Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tattoos & Piercings on the Job

I saw this issue posted in an HR blog I read on occasion (largely, to learn how to be good at it & avoid screwing up).

This is an interesting issue for me since I actually have a tattoo myself. You'd never see it unless you saw me in underwear or a swimsuit but it is there. I'm not going to say what it is since if you know me, you're already aware of it or saw it & if you don't, then this is personal knowledge you don't get to have unless you actually get to know me.

I'd wanted one for years but couldn't figure out what design I wanted. I knew where I wanted it before I knew the design to get. Not long after getting dumped by Vampire Boy (or maybe it was a little before then?), I had my design figured out. There's a symbolism behind it, in fact. It represented my view that there was no love for me, that no soul mate existed for The Angry Redheaded Lawyer (or in those days, The Angry Redheaded Coed).

When I turned 22, I decided to get the tattoo as a present to myself after enduring all these hard breakups & general emotional pain I'd had over the years. I had never actually loved anyone I dated (though I wasn't sure about Vampire Boy until years later) & felt like everyone was ahead of me in that realm. I figured that was my fate & I'd die that way; getting the tattoo was, for me, an acceptance of that fate. It was my way of saying a prospective boyfriend couldn't hurt me as badly as he might want to since I simply was incapable of being in love with anyone in the true sense of that phrase.

The oddest thing was my mother, a fairly conservative woman, saw the tattoo when I was getting changed into the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding a couple months later and complimented me on it! She felt it was pretty & tasteful. My mother's probably closer to the anti-tattoo camp than most people & I'm still shocked she likes it.

A guy I dated afterward (the one who was 14 years older than me) didn't like it at all & asked me "What if my kids see it?" I said that I would point out that I am a grown-up and when they turn 18, then they can get tattoos.

People are still shocked when they hear I have one: I think I went up a few cool points with people at the film company when I told them about having one. When my Public Speaking teacher heard me talking about getting one in college, he (an attorney) said "Don't you know? ALL attorneys have tattoos!"

Having gotten one, I have a few words about them:

1. Don't get one unless you REALLY want it. Getting mine felt like someone taking a rusty nail and etching into my skin. I'm not kidding!! You gain a new respect for people who have tattoos once you get one for yourself. Especially if they are in bony or sensitive places!! I had one sorority sister who got tattoos on the front of her foot; I couldn't imagine doing that.

2. Go to a clean, reputable tattoo parlor. I went to a place recommended by a sorority sister who'd gotten a few and was becoming the resident tattoo fiend.

3. Pick a location where you can cover it up if you want to work in a mainstream job. Though at the law firm I worked at, I had a co-worker who had a very large shoulder/upper arm tattoo she covered up. I also had a co-worker who dressed goth & worked in the firm's foreclosure department. These were also pleasant people who never ticked me off.

So if you're a paralegal, you might be able to get away with it if you don't work at a law firm headed by some jerk devoid of personality and any appreciation for creativity.

Maybe I could get away w/getting a second tattoo if things work out for me in entertainment...but I'd have to figure out what I wanted & where to put it. I also hate having the same things as everyone else so it would have to be unique enough to satisfy me.

4. Don't pick a location on your body that will look nasty with age. I avoided my stomach, cleavage, butt or anything that might get fat or droopy as I age. A high school teacher I had once said that you don't want a tattoo somewhere that looks silly when you're 80 & in a rest home.

5. Make sure you can see what the artist is doing i.e. no tattoos where you can't see them. It's sure to end up misspelled & then you're not getting it for you; you're getting it for strangers. That's just not my forte; if it's yours, have fun but don't complain if the tattoo doesn't come out like you want it.

So I tend to get a little bitchy toward people who have this holier than thou attitude when it comes to people w/tattoos. I also have the view that if you aren't making a ton of money at a job, you shouldn't be expected to dress like you make six figures.

For example, no way will I wear a business suit unless you pay me six figures since I'd have to put in tons of money for alterations & go to specialty shops to find anything fitting my skinny butt. Almost every suit I have could use some alteration so it doesn't look baggy on me. Not to mention I feel more like I should be going to a fashion model photo shoot when I wear one than to court or some law firm. All lawyers should do this; at least legal aid attorneys are told to dress more casually so they don't offend clients.

I also hate uniforms; I loved working at JcPenney b/c though you had to dress up, you got some creative license. I think that's what I love about my industry; the fact that creative license is encouraged instead of shunned.

I don't see myself turning people away for having a piercing or tattoo. Don't think I'd be big on doing that if someone's a good applicant & the item wasn't completely offensive. I understand religious symbols, curse words, nudity; get up in arms over those all you want. Get mad about people not covering up certain things in reasonable situations like cleavage or tramp stamps. Demanding long sleeves when it's 100 degrees outside & inside is NOT reasonable; demanding this in a cool room is.

But when you start demanding a strip search as part of the job, it's over the top. I also think it's over the top to get demanding on appearance for low paid workers who have enough to deal with. If the tattoo harms a waitress, she'll see it in the tips. I think some problems solve themselves so you don't have to be an ass to people; a sales person offending people with appearance will hear about it sooner or later in loss of sales or a client speaking up.

I remember seeing an episode of "True Life" where this guy was getting massive tattoo removal for his fiancee, who pretty much demanded him to get them removed or she wouldn't marry him. I still think "What a bitch!" What happened to liking people for themselves?? Didn't she fall in love with this guy as he was? If he was making his own choice, that's one thing but it struck me that he was mostly doing it and trying to get a "respectable" job because this bitch commanded it. Yes, I hate women like that. They make the rest of us look bad.

The holier than thou folk saying "Don't get a tattoo or piercing," can shove it up their collective rear ends. I feel such things are a personal choice. Deal with them and find things that work FOR that choice instead of against it. I don't regret getting mine and if my husband had told me to remove it, I'd tell him to piss off. Anyone else would hear even worse.

Basing your opinion of someone on that is the same as telling someone to lose weight before you'll date him/her or telling a woman to get implants or she's not good enough for you. Who the hell do you think you are to tell anyone that??? Don't let anyone manipulate you that way; love yourself first! If someone doesn't like you for you, they don't deserve your time.

Give me a good worker with a tattoo or piercing any day over some incompetent who dresses all boring and beige. I've concluded that I really don't fit with the average corporate workplace since there are too many boring and beige folk and I can't relate to that. Again, I still believe you can dress tastefully without dressing like the old person you aren't or a total frump with no originality at all.


  1. I'm getting ready to apply to law school, but I really want an eyebrow ring. How badly do you think it would affect my career aspects? I want to work in environmental law, but I realize it may not be realistic to find work in that exact field immediately, which could mean spending a few years in another type of law firm.

    1. Hi Catcher. I wanted to respond after doing some thought & there's also dealing with real life. In my personal opinion, I think it depends on what you want to do.

      Some firms are stuffy but there are other places that have room for characters if they've got the law school GPA/law review & fit into the "culture." I've even known of places that value a personality & want their attorneys to be people the clients can relate to.

      Especially since my father died but in general, I believe in living for the day. I was extremely passionate about my tattoo & knew I had to get it. I don't know about eyebrow rings but if you know someone who has one already, I'd ask if the hole closes quickly, if there's noticeable scaring if you decide you no longer want it & the hole closes up, etc. There are ways to do just about anything discreetly & with taste; I got my tattoo in an area not seen by the general public unless I'm in a swimsuit.

      Perhaps a smaller ring wouldn't draw much attention.

      As I say, I think it's ultimately up to you & how badly you want to get it done. You won't have to worry about it affecting you so much as a law student but for all you know, you may end up at a smaller firm or hanging your own shingle or even in public interest. I didn't even know entertainment law was an option until I went to law school & I couldn't have predicted where I'm at now. We're not promised tomorrow & there's no way to predict the future. Just my thoughts.

  2. This was an interesting read. I personally won't care about what people think when I am older and have tattoos. It was my decision and my body. However, I am prior military (Marines) and a female, I am pretty much covered in tattoos. Sleeves down both arms...both hands covered including knuckles and I have polynesian (my heritage) flowers covering my left side of the neck. I am in paralegal school right now and was wondering what places really look down on that sort of thing. I don't really want to work for an attorney. I really wanted to work for the FBI for a long time or something along those lines.