp edge into my skin, leaving me wondering who had mistreated her so badly that she felt the need to take it out on children. I may have started my mystery-writing career right there on the doctor’s table, with showing my butt cheek and fantasizing about the many ways to murder someone who wronged you. So yeah, I’m a big, ol’ clucky chicken about the needles.

2. Permanence. Remember how you take out your photos from twenty years ago, look at your hairstyle and fashion, and say, “Why was I thinking?!!!” There are few permanent commitments I’ve made (faith, marriage, children). If I decide I don’t like my town, I can move. If I don’t like my career, I can get a different job. But what if I got a Tweety Bird or author quote tattoo and twenty years later decided I wasn’t crazy about it? Even my ear lobe piercings have mostly closed over at this point since I stopped wearing earrings about ten years ago. Inking your skin seems to be an awfully big commitment to me. If I feel the desire to express something on my skin, I’m happy to get a temporary tattoo instead.

Beyonce has a line of temporary tattoos

3. Mistakes. Yes, I know that most tattoo artists are professionals, but I think these photos speak for themselves.

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A lot has also been made of actress Hayden Panettierre having a misspelled tattoo on her body; it is the phrase “to live without regrets” in Italian, but somehow an extra “i” got tacked on. Oops. As a pessimist by nature and a grammar geek to boot, I fear the mistakes.

4. Skin changes. I would be concerned that what looks great on my 25-year-old taut skin won’t look quite so hot on my 65-year-old well-used skin. For instance, had I put a cute Bugs Bunny face on my belly years ago:

After having two kids and passing age 40, it would look like this:

I do know that the biggest change on a tattoo with age is fading, not spreading. But did I mention…pessimist? Most of the time, I feel like a very lucky gal, but I do not want to test that luck too much.

5. Self-presentation. Tattoos simply don’t fit my personal persona. Most of us choose how we present ourselves and expect others to draw conclusions from that. If you dress in Goth, you’re saying something about yourself–expressing your personality. If you wear business suits and ties, that says something else. From our clothing to our hair color to our jewelry to our make-up to whatever else goes into how you present yourself, we make choices based on what we want to say to others or even to ourselves (like the wedding ring I wear, which is more about reminding me, though it is pretty). I’m just not the kind of woman who wears a tattoo. It doesn’t go with who I am. What does go? Well, I am loving my latest reading glasses.

So what do you think about getting tattoos? Do you have one? Do you want one? What do you think people should consider about getting a tattoo?

31 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons I Don’t Want a Tattoo

  1. I love tattoos! Have two and already planned a third. But I’m cautions and my tattoos have meaning.
    However, I don’t like being covered in tattoo. I would never do that …
    I’m not afraid of needles, I always go to places I know and see they are careful and clean and use everything new, then throw away the needles they used on me.
    And a tattoo isn’t permanent anymore. There are tons of methods to take it off, and I bet that, when I’m old and decide I don’t want mine anymore, the methods will be even better … though I don’t think I’ll want them off, even when I’m 80 (if I get there) … they are a part of me and my history.
    Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you to get one lol Just pointing out what I think of them 😉
    By the way, CUTE glasses!

    1. Interesting, Juliana. I was hoping tattooed people would give their plug for it. I’m genuinely curious why people do it. Sounds like you’ve thought it through. I like that your tats have meaning. Best wishes!

  2. I have a tattoo on my hip I regret, but only because I wish I’d gotten something different. It’s a sun, and I’d really like it to be a butterfly. I could go in and get it changed, but OMG, the pain! It hurt like hell. I never lie about that. It was horrible for me, but maybe I’m just a wimp.

    Love your glasses!

    1. Why a sun, I wonder. A butterfly does sound pretty. I had my ears pierced as a teen, and that hurt too. I wouldn’t lie about that one either. Thanks, Stacy!

  3. I like your glasses, too. I never have the nerve to buy anything that cool. I’m very conservative with my eyewear choices.

    Which is odd because I have 12 tattoos. And I would like more.

    I think you and I have about a 5 year age difference. So, like you, I do remember the tattoo stigma. There was the day that only “criminals and trashy people” had them. And maybe rock stars and ex-military. But, now, I would say the majority of people have at least one tattoo.

    Why did I get 12 tattoos? Because I really, really wanted them.

    I think really, really wanting a tattoo is the only reason to get one. Don’t get one because So-and-So has one. Don’t get one because it’s cool or trendy. Get one because you can’t quit thinking about it. (I thought about it for 15 years before I got the first one.)

    Do your research. Learn what’s clean and what’s not. But, I will say that most tattoo shops are pretty clean these days.

    If you’re getting a tattoo because you really, really want one, you should have a design in mind. If you’re just going into the tattoo shop and picking out the first piece of wall flash that appeals to you, ask yourself if you really want this tattoo.

    Wall flash is the drawings of tattoos that tattoo shops have all over their walls and encased in those flipping poster displays.

    And, remember, if you pick out a piece of wall flash you are getting the exact same tattoo as hundreds of other people all over the world.

    Research designs and take several pictures of what you’d like to have into the tattoo shop and talk to the tattoo artist. And, believe me, most of these folks are artists. They’ll be glad to draw you a custom design for a nominal fee, which is usually applied to the cost of the tattoo.

    Oh, and if you do get lettering (words) be sure to check and double check the spelling. The tattoo artist makes up a stencil of the tattoo you’ve said you wanted. Look at it very carefully because what is on that stencil is exactly what is going on your skin. And if you’re too drunk or high to spell check your tattoo, do you really need one?

    This reply is too long. Sorry Julie.

  4. Well, I have always wanted a tattoo but could never decide what I wanted on my skin forever. As you said, you can’t “go back” though one can have it taken off but I heard that’s pretty gross. Anyway, I am still thinking and I’m NOT young so maybe I’ll never do it. Mine would be just above the inside of my wrist and not that obvious. I don’t like it when someone covers their entire arm or back or neck with tattoos. It kind of creeps me out. But a tiny rose or something discreet – I like those.

    1. If someone does get a tattoo, I personally prefer the less obvious ones as well. The prettiest ones I’ve seen have been smaller and simpler. Thanks, Patti.

  5. I’ve never wanted a tattoo. It seems unnatural to decorate a human body with something artificial. I’ve never seen anyone who wouldn’t look at least as good without the tattoo. I’m a grouch!


  6. Nigel just spoke for me. I have many friends and relatives who have them, but in my opinion, as Nigel said, they would look at least as good – and generally better – without them.

  7. Hubs and I have been talking about getting tattoos around the time we turn 40. In the next year that will happen, so will we??? He’s always wanted one and I’m not sure why. I’ve recently decided I want one, something with my hubs and dear sons initials, they are my loves. I’m currently thinking the inside of my wrist or forearm. I want it small, something I can see, and it will be something for me. I wont tell you how many piercings I have, but they are all in my ears 🙂
    Very cute glasses, I need to get something more fun.

  8. I have four tattoos. I regret none of them. I didn\’t jump into the decision when I was young. I got my first tattoo just before I turned 40. Three more followed in quick succession and I\’ve been wanting a fifth. They are smallish (no sleeves), two are virtually never seen due to their location and they are all personal expressions of the things that matter most to me – my children and my independence. I will still love them when I am an old broad – half way there already.

    1. “Old broads” are welcome here! I’m past 40 myself, and I agree that you know yourself pretty well by then. You’re less likely to make an impulsive choice that you regret 20 years later. Thanks for sharing your experience! Best wishes, Julie.

  9. I sometimes think about it, but then I think of all the same reasons you’ve listed. My youngest sister has a full arm sleeve–it’s very pretty, but she gets A LOT of attention from it. If i ever had one it wouldn’t be easily noticeable! 🙂

  10. I laughed out loud at Sweet Pee, too. That would be about my luck if I could ever overcome my dislike of needles. Of course I also have zero desire to have a tattoo, so that doesn’t help.

    I’m of the opinion that if people want to get these, or use gauges to put huge holes in their ear lobes, more power to them. They aren’t choices I would make…but that’s me. Still, I can’t help but feel that at some point, many people will be sorry they chose to do things to their bodies that can’t easily be undone. I mean, once you have a hole the size of Texas in your lobe, how can that be fixed…without the help of plastic surgery?

  11. I personally have 2 tattoos. The first one, a tribal cross design on the center of my back and the second one, a tribal ichthus (Jesus Fish) on my left foot. It is so true that you should not jump into a tattoo lightly. My first tattoo came after 8-10 years of wanting one and making sure of what I wanted to have on my body for the rest of my life. I loved (and still do) tribal designs and I also wanted to show my faith in Christ. After all of that decision making time, I finally got the tattoo and I still love it. Now, my second tattoo, is another story. It was a quick decision all around. I decided to have one done, the artist had an opening, and I did not have a set idea of what I wanted. So, when I got ou of my car the emblem that I had on the back of my car jumped out at me. So now I have a Jesus fish car emblem tattooed on my foot. I do regret that tattoo sometimes; it’s placement is off, most people when they see it think it is an arrow. Said all of that to say this. I think tattoos are great! …but only if they have been well thought out and considered. I actually am planning on getting number three but it will not happen until I am 100% sure that it is what I want.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story, Wes! I find it very interesting to hear from the tattooed folks about how they made the decision and what they think of this topic. I have always liked the ichtus, so I could see that being a nice tattoo design; too bad its placement is off. It does seem that a foot is a good place to have a tattoo because you can show it off or cover it up as desired/needed. Best wishes!

  12. I also have 4 tattoos, my first one at age 24. 1 week before our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I received matching tattoos. I know what you’re thinking 😉 It was my idea actually, a compass with a W for our last name. Before getting it, he was worried I’d regret if he died or something happened to him (he’s military, so life in peril and high divorce rate are legitimate concerns). But I told him easy, I’ll just fill in the rest of the letters! LOL. Actually, this Thursday we celebrate 8 years of marriage, and with two kids, I don’t regret my West tattoo since that is part of my identity as well.

    This started my symbols theme, I have a large fleur-de-lis that I had done on the day he left me for a deployment for the last time. It’s my heraldic battle flag, LOL. On my back shoulder across from the compass is an hour-glass, because my whole life as a military dependent, between time and distance is always my heart. (Cheesy, but waiting patiently is something I’m good at). Finally, I have a tudor rose on my right hip I had inked the day I left the ER after a miscarriage and he was out to sea. That tattoo I can honestly say I didn’t feel at all, I was so emotionally numb. I also LOVE that tattoo the most because it’s the only one on front so I can see it regularly and it’s a nice reminder that I am strong, and very little in my life has ever been as bad as that day. I didn’t get a chance to be that child’s mother, but his or her very short life still makes me smile.

    I think tattoos are a personal decision, just like getting one’s ears pierced. All of mine are hidden unless I want to show them because I didn’t get them for anyone but myself. If that’s why you’re getting a tattoo, for yourself or to mark a significant milestone in your life, then do it. If it’s to look cool, then chances are you’ll regret it later. But me, how can I regret my life?

    1. Beautifully put, Elizabeth. My heart goes out to you with your miscarriage. I had one as well, and I sometimes think about how I miss meeting that child.

      Please thank your husband for his service! I love the reasons you gave for the tattoos you received.

  13. I’m glad there are people like you, speaking out for the people who don’t want tattoos. I’m beginning to feel like a major outsider. I mean, I feel like you. I can not wrap my mind around actually doing that permanent thing to my body… especially if it looks like an inkblot or a Rorschach test. I don’t see the point. Personally, I think the art of the tattoo looks better on paper than it does on the person. Have you seen some of the results of badly done portraits on people?? YIKES. What a mistake that would be. I am an artist. But, I prefer to draw and sketch my art. It doesn’t define me as much as my choices and my passions do, and that includes the people I choose to keep in my life.

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