The Mark of Shame

I’m a little upset today. I shouldn’t be just because of an opinion piece I read. Hey – the US has this quirky tradition of free expression, right? I often read an opinion piece, think “nope,” and move on. But for some bizarre, other-worldly reason, this one hit me where I live, and from more than one direction. I really don’t know why, but I feel a need to vent about it, and so I shall, if for no other reason to clear my head.

According to this article, I am incapable of making good decisions or admitting that I’ve made mistakes. I am a person of low moral character, as is my husband. My children are doomed to failure in life because I’m not a positive role-model on their delicate psyches (especially my daughter’s) and it is impossible for me to ever look attractive or hope that anyone will see me as more than a brainless, easy piece of ass.

Because I have an arm tat.

It’s true. I do have an arm tattoo. It’s a band wrapping around my upper left arm. For the purposes of this post, I’ll even show it to you (because I’m a trashy woman with no concept of self-respect):

This design tells the journey of the Hopi Storyteller from sunrise to sunset, over mountains, plains and plateaus, in all manner of weather, from village to village to tell his stories (This is not an actual cultural piece of art ripped off an archaeological find – this is a modern artist’s jewelry work dating from the early 1990’s and I wouldn’t mind crediting the actual artist, but I haven’t been able to track him/her down.).

I labored for 20 YEARS before finally walking into a tattoo studio at the age of 38 to get this inked on my arm. For me, this tattoo meant a great deal – it was a promise to myself that I WOULD NOT give up writing, that I WOULD find a way to get my work out there, and that *gasp* *shudder* self-publishing would be the best option for me. Yet another horrifying and classless decision, I’m sure.

Once upon a time, being a Storyteller was an honorable profession. Nowadays, unless you’re making a living wage at it, you’re considered a slacker making bad life choices. Even authors making 6 digits a year from their writing complain of how often someone asks: “When are you going to write a serious literary piece because the rest of your work is such puerile fantasy everyone thinks you an uneducated twit for writing such trash?”

A great deal like how this author feels about people who get tattoos. Or more specifically, women who get tattoos.

Stephanie Green insists that the women who choose to get tattoos are on the lowest end of the social and intellectual scale and that “the kinds of men who find tattoos alluring are probably out on parole.”

Excuse me?

I have a Bachelors Degree. I’ve trained as a Certified Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, capable of working in a professional medical setting. I’ve been married only once and still am married to the same man since 1998, who is not only a professional LAN and Firewall Administrator, but also has a Top Secret Clearance in order to perform the functions of his job on sensitive government and civilian computer equipment. He doesn’t even have a parking ticket on his record.

I worked on a government installation for almost a decade in which everyone was required to have a MINIMUM of a CLASSIFIED clearance. My first “real” job after college (read: full time with a benefits package) was managing the distribution and disposal of computer equipment for the ENTIRE BASE. My second involved tracking the software, licensing and documentation installed on EVERY SINGLE COMPUTER on an Unclassified LAN (something in the neighborhood of about 3000 computers). We were the only base who could produce such documentation on demand for any computer on the UNCLASS LAN at any time in under 5 minutes in all of that branch of the US Military (our average time was actually under 2 minutes, just in case you’re wondering). My coworkers – men and women – were professionals ranging in age from 23 to 60, maintaining the LAN (local area network) and desktop computer functionality for an entire base. A large number of these people had Master’s degrees. And tattoos.

My sister-in-law has a Master’s Degree in Chemistry, experience working in police forensics, and managing records for an entire city hospital system, all while having a tattoo. I suppose she does associate shamelessly with the criminal element, though, since her husband is a sheriff’s deputy. The last I heard, he found her extremely attractive. (And the thought of Michael committing any crime is laughable. The thought of him getting ink – hilarious.)

My daughter’s kindergarten teacher has ink on her ankle and after seeing Mrs. K work, I wouldn’t dream of questioning her professionalism in the classroom. The woman obviously knows her business.

Do some people make choices of certain body art and regret it later? Yes, some do. Many do not. Either way, I wouldn’t classify women with tattoos as stupid simply because they have an arm stamp or “an insipid butterfly” on their ankle openly displayed by their Capri’s or spaghetti strap tops and sundresses. (I’m more likely to be jealous that they can wear a cute spaghetti strap top, because I am *ahem* well-endowed and broad shouldered.)

I wonder if Ms. Green has the same opinion/advice for women who make other equally permanent cosmetic choices (“And if you do <choose to get a tattoo>, and live to regret it, and trust me, you will…”)? Breast augmentation, facelifts, lipo, laser hair removal and foot surgery removing toes to allow a better fit into a pair of designer heels are just a few examples that come to mind. These women are, after all, altering their natural appearance as well.

Oh, wait. No they’re not. They’re “enhancing” their natural beauty to fit in with an increasingly high pressure social norm to maintain a youthful appearance. The gods know no one wants to hire a woman in her forties with bags under her eyes because she looks unattractive and not as up-to-date on current methods in profession X.

Why has body art become mainstream in US culture? I don’t know. I could go on and on about tattoos in tribal cultures – various meanings regarding social standing, wealth, warrior prowess and so forth – but I’m reasonably sure that isn’t what’s happening in the US. All I do know is that times change, as does the idea of what’s fashionable. Very little is static in human society as we grow and learn and experiment as an entire race and as individuals.

But apparently uninformed idiocy promoting prejudice based solely on appearance is still going strong.

*What does this have to do with writing, Katty? Seriously. Shouldn’t this rant be on your “normal” life page?

Probably. But this article is also something of a warning.

If you look at Ms. Green’s credentials, she’s written for Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily. I can’t help but wonder how many career opportunities she just shot in the foot with numerous editors regarding fashion and related topics. I’ll bet more than one is a woman who has voluntarily chosen “…desecration of the beauty of the <their> female form” with a tattoo.


About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
This entry was posted in People, Random and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Mark of Shame

  1. doreeweller says:

    Some people will find whatever reason they can to judge you. Body art is a really polarizing topic for a lot of people, and I don’t get it. It’s your body, after all. Very interesting post.


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