I would think twice about getting inked

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Anyone who takes the bus frequently, or even those who submerge themselves in public crowds, knows how diverse this country’s people are. So many different cultures, ethnicities and religions can be seen anywhere you look.

That’s partially why I love people-watching — it can be so interesting. But something I saw a few months back is only now really making me think about tradition, culture and religion and how they intertwine. I’ve seen this “something” numerous times throughout my life, but one recent incident made me look at it differently.

I was heading towards school on the iXpress when a man came on the bus and took a seat. Upon first glance I could tell that the guy was a bit different and I don’t mean different in an insulting way — it’s more of an expressive or possibly artistic kind of different. He had piercings on multiple places of his face: one on his eyebrow, several in his ears and he also had snakebite piercings. When I saw the rest of his appearance though, I was both amazed and confused. His arms, legs and neck were covered with an intricate and complex lacing of tattoos. It was amazing to me because it was so colourful and elaborate in its designs, but I was confused because I know the pain of getting even just one tattoo since I held my best friend’s hand when she got hers.

After I got off the bus, I completely forgot about him. But any time I see someone with a tattoo, a picture from my memory of that man comes back into my mind. It’s something that continues to intrigue me, so I figured I’d do some research about tattoos: their place in culture, religion and tradition. The practice of tattooing the human body has been going on for thousands of years and has mostly meant something personal to the person acting as a canvas. According to Cate Lineberry, tattoos have “served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.” I completely understand the meanings of status symbols, love declarations and religious signs, but I can’t help but wonder why people would actually want to engrave something into their skin. It just seems too painful to me.

Tattoos were most likely first seen on the mummies of ancient Egyptians, but I’m going to take a stab and say that Egyptians dated around 2000 B.C. had many different beliefs, practices and religions than what we have today in Canada. I’m relating this specifically to the “I heart Ian” or “I heart Jessica” tattoos that I see on so many young adults who think they’re in love but end up splitting.
My point is that Egyptians may have had a much deeper meaning and relation behind their tattoos than what we place behind ours today. Perhaps most of their tattoos were symbols of their religion, something deeply rooted in their beliefs and something they’d hold onto before and after their lives. Once again relating to my example of the “I heart” tattoos, my older sister always tells me to never get one because they’re addicting, and I’ll probably regret anything I have written or drawn on my body because I’m so young.

Thinking about it, I can honestly say that I agree with her. The idea of a tattoo is somewhat enticing to me, simply because I really love art, but it’s also a bit nerve-wracking since it’s permanent. And the process of removing it, I’m guessing, will be just as painful and as expensive as getting it done. So why would I waste my money?

I know a few people who are completely against getting tattoos and of course some who are totally for it. I’d say I’m more neutral about the subject. As cultural symbols, I think tattoos are awesome, but I’d definitely think twice about having Winnie the Pooh stamped on my arm.

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