Thursday, August 27, 2009


I get a lot of different reactions from people in regards to my sleeve tattoo. And it's usually ok. I expect it - I'd be a fool not to. I mean, seeing a person with a sleeve tattoo usually turns heads anyways but when it's on a female, it sometimes elicits even more reaction.

Some people will do a double take - all the while trying not to look obvious - "What the...? Is that a...? Oh crap! She saw me! Look away! Look away!" Then there's the people who peer at me out of the corner of their eye, waiting til I look the other way to take a good stare. There are the blinkers, the people who are shocked but try not to show it and somehow this causes their eyes to blink in rapid succession (these are usually older ladies). There are the shameless open starers - the ones who just stare, sometimes gaping mouths, sometimes while looking me up and down because they just can't quite figure me out. "Hmmm... nicely dressed, no piercings, hair is kinda mom-like, makeup is normal, cute little baby in tow... but then there's the tattoos... I don't get it!" Granted, I am probably not what most people expect when they think of a woman with a sleeve tattoo. I don't fit into any particular cookie cutter genre.

Yeah, sorry about that.

And I know people form opinions about me based on my tattoos. I know I'm judged by people on my appearance. No matter how "normal" I look otherwise, when they see the tattoos they instantly think things about me. They think they know something about me. Even people that I see in my everyday life who either ignore the tattoos or who say the tattoos don't bother them? They're still thinking shit.

And generally, it's all neither here nor there for me. Mostly, I couldn't care less about what people think. I understand that it's not everyday you see a woman with a sleeve tattoo and I expect most people to react in one way or another. It is what it is. I look how I look. Deal with it. Or don't. Have your looky loo, think what you think, get on with your life.

Until the other day when I was leaving the grocery store with my husband and my baby - a woman walked into the store and gave me the most obvious, ignorant, stupid look I've ever seen. I looked right at her and said, "Oh, now that's just really rude." She pretended she didn't hear what I said (despite being within two feet of me), avoided eye contact - and looked right at my arm and made another ridiculous, and terribly rude face. And then she strutted away with a little disgusted shake of her head.

I have never had a reaction (to my face anyways) that was so obviously meant to show disdain and to purposefully make me feel small, or ugly, or bad, or whatever it was that she was going for.

I boiled with a million different emotions.

Firstly - rage. And let me tell you it is rare that I ever feel rage over reactions to my tattoos. (Other people's driving? Yes. But reactions to my tattoos? No.) But oh Good Lord did I feel some serious rage towards this woman. I had to stop in my tracks and consciously stop myself from walking after her and giving her a quick close up of my tattooed arm as it followed my fist into her perfectly made-up face.

But Ruby was with me and it would have been very inappropriate. So when we got to the car, I asked Steve if I could leave Ruby with him for a few minutes while I went back in the store and hunted the woman down.

He said that I couldn't do that - which was the level headed answer. Besides, what I felt like doing to that woman is probably what she would expect from "a person like me".

After the rage started to peel away, I felt shame underneath it. Oh how I fucking hate shame. In all logic, I know that I have NOTHING to feel shameful for. But I somehow did. One stranger's rudeness could make me feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself? Am I a bad person for how I look? People think I am. This woman thought I was.

But after some time I started to feel other things. I felt actually shocked that in today's day and age, any person would be so obviously judgemental towards another. I mean, in today's society do we not promote individuality? Do we not promote tolerance of others? Do we not not judge books by their covers? Do we not teach our children to accept people for what's on their insides and not what's on their outsides?

And there are SO MANY people in today's world who have SO MANY different looks. It truly shocks to me that anyone would find a tattooed arm so appalling and revolting that they would make it such high priority to express their hate of how another individual looked. (It's a tree with flowers on it for crying out loud!!!)

What if someone walked by her who smelled different? Or who had a different color of skin? Or a birth mark? Or who was bald - maybe by choice, maybe not? I do realize that I've chosen to have my arm tattooed so it's not exactly the same, but really... I wonder where she draws the line?

And just what made her feel that she was justified in trying to make me, another human being, feel lower than her (because that's what it's really all about) because she didn't approve of my appearance?

So after I had worked through my own feelings about this incident, I decided that I kinda felt bad for her. How limited and enclosed her world must be. How few friends must she have, and how boring must they be? Everybody must look Stepford and nobody who is worth her time can have anything about them that makes them stand out. And what is this woman teaching her children? What is it that she's saying to them with her ignorant, intolerant ways?

Somebody once asked me, "What are you going to tell your kids about your tattoos?" And this was before Ruby was ever even in a petri dish - but I responded that I will teach my kids that everybody is different, and that no matter what somebody looks like, you should always get to know them before you decide if you like them or not. I believe that my tattoos will go far in teaching my daughter to be accepting of others. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the mother that I am, I'm proud of the woman I am, I'm proud of my tattoos.

And I'm sorry for anyone with preconceived notions about anyone's appearance. I really am. Because you're missing out on a lot. You're boxing yourself in.

Perhaps the next time you are out and about and you see someone who looks different or out of the ordinary or who is even perhaps ugly or unappealing to you? Do the world and yourself a favor and take a minute to realize that they are a human being just like you, with likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings before you go ahead and judge them on their purple spiked hair, piercings, tattoos, extra weight, acne, or clothing.

Really. Think about it.


Emily said...

I'm glad you didn't go after her. You are the better person for not doing that. I do understand how pissed you were though... I mean, I was at the mall today with my sister, who is a large girl. We were sitting chatting for about 15 minutes and there was a lady STARING at her the entire time. Both my sister and I saw her staring (at my sister). I was the one that wanted to punch her, my sister told me she just ignores it. There are so many idiots out there. You just have to learn not to be one of them.

Emily said...

I honestly think this is because difference of any kind is discouraged here rather than encouraged. I was watching a corner in downtown Van the other day and I swear the people all were dressed the same - go to other cities - NY, London, Paris - hell even Calgary and people dress to differentiate themselves. We don't have that and so people feel different = bad which is tres stupid.

But I'm glad you didn't go after her - would have just perpetuated her prejudice!

Aurelia said...

Tattoo sleeve and no baby, she'd have ignored you.

Tattoo sleeve and baby?

Sigh...Mommy Wars. She wasn't just judging you as a person, I bet she was judging the quality of your parenting.

And to women like that? They judge everybody, tattoos or not, and remember, you will never be good enough for them however you parent, and damned if you do and damned if you don't. The tattoos are obvious. But it happens in other ways.

Either develop a way to ignore them, or develop some lines to use when they say or do things to be rude or annoying. (Cause one day, they will ask you directly in front of Ruby how you could possibly be a good mom and do "X" and if you don't rehearse a line, you'll punch them.)

Not a good example when the kids are watching.

It's dumb and it's stupid and awful, but it exists.

serenity said...

Aurelia's right. (I hate the Mommy Wars.) And no matter what you had said, or did, it wouldn't have mattered to her.

Totally understand the anger, though.


Somewhat Ordinary said...

I totally get your anger and I agree with Steve that it would have just been the kind of reaction someone like her would have expected from someone with tattoos. I'm surprised she was so obvious in her opinions of your tattoos, but not so shocked that we live in a world where people are judged for their appearance. I don't get it though! Wh would she give shit about your tattoos. She is just a close minded judgmental prude that doesn't deserve your thought! I'm sorry she made you feel that way!

edenland said...

Oh my goodnes Tara, I've been trying for TWO DAYS to comment here, I don't know why it took so long ....


The one called "Stew" ... I went to sleep thinking about it, and woke up thinking about it so so much. I have a post of my own brewing .. or "stewing" ha, on the exact same thing.

Also, while I initially really wanted you to hammer that woman, good on you for being the better person. And you WERE the better person. What a dog. Imagine if she's married? Her poor husband.


JJ Keith said...

I never noticed the sleeve in your twitter pic before, but now my eye will jump right to it.

Sometimes I'm grumpy about living in L.A., but I totally take it for granted. My sisters are sniffy about my tattoo (just a black atom on my shoulder, nothing very spectacular), but by my standards they're the most conservative people ever born, so whatever.

That woman... I probably would called her outback by the dumpsters and "gave her a piece of my mind," but as you rightly point, I guess that fits in with the stereotype of the kind of mama to sport a tattoo. Then so be it.