Skin Deep 244

Skin Deep 244 11 November 2014 244

Earlier this morning, I got a call from Radio Wales to be part of a phone in about teacher who had been sent home from her first day at work because she was tattooed. The story originated from the Daily Mirror - which by default means that everybody was ‘fuming’ or ‘shattered’. I wish they would use words like ‘thunderstruck’ sometimes to spice up their delivery but that’s beside the point.

I don’t recall who the other guy on the phone-in was (sorry Sir) but he was pretty high up within the Welsh education system and actually had some solid, positive things to say. Somewhere along the way, between him, me and a decent radio presenter, for the first time ever I think we actually made sense.

Here’s the thing: I am obviously pro-tattoo. The freedom that we have in this country to decide to be heavily tattooed (visibly or otherwise) is taken for granted but as tattooed people - I think I said this last issue too - we need to understand that the rest of the world might not see it the same way. That’s what freedom is about. You can’t have freedom for some people who want to do one thing and then take it away from others.

In an ideal world, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to teachers, their job is to teach and guide. Some of my kids teachers are tattooed - we’ve had them out at parents evening too - and nobody cares. It’s not a problem. I am more concerned with them not actually knowing where Stockholm is and who Guy Fawkes was. The kids, not the teachers.
It’s worth pointing out here (of all places) that when you make that commitment to be publicly tattooed, you’re committing yourself to a lifetime of being tattooed. That sounds dumb when you say it out loud, but the Yakuza are not wrong about their rules. Tattooed when you want to be, not tattooed when you don’t. When you have things to do in life, if you can’t fit in to get those things done, then you’ve played the game wrong. I know a whole bunch of people with public tattoos who get on just fine. A lot of them have decided to back out of the employment system and do their own thing - and that’s beautiful, it’s The Big Dream. Some however, fell over along the way and had to take the time to figure a different route.

Showing the middle finger to the world is the best thing ever - we can probably all agree on that because an attitude is a terrible thing to waste - but when you stick it out at heavy traffic, chances are, it’s going to get clipped.

If you want to be a teacher or any other job that involves a operating in a world in which non-tattooed people are mostly in charge, just think about what you’re doing. It may be prejudice and it may not be. That word gets used a lot these days - but if you treat your tattoos with respect, they will respect you back. This isn’t me saying ‘don’t get tattooed’ - that would be dumb. This is me saying ‘choose your battles’ because the one that brings in the money that keeps a roof over your head - and maybe leaves you with enough money to get tattooed - is an important one to be part of.

Not so long ago you would have been turned away from a studio for wanting public ink when you still had room underneath your clothes. I wonder what changed. If anybody has some extra special thoughts on this, I’m all ears.

Having said all of that - from this huge vantage point, I have noticed that times and attitudes have been changing over the last year or so. Employers are starting to question whether that tattoo on an exceptional worker serving coffee is actually as big a deal as they once thought. Being tattooed no longer (necessarily) means you’re a rebel, an outcast, a waste of space or a rock star. It’s 2014 and being tattooed simply means you’re tattooed - and that’s the only difference between you and the next (blank) guy.

Mostly though, I’m pleased to have had a live on-air discussion - with two other people with no ink - that didn’t piss all over being tattooed from a great height.

That, my friends, is a massive step forward.


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