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Students, faculty travel many paths to ink

By Savannah Christian
On November 16, 2010

Women, don't get a tattoo. That butterfly looks great on your breast when you're twenty or thirty, but when you get to seventy, it stretches into a condor. ~Comedian Billy Elmer

Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, especially with today's youth.

Those who get tattoos generally see them as beautiful, interesting, symbolic and artistic. However, the parents and grandparents of these men, and especially of these women, don't always think the same.

Junior English major Khimen Cooper has multiple tattoos.

"I always pictured my body as a canvas," Cooper said. "It's just one that you have to keep forever."

One of the most common arguments against tattoos is that they are permanent, for all practical purposes, and therefore might someday become a source a regret.

"Even if I look back one day and hate any of my tattoos," Cooper said, "I will remember that they were a part of my life at one time and therefore will not regret them."

Junior painting major Sam England has a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm.

"Why would you not get tattoos?" England said. "To me, it shows respect for artists. I like their work so much I let them put it on me."

There are often stories behind tattoos, like the rose on Professor of Literature and Languages Dr. Robin Reid's left shoulder.

"I got my [rose] in 1983, in Oxford, England," Reid said. "It was my souvenir for a study abroad program I was doing for my Master's. I picked a rose because I've always loved roses and the imagery of the rose in British literature. "

England also has a rose tattoo on his left arm.

"My dad grows all different kinds of roses, so I got a rose tattoo for him," England said.

According to Cooper, some tattoo stories are more important than others.

"I have a tattoo for both of my parents," she said, "but they aren't dead. Everyone always assumes they are dead and I got those in remembrance of them. I also have a finger mustache. There is no story behind it, but it's funny, so it has a purpose."

Reid connects the meaning of tattoos with the meaning of literature.

"I think every text has meanings, multiple meanings, and tattoos are not different," Reid said. "The meaning might be very personal and never explained, or it might simply be because the person choosing the tattoos loves it, but I don't think there has to be some official reason that must be imposed, or that people have to explain everything."

That not all people approve of tattoos is a fact that those with visible tattoos have to take into consideration.

"I always keep long sleeves with me because I understand people get offended," England said. "Any discrimination that comes my way because of them is my fault."

Cooper said her attitude toward her tattoos has changed over time.

"At first, I was proud and them, and I wanted to show them off," Cooper said. "I have learned that I did this to myself and I have to take responsibility for them. The worst part of discrimination is that complete strangers find it as a conversation starter. Yes, tattoos hurt."

According to Reid, she has never had to deal with negative reactions toward her tattoos, except from her mother.

"The only person who has ever said anything is my mother," Reid said. "She finds tattoos disturbing and distasteful. She asked if I wouldn't be unhappy with them when I am 80 and wrinkled. I figure, if I am lucky enough to see 80 and am wrinkled, then I'm the cool 80-year-old with wrinkled skin and awesome tattoos."

Cooper has a similar attitude toward objections to her tattoos.

"People don't understand any deviation from the norm," she said. "Why do they care? It doesn't matter that I have tattoos. I have learned that people speak out against them because they are afraid of them. I feel sorry for people who look at me and think I am a lesser person because I have tattoos."

England refers to a song by Ani DiFranco when explaining his tattoos.

"Her lyrics say that a tattoo is no more permanent than I am," England said. "I am only here for a short amount of time, tracing history as I go."

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