Friday, August 27, 2010

Why o Why?

Just a few years ago - ok, I’m lying, it’s more like 20 years ago - an acquaintance of mine was considering having a small tattoo on his forearm removed because he believed it was limiting his chances of promotion in the large conservative US consulting company where we were both working. He would continuously wear long sleeve undershirts just to be sure that the outline of the anchor (or whatever it was he had there) would not be apparent through his white shirts. He had gotten the tattoo when he was young and rebellious but now regretted having walked into that shop while under the influence of ________ (fill the blank with one or more of the following options: peer pressure, absentmindedness, alcohol, drugs, penis envy…)! Yes, this was 20 years ago and times have changed. But, have they really? It may be acceptable today to have tattoos everywhere but how about 20 years from now? Can anyone know for sure?

10 or so years ago, when this renewed interest for tattoos started, it was a way to marginalize one’s self: a sort of personal rebellion against the accepted norms of society. People that got tattooed were mostly of the “see-if-I-care” type. Now, every Tom, Dick and Georgette seems to have at least one. But, as we all surely know, when something becomes popular with the Walmart crowd, you know it’s reaching the end of its “fashionability”. After all, it’s easy to realize that this is the same fashion cycle that has caused the return of such great fads as bell-bottom jeans, brylcreemed hair and Tom Jones. What is popular and fashionable today will not be in 5 or 10 years. This is not a big deal when it comes to clothing or hairstyles but it’s another thing altogether when the fashion statement is permanently printed on your body.

Just the other day I saw a fortyish, fairly large office clerk looking lady with both arms covered in tattoos. Not only was it not very visually appealing but it also seemed utterly unprofessional. I found myself wondering if, under circumstances requiring me to be in a hiring frame of mind, I would ever consider her for an office job. The answer was quite clear: no f’ing way. This may make me old fashioned or – I hate this word – discriminatory but I believe that it’s important, within reason, to look the part. If one holds an office position for some large organization, I would expect that that person would make an effort to look professional and not expose their love of angels, skeletons, medieval knights, New Kids on the Block, Pokémons and/or Richard Nixon through permanent doodles on their arms, legs, fingers, forehead, etc.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is trivial. Everyone is the master of their own bodies and should be allowed to do with it as they please. On the other end, these people should realize that others may not feel the same way about their means of self expression and that this may easily lead to typecasting, especially when tattoos are once again considered marginal.