1. Did it hurt?
Any time somebody’s poking you repeatedly with a needle, it’s going to be really uncomfortable. A tattoo is essentially a puncture wound that is then filled with ink, and if you’ve ever lodged something into your skin that wasn’t there to begin with, it’s going to hurt a little. But some body parts are less painful, some people are more tolerant of pain, and after you go under the needle a few times, that buzzing sensation is less anxiety-inducing because you know what to expect. The tattoos I got on my ribs hurt like crazy, but the one I have on my inner arm was prickly at most. And it may itch and burn afterwards, but if you take care of it, it’s really fine.
2. Don’t you regret them?
For the most part? No. Chances are really good the person spent time thinking about the design they wanted, and whether it’s artwork, a quote, or even a tribal armband, it means something to them. Over time, tattoos also reach beyond their symbolism, and also commemorate moments in that person’s life and who they were at the time they got the tattoo. Who you were when you decided to get a tattoo with your brother, who you were when you had a quote inked onto your foot, who you were when you were 22 and confused and curious and scared—those are all valid aspects of your past, and those tattoos serve as reminders of your past. They ground you to who you are. Why would you regret who you were and who you are today?
(I admit that there is one tattoo I regret, but I got it when I was 16 and it’s in a rather inconspicuous location on my body. This is also why there are laws prohibiting teenagers from getting tattoos, but I deliberately went to a shady shop that didn’t ask for my ID, and this one’s on me. I take full responsibility for that poor life choice.)
3. Don’t you respect yourself?
Yes, I do. And yes, you should always respect yourself. Whenever anyone asks you this, it’s really safe to assume that they may not respect you. And you know what? Cool. They don’t have to respect you, which makes it easier for you to make a judgment call and not include that person in your life. If they can’t respect that you made such a decision over your own body, chances are really good that they won’t be able to overlook the other things on which you disagree as well. If you think your body is a temple and it’s disrespectful to get tattoos, then don’t get them, that’s fine. People with tattoos don’t think less of people who don’t have tattoos. But my body is a temple, too, and I will decorate it as I see fit; my design aesthetic just happens to involve tattoos.
4. How are you going to feel about them when you’re old?
Who’s to say how we’ll feel about everything when we’re old? Sometimes people switch political ideologies throughout their lives. Sometimes people change their mind about a certain food. It’s the same thing with tattoos. I don’t know how I’ll feel about them when I’m old because I’m not old yet. And it’s very possible that I could regret them, and it’s very possible that the ink might not age all that well and I’ll get wrinkles and things will sag and I end up needing surgery over and the doctor will botch the tattoo, and, and, and. But much in the same vein of whether or not I regret my tattoos, I would like to think that I’m not going to regret who I was at 24 when I begin to reminisce as an old, wrinkled, and yes, tattooed woman.
5. Does that mean you only date other people with tattoos?
Often, people with tattoos are no more or less attracted to another person solely because they have one. Some people have a thing for people with tattoos the way other people have a thing for blondes or brunettes or short people or tall people, but a person’s personality, sense of humor, and heart should trump everything else. It’s shouldn’t be a deal breaker if somebody else doesn’t have tattoos. And chances are, if two people who have tattoos are dating, it’s coincidence—tattoos are growing increasingly common in our society, after all—and only one of the likes and dislikes they share. (If it’s all they have in common, there’s a major problem.)
6. But what does it mean?
Are you ready for a long story? Are you ready for something really deep and meaningful and introspective? Because if you ask somebody about this, you have to genuinely be interested in what that person takes to heart. You have to be open to the idea that something could have spoken to them in a way that has completely changed their life, even if it leaves you entirely unfazed. And just as you might feel guilted into having to react appropriately when somebody shows you what they believe to be the funniest video clip of. all. time, nodding your head politely and saying, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” when they tell you about a memory they have of their dad or their favorite poem is like slapping that person in the heart. They just shared a deeply personal part of themselves with you. Treat that knowledge with care and respect.
7. How much did you pay for that?
This question is all about the delivery. If there’s even a hint of the derisive “… when you could have spent your money on something else?” hanging at the end of that inquiry, it won’t matter to you how much or how little somebody spent on a piece and now you’re just being a little nosy. A tattoo is an investment, though, and it’s smart to actually spend decent money on something that is going to hopefully last your whole lifetime. If you really think you can haggle with your tattoo artist for a cheaper piece, chances are good you’re going to end up with a tattoo that looks cheaper. If you’re really dedicated to the concept of the piece, you’ll pony up the money for it. If you’re really hesitant to spend the money, then chances are good you may not even want the tattoo itself.
8. What do your parents think about them?
Here’s the thing about this question: this suggests that all parents will have the exact same reaction about everything their children do. My mom hates them, personally, and my dad is a pro at that mild headshake that speaks volumes of what he thinks about them, but not every parent is like that. Some parents even have tattoos themselves—we’re not the first generation to get a little ink crazy. And I am fully grateful to my parents for creating my body, carrying it around, clothing it, feeding it, and protecting it until I was shoved out of the nest and into college, but my parents also taught me that my body is my body, and I can do what I want with it as long as I respect myself in the process. I wasn’t all that worried about what my parents would think when I got my tattoos, because their bodies weren’t going under the needle. Mine was.
9. Would you ever get them removed?
Maybe years from now, but A, it’s expensive; B, it takes time for each procedure; and C, the results are often questionable at best. It’s very possible that surgery will progress to a point where tattoo removal is a lot more accessible to those who regret their tattoos, but I also went into getting my tattoo with the full knowledge that each one was a very permanent, very final decision. And unless you see brochures from a dermatologist’s office lying around my apartment, chances are very good it’s not on my radar.