In the 19th century, tattooing in the Western world was widely associated with sailors and criminals. They served as a means of both identification and punishment. Now in the 21st century, tattoos have become a mainstream part of global fashion, especially to teens and young adults. What was once viewed as a form of deviance is now an acceptable form of expression.
The problem with the trend of tattoos growing amongst the younger generation is that their lack of life experience (and sometimes common sense) is driving them to get tattoos that are poorly executed, not well thought out, and done by people who shouldn’t be tattooing.
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo in the near future (or ever), you should answer these questions for yourself first:
Is this something I’m going to like in 5-10 years?
It’s true that by the time you reach your golden years, you may not be able to recognize your tattoos or remember why you got them, but you don’t have to think that far ahead when deciding whether or not to get one. You do, however, have to figure out whether or not you will still love it in 5 or 10 years. Chances are if you’re choosing lyrics from a song that has just premiered on the radio; you won’t like it in 5 years. If it’s a symbol from the show you’re currently binge-watching on Netflix, you’re probably not going to like it in 5 years. But hey, that's just one girl's opinion.
Is there a tattoo better suited for this part of my body?
Not everybody feels this way, but I believe there is a finite number of tasteful places on your body to get inked. If you decide to get a tattoo in one of these spots, know there’s a possibility that you may think of another tattoo that you want in that spot instead, a month or two after you’ve already gotten inked.
Part b: Will it stretch?
Be careful if you ever plan on having a baby (or gaining weight) that your tattoo is in a spot that won't be affected. Those of you who are into short-term weight loss workshops should be extra careful, as your weight probably tends to fluctuate more so than most people’s. It can really mess up your tattoo.
Will my career choice be hindered?
No matter how badly you want a tattoo, it’s important to think ahead and make sure that this tattoo, whether it’s the place you get it, the actual image, or simply having a tattoo, is not going to come back to bite you in the future when you try to apply for your dream job. No ink is worth forfeiting your dream job.
Did you choose the right tattoo artist?
Sadly enough, there are hundreds of bad tattoo artists or “scratchers” who are tattooing out of their basements and giving people poorly-executed tattoos and sometimes infections. The two factors that seem to persuade young people to choose these less-experienced tattoo artists are the high prices charged by most tattoo studios and the amount of waiting time before tattoo appointments with reputable studios. Trust me, I’ve been there, so heed my words: choosing to get a tattoo out of somebody’s basement for the sake of saving a few months’ wait can result in a) having to walk around with a terrible tattoo on your body until you can get into a real tattoo studio get a cover up, and b) a nasty infection. Most scratchers operate in unsanitary conditions with unsanitary equipment. They don’t use gloves, stencils, or sterile needles and most of them can’t draw worth a damn. Say no to scratchers.
Have I really thought it through?
There are no guidelines for how much time one should think (and rethink) a potential tattoo before actually going through with it, but maybe there should be. My first tattoo was thought through for over seven years and each tattoo after that, I’ve mulled over for at least six months. If you’re old enough to get a tattoo, you’re old enough to understand that people change their minds more often than they change their underwear. A great idea one day may not be a great idea the next.
Am I doing this on a whim?
If you are, don’t. If you’re getting a tattoo because you just started hair school and you want a giant pair of scissors on your arm to show off how proud you are of your new chosen profession, don’t. If you’re getting a tattoo because you saw Miley Cyrus in Vegas and loved her performance and now you want Miley lyrics on your back to show your new found love for her, don’t. If anything, the sole fact that the only way you could get a tattoo on a whim is to go see a scratcher (due to tattoo studios’ long waitlists) should convince you not to do it.
Will this tattoo be unique to me?
We’ve all seen the “love infinity” tattoos and the feather breaking off into a flock of birds, and yes, they’re pretty, but you know how embarrassing it is to go to prom in the same dress as somebody else? Well, imagine how much worse it would be if you couldn’t go home and change. No matter how cute you might think angel wings on your back might look, or how much “love hurts” applies to you during this moment in your life, steer clear of tattoo clichés.
Am I doing this for someone else?
For the love of Kat Von D, do not get your boyfriend’s name tattooed on you. This should be common sense, but the number of people who end up back at the tattoo shop a few months later trying to get “Brad” turned into “Bad Girl” is climbing. There are other ways to show love! Getting a tattoo for someone else can mean more than just getting a name tattooed. Some people get tattoos out of jealousy and even for revenge. If someone calls you a poser because you told them you like Led Zeppelin, don’t get a Led Zeppelin chest piece to prove them wrong. Just, don’t.
Why am I getting it?
For anyone who already has a couple of tattoos, you’ve probably answered a hundred questions about them. There are three key questions that usually come up.
“Where’d you get it done?”
“Did it hurt?”
“What does it mean?”
“What does it mean?”
The first two questions are pretty straight forward, but the last one is what usually leads to judgment. If you got a tattoo of a heart simply because you like hearts and you don’t care who knows it, that’s awesome! Tattoos don’t always have to have profound meaning. But, thinking about how you would explain the reason behind a particular tattoo will help to figure out what it will mean to you (if anything), and therefore, if it’ll be worth it.