I am by no means a partier, a punk or hard-rock crazed girl by far. Yes, I have a broad taste in rock and rap music built upon a base of country and hip hop, but I do not consider myself as one of the stereotypical “immature and unprofessional” pierced and tatted individuals that society has denoted that all people with piercings or tattoos are. Others who judge people like me (people with several piercings and/or tattoos) seem to deny the fact that those who get piercings and tattoos often use them as means of therapy, inspiring positive body image, or to tell a story. It is prevalent that others realize that these stereotypical judgments that all people with tats or piercings are terrible people are as valid as expired coupons.
According to the Heal the World, 42 percent of Americans have a tattoo and 61 percent of adults in America have had piercings including ear cartilage. Nonetheless, 76 percent of employees feel that tattoos and piercings hurt the job interview where only 4 percent of tattooed or pierced people have actually faced discrimination in their current job field.
Currently, I have 17 piercings including my belly button and hips (no, hip piercings aren’t actually through the hip, just through the skin). There’s a story behind each one of my major piercings, a reason for them, as I would like to believe others may have as well. Because of this, I feel that those with piercings and tats should not be so quickly dubbed as weird, crazed or out of control.
For example, I decided (sort of spontaneously) to get my nose pierced after my ex and I broke up for the first time, after I had found out he had cheated on me again. I needed something to just get my mind off things, something that boosted my self-confidence, that told me that I was good enough and worthy of respect and honesty.
My belly button ring, however, was purchased out of anger after I was told that my ears were too small for an industrial bar, so I went a different route. My hip piercings were purchased in an effort to once again make myself feel pretty and worthy, because yet again I was cheated on and felt as if I wasn’t good enough.
My piercings were pieces of artwork that I was able to place on my body to make it look more beautiful, in my eyes, and help me keep and establish a love for myself that I just couldn’t otherwise. I looked at my body as I would a canvas, looking to see where I could add just a little sparkle to remind myself that I am me, I am unique and I am beautiful.
My tattoo, on the other hand, has a longer story behind it than most. It actually is a compilation of three different stories, or events rather, that influenced my life. That’s one thing that I always liked about tattoos: more often than not, there is a story or meaning behind the piece of artwork. A tattoo is so carefully thought out, drawn and placed on a part of your body, for life. Because of this, I uphold a higher level of respect to those who have several tattoos, because they too had to determine the individuality of the tattoo they wanted and where it was going to go on their own blank canvas.
My tattoo is located on the top left of my shoulder and reads, “Real eyes realize real lies.” Besides being a journalism major and absolutely loving the alliteration of the quote, it holds many truths and realizations. For example, one of the reasons I chose this tattoo was because of its subtle relation to one of my favorite books, “The Great Gatsby.” In the novel “The Great Gatsby,” a dominant symbol in the plot of the book is the billboard eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. In the book, the eyes symbolize the loss of spiritual values in America as well as the corruption of America’s people. It also suggests the emptiness of the American dream, the idea that a humble individual is able to reach and achieve their dream if they work hard enough and make good use of the opportunities presented in front of them.
It is the third symbol that I more or less relate to my tattoo. Real eyes who realize the lies and misguiding of the world around us ought not to settle for less than what we deserve or have worked for.
The second reason behind my tattoo lies beneath my desire to uphold a career as an investigative journalist. As an investigative journalist, I shall serve as the watch dog of society, digging deep within community and political issues, searching for hidden truths behind conflicts or issues. I will strive to realize the real lies of individuals and organizations around me who are using power and money to blind the truth of their actions from others. As an investigative reporter, it will be my duty to report on the facts and nothing but the facts and on the truth and nothing but the truth.
The third and final reason for my tattoo lies beneath a lesson, a wrong decision that took me three years to realize that it was self-damaging. For three years I defended and placed faith in an individual that was, let’s say, not as forgiving and loyal to me. After many fights, three breakups and several nights seeking advice from friends and family, I made the decision to leave the toxic relationship.
It took several long debates and screaming battles with those who saw from the outside how the relationship was sinking to its own doom for me to realize that it was hurting me. I was more hurt than I was happy, upset at the fact that he was not ready to commit and probably never would have been. Those who knew what I sought out of a relationship saw the true damage that the one I was in was doing to me and advised me time and time again to get out. The real eyes in my life realized the lies I was telling to myself in defending the guy and helped me get out.
So when a customer came into my job one day and stood by the counter making rude, stereotypical and discriminating comments about a guy who I out beat with piercings, it took everything in my power to not put her in her place. People with piercings and tattoos are not any more nor any less mature, respectable or worthy of a job, a chance, a non-judgmental first impression. Those with piercings and tattoos often have a story, like mine, or a reason for them like I did. Whether it was to encourage positive body image, help to forget the pain of a failed relationship, or to tell the story of a lesson learned and a career passion, each inked or pierced person is unique in their own way.
Advice: don’t judge a book by its cover. Ask for the stories behind the tattoos and the piercings. Understand that some people truly see their body as a blank canvas and choose to decorate that canvas with pieces of their past, present and future.
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla at email@example.com.)