Sitting in silence as the humming buzz of the tattoo gun begins, senior Jules Dizon attempts to hide the pain as the needle digs into his skin. The pain begins as bearable but as time moves on he gets more restless and starts fidgeting from the needle. After about an hour the tattoo is etched onto his skin, waiting to be seen.
From generation to generation, tattoos have become more and more accepted. Back in the day, having a teacher or a school administrator with tattoos was immensely frowned upon. Nowadays, however, our society sees them and not only admires them but in some cases encourages them.
Students who are inked up
Specifically as a tribute to his best friend, senior Jaesen Singkum got a tattoo to honor his late friend, Sirichat “Palm” Ganpet. His tattoo consists of three stripes that stretch around his bicep, which make him look more intimidating according to his friends.
“I got this tattoo as a tribute to my best friend who had passed away about three months prior to getting it done; he had the same exact tattoo,” Singkum said. “The three stripes stand for blood, sweat and tears. It was my best friend’s life goal to ‘earn his stripes’ and now I feel it is my job to earn them for him and carry on his life goal.”
While Singkum has one tattoo, senior Jules Dizon has multiple. Starting with a red heart with the inscription of “Mom and forever” over his heart as a dedication to his mother, next is the anchor wrapped by a four leaf clover that covers his right bicep which is for his brother because that is his right-hand man.
“All of my tattoos I designed myself, so picking a favorite is kind of hard,” Dizon said. “If I had to choose, my chest tattoo would be my favorite because it’s dedicated to my mother.”
Dizon has a total of three tattoos; two the size of a hand and one the size of a quarter. The first was done when he was 17 and the other two were added as soon as he turned 18.
“I’ve always seen myself covered in meaningful artwork, so being able to design and then permanently ink the artwork into my skin, I feel really accomplished and expressive,” Dizon said. “To me, tattoos represent what’s important to me, what I value, and also things I just find interesting.”
Believing that art deserves a spot on his body, junior Nathan Rightman’s tattoos includes an iris that is replaced with the sun and moon and an eyebrow above it. To him, having beautiful artwork on your body represents freedom.
“I do feel that people judge me because of my tattoos, when parents or other teens see my art they get a little creeped out because of it,” Rightman said. “I don’t quite understand why it’s that way but I couldn’t care less.”
Being inked while underage
“I don’t think that I’m treated too differently,” Bowles said. “I mean, sure you get the people who have a debate with me on how I’ll think about it in the future and that I’ll regret it but at the end of the day, it’s something I wanted and it’s my body.”
Growing up, music has been a big part of Bowles’ family. For her second tattoo, she sketched out the music note hearts herself and got matching designs with her mom. Her mother wouldn’t allow her to get the tattoo if it didn’t have a special meaning to it, but when she saw the design she fell in love and decided to get it too.
“I feel tattoos are a form of expression,” Sabrina Bowles, Melia’s mother said. “A badge of sorts, allowing others to see what’s important to you. A matching tattoo with my daughter shows that I support her, her creativity and its more permanent then matching jewelry, which most mothers and daughters do.”
Getting something permanently inked onto your skin can be a huge risk; this is why some people find it better until they are of age to get tattoos. For Singkum, waiting until he was 18 was something that he didn’t want to do. Getting permission from his parents to get the three stripes for his friend was fairly easy for him.
“I have tattoos myself so I couldn’t tell him no,” David Singkum, Jaesen’s dad said.
Teachers who are inked up
“You’re going to regret that.” “Wow that looks so cool.” “Aren’t you a teacher? Why do you have that?” Teachers have heard it all, from the support of tattoos to the disapproval of them. Many teachers at this school have tattoos that are either hidden or placed in clearly visible areas of their bodies. Mr. Pate Thomas, U.S history teacher, has multiple tattoos.
“I’ve never been treated differently because I have tattoos since most of mine are hidden,” Thomas said. “I do think you can be treated differently because of them and that’s why I never got one in a place that is always visible.”
His most recent tattoo was done by an apprentice, on her seventh tattoo, which included an anchor and lighthouse. Out of all of his tattoos, the royal flush on his right bicep that says ‘good luck’ is his favorite because it is the same as his grandfather’s.
“My grandfather had a lot of tattoos which he got when he was in the Navy and growing up I always really wanted one,” Thomas said. “Once you get one they get addicting and you keep going until you have a big piece.”
Waiting until the age of 21, Mrs. Laura Penrod has sat in the tattoo chair a total of 17 times.
“I got every one for a different reason,” Penrod said. “I would say my Sugar Skull has a lot of significance. I have pansies for my grandmother who passed away, paw prints for my dogs, an apple for teaching, red roses for my grandpa, a skeleton key for my husband, and a banner that states Carpe Diem for my other grandfather. They all represent the things/people I love. Sugar skulls are traditionally known for having elements of loved ones or things, which is why I have those items.”
Students without ink
To some students, tattoos aren’t necessarily a problem, but it isn’t something they would do. While they do see tattoos as a work of art on other people, different factors can influence their decision.
“I feel that if you get a tattoo and the artist screws up, you’re stuck with it,” junior Jordan Salas said. “Unless you can afford to pay thousands of dollars to get it removed. Also your skin gets saggy when you get older so the tattoo will look disgusting.”
For those who like tattoos but don’t want to permanently ink their skin, there are some alternatives. These include henna, glitter and washable tattoos.
“It depends on the type of tattoo that you’re getting,” freshman Joey Perez said. “If you’re going to get something cheesy like a snake wrapped around a skull, I wouldn’t recommend it. I think something more artistic or cultural would be better.”
For others, opting to not receive a tattoo is because of a more personal reason. Whether it be due to religion or not wanting to alter their bodies, some prefer to not ink their skin.
“In my religion, we’re about modesty and being natural, which is why I also can’t do my eyebrows or have tattoos,” sophomore Shareen Basyari said.
There’s no going back
Once you make a decision on a tattoo and an artist, make sure that you consider the positive and negative consequences.
Tattoos require weeks of aftercare, including washing the area several times a day and moisturizing when the tattoo dries out, and avoiding direct sun. Consider this before booking a trip to a warm, sunny place.
Not only can one come to regret the ink on their skin, but hiring a bad or inexperienced artist can lead to infections and/or scarring, or subpar quality. Take time to research the shop and ensure the artist has an established clientele, and is using sterile equipment.
Removal of a tattoo can range from five to ten sessions, depending on the size of the tattoo. These sessions can cost $500 each for a grand total of $5000 for all ten sessions. Of the 45 million Americans that have tattoos, 11 percent of them seek out tattoo removal. Places like Las Vegas Laser Tattoo Removal and Surgical Dermatology specialize in this process.
“It’s a painful reminder to choose your tattoos a bit more carefully,’’ Jimmy McManus, tattoo removal customer, said after deciding to remove his leg tattoo.
Tattoos becoming more than art
Tattoos may potentially cross the line from a simple art piece to a functional technological advancement. As society progresses, people have the ability to use tattoos as a means of controlling digital devices, potentially making them a necessary part of life.
“Most people say that I shouldn’t have tattoos because they could impede me from getting certain jobs or my tattoos might come off as offensive, so I tell them that I’ll deal with the consequences myself,” Dizon said. “I tell them that so many people have tattoos that employers and the military have even revised their tattoo policy to accommodate today’s youth. It’s funny how people without tattoos can judge others with tattoos, but you don’t see people with tattoos judging people without them.”