I get a lot of different reactions from people in regards to my sleeve tattoo. And it's usually ok. I expect it - I'd be a fool not to. I mean, seeing a person with a sleeve tattoo usually turns heads anyways but when it's on a female, it sometimes elicits even more reaction.
Some people will do a double take - all the while trying not to look obvious - "What the...? Is that a...? Oh crap! She saw me! Look away! Look away!" Then there's the people who peer at me out of the corner of their eye, waiting til I look the other way to take a good stare. There are the blinkers, the people who are shocked but try not to show it and somehow this causes their eyes to blink in rapid succession (these are usually older ladies). There are the shameless open starers - the ones who just stare, sometimes gaping mouths, sometimes while looking me up and down because they just can't quite figure me out. ...Hmmm... nicely dressed, no piercings, hair is kinda mom-like, makeup is normal, cute little baby in tow... but then there's the tattoos... I don't get it! Granted, I am probably not what most people expect when they think of a woman with a sleeve tattoo. I don't fit into any cookie cutter genre and that can be confusing for some.
And I know people form opinions about me based on my tattoos. I know I'm judged by people on my appearance. No matter how "normal" I look otherwise, when they see the tattoos they instantly think things about me. They think they know something about me. Even people that I see in my everyday life who either ignore the tattoos or who say the tattoos don't bother them? They're still thinking shit.
And generally, it's all neither here nor there for me. Mostly, I couldn't care less about what people think. I understand that it's not everyday you see a woman with a sleeve tattoo and I expect most people to react in one way or another. It is what it is. I am what I am. I look how I look. Deal with it. Or don't. Have your looky loo, think what you think, get on with your life.
Until the other day when I was leaving the grocery store with my husband and my baby - a woman walked into the store and gave me the most obvious, ignorant, stupid look I've ever seen. I looked right at her and said, "Oh, now that's just really rude." She pretended she didn't hear what I said (despite being within two feet of me), avoided eye contact - and looked right at my arm and made another ridiculous, and terribly rude face. And then she strutted away with a little disgusted shake of her head.
I have never had a reaction (to my face anyways) that was so obviously meant to show disdain and to purposefully make me feel small, or ugly, or bad, or whatever it was that she was going for.
I boiled with a million different emotions.
Firstly - rage. And let me tell you it is rare that I ever feel rage over reactions to my tattoos. But oh Good Lord did I feel some serious rage towards this woman. I had to stop in my tracks and consciously stop myself from walking after her and giving her a quick close up of my tattooed arm as it followed my fist into her perfectly made-up face.
But Ruby was with me and it would have been very inappropriate. So when we got to the car, I asked Steve if I could leave Ruby with him for a few minutes while I went back in the store and hunted the woman down.
He said that I couldn't do that - which was the level headed answer. Besides, what I felt like doing to that woman is probably what she would expect from "a person like me".
After the rage started to peel away, I felt shame underneath it. Oh how I fucking hate shame. In all logic, I know that I have NOTHING to feel shameful for. But I somehow did. One stranger's rudeness could make me feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself? Am I a bad person for how I look? People think I am. This woman thought I was.
But after some time I started to feel other things. I felt actually shocked that in today's day and age, any person would be so obviously judgemental towards another. I mean, in today's society do we not promote individuality? Do we not promote tolerance of others? Do we not not judge books by their covers? Do we not teach our children to accept people for what's on their insides and not what's on their outsides?
And there are SO MANY people in today's world who have SO MANY different looks. It truly shocks to me that anyone would find a tattooed arm so appalling and revolting that they would make it such high priority to express their hate of how another individual looked.
What if someone walked by her who smelled different? Or who had a different color of skin? Or a birth mark? Or who was bald - maybe by choice, maybe not? I do realize that I've chosen to have my arm tattooed so it's not exactly the same, but really... I wonder where she draws the line?
And just what made her feel that she was justified in trying to make me, another human being, feel lower than her (because that's what it's really all about) because she didn't approve of my appearance?
So after I had worked through my own feelings about this incident, I decided that I kinda felt bad for her. How limited and enclosed her world must be. How few friends must she have, and how boring must they be? Everybody must look Stepford and nobody who is worth her time can have anything about them that makes them stand out. And what is this woman teaching her children? What is it that she's saying to them with her ignorant, intolerant ways?
Somebody once asked me, "What are you going to tell your kids about your tattoos?" And this was before Ruby was ever even in a petri dish - but I responded that I will teach my kids that everybody is different, and that no matter what somebody looks like, you should always get to know them before you decide if you like them or not. I believe that my tattoos will go far in teaching my daughter to be accepting of others. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the mother that I am, I'm proud of the woman I am, I'm proud of my tattoos.
And I'm sorry for anyone with preconceived notions about anyone's appearance. I really am.
Perhaps the next time you are out and about and you see someone who looks different or out of the ordinary or who is even perhaps ugly or unappealing to you? Do the world a favor and take a minute to realize that they are a human being just like you, with likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings. And take a minute before you judge them on their appearance.
Really. Think about it.