I grew up in a household where the phrase, “Moses said not to write on your skin,” was pronounced anytime there was a pen mark on my hand. Forget about writing phone numbers on it, it wasn’t worth the reprimand. I honestly don’t know what Moses said exactly, but I do know that Jewish people don’t get tattoos. At least they didn’t.
When I was a kid I wasn’t sheltered from the horrors of the Holocaust. It was because of that catastrophic event that my parents were in America, and that they met and formed our family. It was a horrible tragedy, one we need to know about and talk about and discuss with others, lest they forget or, heaven forbid, don’t believe it. As a kid I didn’t understand this mindset, and thought that my parents, my father especially, watched too many documentaries, read too many books, paid too much attention to this awful thing. It made me nervous and frightened as a child. I had a plan to hide in a certain spot should Nazis come to round us up some night.
As part of my exposure to all of this horror, I was also taught about the meticulous record keeping that the Nazis did, numbering their prisoners and keeping track of their inventory of humanity. I learned of the number each prisoner was assigned and how it was tattooed on his or her arm. I met survivors who bared their arms to show their numbers. They had been brutalized and wanted the world to know that it was real. It happened.
One afternoon when I was about 10, I was on an errand with my mother. We were in a shop that had a large book area, and I occupied myself there as I waited for her. What I found both fascinated and horrified me. There was a book filled with images of items that had been created with the tattooed skin of Nazi prisoners. There was a wallet and there were lampshades and other items. I know many people consider these tales to be urban legends, but I know they are all too real.
These early experiences with tattoos, along with my father’s admonition that tattoos were an indication of a violent personality, steered me away from tattoos. I never really thought about getting one for myself. Okay, maybe for about five seconds after my divorce, but then I snapped out of it. It turns out that my father wasn’t completely wrong about tattoos and crime. Our county has a database of its criminals, and tattoos are photographed and recorded (not so different from those earlier record keepers). I have it on good authority that about 98% of the people in the database have some sort of tattoo somewhere. Some of the criminals have the most horrific tattoos, including Vikings on the forehead, skulls on the face, and obscenities around the mouth. You kiss your grandmother with that mouth? Ew.
Last summer the border agent at the bridge to Canada told me that we (son, mother, and I) didn’t look like trouble. I asked what trouble looked like, and without missing a beat he answered, “neck tattoos.” I’m quite sure he was serious. Now maybe that’s unfair to the vast majority of neck tattoo wearers, but it is a common perception, and one held by someone in authority (hey, he can keep you out of his country).
I am well aware that having a tattoo does not make one a criminal. There are people in my life whom I adore who have tattoos. I know times have changed, and I know lots of very loving, nonviolent people who have tattoos, but they just aren’t for me. Some of them are pretty, like my friend’s giant floral design up her leg and hip, some are quirky, like the little Martian scene on another friend’s back, and some are flat out gross, like the goose stepping Nazis on one of the prisoners. I’m not a huge fan of tattoos, but I try not to judge a book by its cover either. I don’t hate them but I don’t love them. I do appreciate the artistry that can go into them, and the sentiment behind many of them. As for me, though, I prefer to keep my skin unadorned.
Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?
Trackbacks & Pingbacks
- Try it | Photos to inspire you
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo…You? | Under the Monkey Tree
- Tattoos | Kate Murray
- Port Cullis | alienorajt
- What I Think Of Tattoos | The Jittery Goat
- Family & Faith | Active Army Wife
- My Ink, My Story | Finale to an Entrance
- Tattoo… You? | Relax
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | A Mixed Bag
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Awl and Scribe
- My First Tattoo | Steve Boer Photography
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Olivia May Photography
- Should you Tattoo? | It’s a wonderful F’N life
- Permenant | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo…..You? | Steve Says….
- Tattoos, A big No-No | A mom’s blog
- The Accidental Tattoo | A Buick in the Land of Lexus
- INK can’t Hide me ! | Dreams to Reality !
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | timzauto…. in search of the blond haired kid
- Daily Prompt:Tatto…..You? | Motherhood and Beyond
- Tattoo — You? | Flowers and Breezes
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….. You? | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- Daily Prompt: Proudly Inked | One Starving Activist
- A tattoo! Or two…or three… | wordsandotherthings
- Tattoo. | Bullet holes in the wall
- Tattoo… Me! | Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me
- Body and Soul: of mundane miracles and secular sacraments | Muddy River Muse
- Tattoos….You? That is the question. | Kansa Muse
- Tatted Up! | meanderedwanderings
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Everyday Adventures
- Who Needs a Tattoo? I’ve Got A Blog!
- Sunday Confessions | Cheri Speak
- Kissing the sky. | Inside of love
- To Be Continued… | Charron’s Chatter
- The tattoo that I have, and the ones I want | And I write
- Tattoos | Mountains or Molehills
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo’s the Diverse Art | Bowl of Rice
- Ink’d | A Room of One’s Own
- A Mark For Life | annezheng
- On Tattoos | Not the Family Business!
- Tattoo? – One Day | My Play Nook
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Basically Beyond Basic
- How and Why I Decided To Get Inked | noinpart
- Skin Deep | All work and quite a lot of play
- Tattoo….You? | The Nameless One
- Permanent ink. | Simple Heart Girl
- DAILY PROMPT: TATTOO — ME! PHOENIX RISING! | SERENDIPITY
- Tattooed Memories… | Haiku By Ku
- Daily Prompt: Love Never Lasting | Morrighan’s Muse
- The Lover’s Kiss | unaware but underlined
- Impermanence | vic briggs
- The Boob Report – Tits for Tats | Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo…You? | Poetry
- Tattoo….You? | Trina’s North Germany
- Get your tattoo here | tjbarkerseattle
- My Forest | unaware but underlined
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You? | Red Herrings
- Tattoo | Lori’s Life and Other Stuff
- To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo?…..(wp daily prompt) | Daily Observations
- Sword – The Tatoo | Thoughts
- My Tattoo Changed My Life | Notes by Natalie
- Permanent PROOF | unaware but underlined
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo……You? | Sorrowful Decay
- Daily Prompt: Tattoo…. You? | SIM | ANTICS
December 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm
I have one, but it was more the rebellion part of me. But I would like to have a new one, but something with a meaning- or a type of “forget me not” as a memory of the ones who have been lost 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm
I think that makes them special otherwise it’s kind of like putting on a sticker and never ever taking it off. 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm
As longs as one knows the “this will hurt shit loads more if I want to remove it” I guess one is safe;)
I got the part about neck tattoos – often something gangs have, but I find it a bit judging against others who might have them that are not in a gang. I like pretty tattoos, not all are pretty – but I still get fascinated by others tattoos anyways 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm
Dear BButtons, there is an element to your approach that comes across to me as fearless. I appreciate this quality. I too was raised in a house where my mother hated writing on the skin because it looked “trashy”. The day she saw my ink, she sat on the phone with all of her girlfriends, drank white-wine spritzers and lamented the falling of her daughter into the iNKED. LOL. I do not have the personal connection to distaste to tattoos that you do, though in reading your reasons, I understand where your prespective is coming from. Write on sista.
Ah – my “ink” to me is small and hidden. It was obtained in my early twenties as a symbol of freedom. Not from anyone inparticular, it was a symbol of my goal to be free from holding myself back from my dreams…it was.. it is… a well worn symbol to me… to free myself from fear, and ironically enough to the context of your post… a reminder to not opress. ( myself or others)
December 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm
I think as long as there is meaning behind it, and a positive message, then it’s not a bad thing. 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm
🙂 I agree.
Pingback: Time for a – Tattoo? Who? Me? | Words 'n Pics
December 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm
Feeling rebellious 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm
Rebel with or without a cause? 🙂
December 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm
Do we need a cause to be a rebel? 😉
December 1, 2013 at 2:08 pm
No, just curious.
December 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm
I have many a cause. Picking one for the day is usually the biggest challenge.
December 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm
🙂 This makes me smile.
December 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm
I’m glad 😀
December 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm
This was beautifully written and very compelling. I have tattoos that have tremendous meaning for me (coincidently I wrote about them a few days ago and have now linked that post to today’s daily prompt). I can, however, very much appreciate where you are coming from and how your history would frame your view of tattoos.
December 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm
Thank you for the compliment. I think it’s such an individual and permanent thing that it should be well thought out. So many of the tattoos I’ve seen appear to have been done on a whim. I look forward to reading your post.
Pingback: If I Chose Tattoes | mycookinglifebypatty
December 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm
I too enjoyed what you have to say about tattoos. My first thought on them was the fact that the Nazi’s tattooed the Jews and that the idea of violation of human rights was an overwhelming image given to tattoos from that point forward. I didn’t write about that but do share your thoughts in that regard.
December 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Times and situations change, but for me it’s hard to get past that. I know that some relatives of survivors have the numbers tattooed on themselves out of respect and to carry on the memory of so many lost.
December 1, 2013 at 3:36 pm
I have met Holocoast survivors as well and have seen their numbers.
December 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm
It is something you don’t forget.
Pingback: What I Think Of Tattoos | The Jittery Goat
Pingback: The Art of Choosing Ink | The Silver Leaf Journal
December 1, 2013 at 10:20 pm
What a great post! As someone said, you are fearless – I like that about you! I come from a Holocaust family too, as you know, though I don’t remember equating those numbers to the graphic tattoos I saw (rarely) on people while I was growing up. I know they’ve achieved a level of normalcy nowadays but I still have this feeling, just for myself, that I don’t want to put anything on that I can’t take off, bad enough the various scars and stretch marks of existence. I don’t really want my body to be the billboard of my inner self because things change, I change and that would not change. But I love that it’s not a big deal anymore since I do think that period should do what they want!
December 1, 2013 at 10:28 pm
I agree, live and let live, but for me I chose not to. As always thank you for your contribution to the discussion. I am so glad you read my little blog!
Pingback: Daily Prompt: Tattoo….. You? | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
Pingback: Tattoo… | Life as a country bumpkin...not a city girl
December 2, 2013 at 8:32 am
I do not have any tattoo’s myself, I always think about getting my twin boys who are angels, their feet tatted on me somewhere and then I think to myself how hard that might be to look at everyday but its a nice way to honor their life or in my case a nice thought.
December 2, 2013 at 10:26 am
It’s very sweet and sad at the same time. They will never leave your heart or soul, so I’m not sure you need them on your skin. Just my two cents. Hugs to you.
December 2, 2013 at 11:05 am
I can roll with your reply. You are right on the money.
December 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm
wow that’s so interesting about the border agent’s comment – I hope my kids never get a neck tattoo (I hope my kids never get A tattoo but if I say that out loud you just know the house will be full of inked up skin!)
December 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm
I was a little surprised that he did, but he clearly liked us so I couldn’t resist asking. As for the kids, my son’s father would string him up, I think. I’m not worried about it at this point, he’s not that kind of guy (I hope!).
December 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Two out of three ain’t bad (in my case – thanks Meatloaf, off topic though!)
ha ha my youngest is keen..I’m hoping there’s enough time between keen and doing to lose the keen!