For the first time in a really long time I feel truly comfortable in my own skin. Sure, the uncomfortablitly was self imposed, but I will not compromise my love for art for better treatment.
Since I began getting tattooed, I have always been well aware of the stigma that was once associated with having tattoos. Some of that stigma is still around. It survives in the shells of the old and conservative. I am finding though, that most people are now more inquisitive and want to know “what” they all mean rather than “why” I decided to do this to myself.
About ten years ago when I began getting tattooed, I started in places where no one could see unless I myself allowed for it to happen. My first one was a small Asian symbol on my right hip. Then that turned into an entire dragon piece. I later got one on my upper arm. When wearing a shirt with sleeves, no one would really see it unless I exposed it. During this time I was working at a restaurant where tattoos weren’t an issue… until an ex employee made it one that is. Because of his crazy antics, a rule was strictly enforced that anyone with visible tattoos would have to cover them up for work. Boom. Just like that. A policy was made. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into work one morning and my new tattoo that I had just gotten added to my arm had to be immediately covered up. That same day I headed out after work to purchase the athletic sleeves that I would later wear for the next 8 years of my employment there. I believe that this job is what inadvertently aided me to at times feel very self conscious later on about my tattoos.
Let me just make one thing known. I love all of my tattoos. Due to my patience and extensive research, I had found myself wonderful and talented artists to do all of my pieces. Nothing that I have tattooed on my body represents anything vulgar or even semi offensive. For me to feel self conscious about my body art was something I hadn’t envisioned for myself. I felt that the policy had been made out of anger towards an individual and now an entire group had to pay. Was it fair in my book? No.
That first year of having to wear my arm sleeve was rough. Imagine working as a waitress, having indoor and outdoor tables, running all over a restaurant in Florida heat with a damn long sleeve on. All because one little fucker with rebel knuckle tattoos couldn’t pull his shit together. I was not the happiest camper in the world. As a matter of fact, during these times was when I had hit a rough patch a work. I simply was not happy working there. I had felt as if I not only wasn’t allowed to be me, but I was also being shunned by those around me. What kept me there? The money of course and even to this day I have yet to make the same kind of money that I made while working at this establishment. Well, time went on, and as I matured I tried to understand where they were coming from. I hadn’t let this new policy ruin my plans to turn this walking canvas into walking art. I slowly kept adding to my art here and there, even as I was continuing to have to cover it up. I even went to the extent as to think that if one day they were to change the policy and allow tattoos to be visible in the work place that I would continue to wear my arm sleeve(s) because I felt as though maybe I would have to work much harder at having to try to win my customers over if my tattoos were exposed. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone on this little island that I worked on were judgmental. I cannot even count how many people have questioned why it is that not only me but other severs had to cover up our tattoos. To many it was incomprehensible. There were even people who would comment on reviews, stating that they felt bad for us “kids” having to endure such conditions, especially during Florida summers.
Fast forward to today and I think about how sad of a thought that was for me to have. To think that if I didn’t cover up my body art that I wouldn’t be able to connect with my customers. It was a thought I wouldn’t have ever had if it had not been for those bosses and that policy. Today I work at a cute German bar smack in the middle of Boca Raton, FL. A high-class town with high dollar retirees and high dollar families. Unlike my previous place of employment, this place doesn’t require me to cover my tattoos, which really surprised me for this area. It took me about 2 shifts to really feel ok with allowing my tattoos to show. It took me another 2 shifts for me to realize that most people didn’t give a flying fuck about my body art just as long as I’m pleasant, attentive, and got their orders right.
I’ve realized so much by working at this place that has no tattoo policy. I’ve noticed that for one I now give more people the benefit of the doubt. Whether it is people I meet out in the streets or those I’m serving, I don’t go into it with the preconceived notion that they’re going to negatively judge me for having tattoos. In an odd way I feel free. Like I can actually breath and totally be myself. For those who do still continue to have a stigma against those with tattoos, I have noticed that by the end of their meal, it is as if I turned their perception from bad to good. As if they now realize that not all of us with tattoos have drug problems, or anger issues, or whatever else people seem to think when they see us.
For me, all I want to express in this piece that I’m writing to all of you is that in a world where people are trying so hard to be able to express themselves freely, in an age where people are fighting for individuality, why place such policies to hinder that? Listen, I get it. If Johnny Walker comes into my place of business with the words “Fuck Off” tatted on his knuckles and is looking for a job that deals with the public, fine. Have the guy fill out the application, and just don’t call him back, But to not only punish but make people feel as if they’re lesser of a person and must hide who they are and what they represent, simply because you fear the critics, shame on you. People who criticize will do so no matter what. You can try to hide the fact that your employees have tattoos but an obviously huge cover up is a dead give away and calls more attention to what you’re hiding.Give your employees the benefit of knowing that their wonderful personality and impeccable work ethic will shine through to your customers. Make them feel that it is ok to be themselves. Be that little change that this world needs to see.