The most common question about my tattoos (or maybe second after “do you know what you’ll look like when you’re old?”) is how they’re viewed at work. Long before I started getting heavily tattooed, I considered what it would mean to work in an office – high necked tops, cardigans and long sleeves, no neck tattoos until I’m old or important enough to get away with it.
Since I’m too broad shouldered for deep V-necks anyways, I considered it a worthy trade-off and dove in. Although having long arms have made covering my tattoos a bit more difficult than I had expected, I’m generally successful in keeping them mostly out of sight. People see them, though – in the summer when I’m attempting to slip into the change rooms unnoticed in my sweaty bike gear; at social events or training when I’m dressed down; when I get lazy and wear a 3/4 sleeve t-shirt and hope I don’t have any important meetings.
Somewhat surprisingly, in the 3 years I’ve been working in the department, I’ve had one negative comment (couched as concern, because diplomats are smooth that way) and countless positive ones. Lots of people want to know what the story is behind them, show me their tattoos, and make me take off my blazer in the cafeteria (usually when my boss is walking by).
It helps that I don’t have any tattoos of zombies or swear words, and that I’m not otherwise very sartorially edgy (see above: cardigans and high-cut tops). But I like to think that it’s mostly because people recognise that the days of tattoos being the domain of sailors and jailbirds are over, and that there are lots of otherwise “normal” people who like tattoos as an art.
Presumably there are people that disapprove, but are polite enough to keep their opinions to themselves, which I admire (it’s a skill I’m working on with little success). But even those people must be able to differentiate between my style and my content, as it were.
I admit to a little nervousness about how my tattoos will be received in other countries. Certainly as a backpacker, I always got a lot of compliments (and requests to pose for photos, feeding my hope that one day I’ll get to be a model in a whisky ad in Japan). But my hope is that they won’t be viewed negatively in a professional environment.
At least they’ll always be a great ice-breaker for visiting prisons.