What do you mean it doesn’t mean anything?

I honestly believe that this is a bit of a misconception, and that people who get tattooed without some deep meaningful story behind the tattoo are looked down upon. I just wanted to voice my thoughts on this subject.

To think that every tattoo or every piercing needs a personal story behind it is a little pretentious to me. There is nothing wrong with just having a tattoo because it’s pretty, there is nothing wrong with getting a piercing just because you like the way it looks. But what’s the difference between getting a tattoo without meaning and getting one on a whim?

Let’s use flower tattoos as an example. Flowers alone have certain meanings, like red roses are for love, daisy is for innocence, calla lily symbolizes royalty, and so on. Beyond that, whatever the tattoo means to the person wearing it is up to them. I honestly think that a tattoo doesn’t need any more than maybe a one or two sentence explanation, like “I was really close to my grandmother, so when she died I got her favorite flower, the Calla lily, tattooed on me.” That’s plenty of explanation. I hate hearing this sort of thing: “The red rose is the flower of passionate love. Its blood red color symbolizes the blood I’ve shed in the name of this meaningless and frivolous emotion. The thorns represent how many times I’ve been stabbed in the back, and the fallen petals are the pieces of my heart that have broken off and will now wither and die, never to be made whole again.” I honestly want to laugh. That’s entirely unnecessary. It sounds more to me like you’re trying to justify why you got the tattoo to yourself, rather than to anyone else, with a long drawn out explanation like that.

If that’s what it honestly means to you, then fine. But not every tattoo needs some paragraph story behind it. It doesn’t make the tattoo any less meaningful to the person wearing it. Remember, tattoos are not for other people, they’re only for the wearer.

For me, I think a tattoo without meaning still means something to you. Using myself as an example, I have both of my zodiac signs tattooed on me, eastern and western. They just mean that I’m an Aquarius and a Tiger. Beyond that, they don’t mean anything. They don’t need any more meaning than that, and whatever meaning the signs themselves may hold.

And also be aware that you don’t have to explain your tattoos to everyone who asks if you don’t want to. It’s YOUR tattoo, on YOUR body, and they are asking you about it. If you don’t feel like talking to them, or talking about your tattoo, politely refuse them and move on. Something like “It’s a long story and I’m in a hurry, but thank you for your interest.” would be just fine and plenty polite. If people don’t understand, then did you really want to talk to them in the first place?

One thing to consider when getting tattooed, however, is if you’re getting a symbol or imagery from another culture, MAKE SURE it’s done correctly, with sensitivity, and in the right way. I have two Japanese kanji characters on me, and I know for a fact they are right. Been verified by a native Japanese speaker and a friend who’s been studying the language for a good six years, as well as both of his instructors in the language. A good example of this is I once heard the story of a woman who wanted to get her eastern zodiac symbol, the Rooster, tattooed on her. She looked up the kanji for “chicken”, then went in and got it. She later learns that the word “chicken” is a derogatory term, I think in Vietnamese, used for female prostitutes. Yeah, don’t be like her.

Other cultures sometimes hold their images and traditions very closely, so if you do get something tattooed on you from another culture, make sure you keep their feelings in mind, at least a little bit. Make sure you’re presenting this image in the right way. Most of my tattoos are Asian themed, but ethnically, I’m French, German, Finnish and Russian. Does that mean you can’t have tattoos from other cultures? Certainly not! Just make sure you’ve done them in the right way, used the right symbols and images for the tattoo you’re trying to make and the intention you’re trying to portray. Be sensitive and respectful of the cultures you’re representing on your body for the rest of your life. Otherwise, go for it.

Piercings are the same way. Many have said that piercings should only be done with the same tribal or original spirit in mind, meaning don’t get a certain piercing if you aren’t doing it for the original reason it was intended for. Take nostril piercings, for example. In the Middle East, a woman will receive a gold nose ring from her husband when they are married as a symbol of their marriage and status, and to provide her with a valuable piece of jewelry which she can use as money in case anything were to happen to the husband. Many will say that if you’re not piercing your nostril with that same drive in mind, then you shouldn’t be getting it at all.

I think that’s a TERRIBLE reason to do something, if that’s the only reason you’re doing it. And frankly, that’s really pretentious and stuck up to suggest to someone that their piercing has less meaning because they didn’t do it for the traditional reasons. As was stated above, the reasons you get modified are your own entirely, and you are by no means obligated to explain your reasoning to anyone if you don’t want to. If you honestly just like the look of a piercing, then get it. Sure, it’s nice to know the history of where it comes from, what it means, what cultures practiced it and for what reasons, but that doesn’t need to be the only reason you should be getting pierced.

My only suggestion is that you don’t get modified out of anger, as a coping mechanism, while under the influence of any substance, or just to piss someone off. Just because you’ve had a bad day is not a good enough reason to get an invasive procedure done. You’re acting on impulse when you’re angry or upset, and you’re more likely to regret your piercing or tattoo later on once you’ve calmed down.

So really, not every tattoo or piercing needs a deep meaningful meaning behind it. Bottom line, so long as YOU like it, that’s all that matters.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kahlua drinks
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 05:37:20

    Hey, Thanks for posting this. You have made some really interesting point in this article. I like it and I’ll keep coming back. Bye!


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