Thursday, July 29, 2010

Human Behavior

I have some tattoos. I don't think about them most of the time, but in the summer, it's hard not to. That's because in the summer, everyone can see them. And although I might not be thinking about them, most people who can see them, are. Here is a list of typical reactions, from best to worst:

No reaction: exhibited by people my own age, often with their own visible tattoos, but also with none. I look normal to them, so they react to me like they would anyone else.
Kind curiosity: most often displayed by motherly types over 50. They start off by saying how beautiful my tattoos are, then follow up with either "How much did that hurt?" or "How long did that take?" Sometimes they will take my wrist to get a better look, but I don't mind when it's a round little woman under 5'4". These women are completely nonjudgmental. I may be imagining too much, but it seems to me that they are wistful, knowing that in the time they grew up, women had much less freedom to express themselves than they do now.
Sidelong glances: expressed by any age or social group. They want to look, but they don't want me to know they want to look. Lately if I catch people staring, I will make eye contact with them and smile, but if I'm not in a good mood, they get an "I know what you're looking at" glare. Frankly, I'm guilty of this myself. I stare at people all the time: other people with tattoos, attractive people, people wearing daishikis or the hijab. So, I try not to get too mad--unless it's in the gym: No staring when I'm not wearing pants, jerks!
Phony, backslapping camaraderie: universally displayed by men with at least one prison or kitchen tattoo (or similar quality) who have decided that since we both have tattoos, we should be buddies! This still happens when B. is around, but not as often. Typical opening lines include:
    • "I like your work!"
    • "Hey, nice ink!"
    • "Whoa, cool tats."
Use of the words "ink" or "tats" will immediately qualify an interaction for this category.
Skeevy curiosity: only displayed by men when B. is not around. Can devolve from the previous category. Asking if I have any other tattoos will be rewarded with a withering glance and an end to the conversation. If you can't see them, they're none of your business!
    Here are some pictures of my tattoos. It's OK to look this time.

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