Q: I appreciate all your recent columns regarding what to say and not say in certain circumstances. I have found myself in certain situations with people who have tattoos which is a totally new ballgame for me since I am in my retirement years and tattoos were not popular with my age group when I was growing up. I definitely do not know how to react or what to say and not to say. Could you please help me so I don’t offend anyone regardless of whether I like tattoos or not?
A: Rest assured, you are not alone in your not knowing how to handle this latest craze of getting a, or multiple, tattoos. One’s own acceptance or non-acceptance, or pre-conditioned opinions do not help in knowing what to say and what not to say when forced into a conversation with individuals who obviously embrace tattoos, and feel they are one of the most fashionable forms of self-expression, especially those who like a lot of tattoos. In my opinion, the preponderance of tattoos is at the point of being an entirely new generational statement, as well as a partial fashion, and definitely an outward personality, statement.
Regardless of the motivational aspects, the results require some very tactful and polite responses. Even though we do not know when tattooing actual began, we do know the tradition of having tattoos goes back thousands of years. What precipitated its resurgence, I, along with many others, do not know. Nonetheless, tattoos are more predominant elements in, and of, our culture and by the vary nature of the process, they are permanent parts of the bodies to which they have been adhered. Here are some suggestions for proper and polite reactions and responses:
Do not say:
- Are you sorry you got that (or those) tattoos? Do you really think this individual is going to give you a truthful answer and if they do, what would be your next inappropriate comment?: “You should have known better” will put you on the top 10 list for being absolutely cut-throat rude.
- Why did you get that tattoo (or those tattoos)? And, of course, the intonation of your voice, if you were to ask this question, can also be an important factor if how it is received, and how emotional the response can be, regardless of the fact that it should not be asked in the first place.
- Do you realize that tattoo (or those tattoos) is permanent? Duh, now think about it — do you actually think this person does not realize tattoos are permanent! At this point, you are not only being rude, but you are also challenging this person’s level of intelligence and common sense.
- What did that cost you? You would not ask a lady how much she paid for the dress she is wearing, so what makes you think you can ask her about the cost of her tattoo! If you did ask and got an answer, your next inappropriate words spoken before thinking, would probably be: “Oh my gosh”! “You could have spent that money much more wisely on ...” You would not receive any points from anyone on these comments either.
- You know there are a lot of doctors now, like plastic surgeons, you can go to, to have it removed. Undoubtedly, another unappreciated, unsolicited, inappropriate comment, which could evoke a worthy response of: “If I wanted to know, I would ask!;
- Do you have to cover that up (or those) when you are working? Some more of inferring you do not — and society does not — approve of visible tattoos, which unless you are this person’s employer, you have no business asking or discussing.
- Did it hurt a lot? or I bet it hurt. or People say it hurts a lot when you get them. Obviously when a needle is being repeatedly stuck into any part of your body, you are going to feel it and it will probably hurt.
- What did your mom and dad say? What did your wife (husband/boyfriend/girlfriend) say? How obvious can you get that you are looking for a repetition of any emotional, negative, none-of-your-business responses!
- It looks red. Is it infected or can it get infected? Do you have to have an antibiotic when you get a tattoo? If you were just introduced to a person who had several visible stitches in their lip, would you ask them the same type questions? I don’t think so!
- You could be so much prettier (or much handsomer) if you didn’t have those tattoos. Or, you were so pretty (handsome) before you got those tattoos. You have just crossed the line on inappropriate comments;
- Some people say this is a type or art, but I don’t think I agree. Like this person cares at all about your opinions regarding art or even thinks you are qualified to talk about art!
- I understand tattoos can keep you from getting the really good jobs. Did you ever stop to realize this person with tattoos could be making 10 times more than you do because he/she is so much smarter than you and that having a tattoo does mean you are unintelligent or that they make you unqualified for the best of jobs.
- I don’t usually like tattoos, but I do kind of like yours. Like this person cares what kind of tattoos you like or don’t like; it’s not, was not, your body; therefore, the choice of tattoos is not, was not, yours.
- Have you ever thought of what these are going to look like 50 years from now? Like are you going to be around to check them to see what they look like?