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COLUMN: Tattoos can be more than just ink


Indiana Daily Student editor Cody Thompson has a tattoo of a set of coordinates on his inner arm. The coordinates point to a house he and his mother lived in when he was younger.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

I thought for a long time about what I wanted my first tattoo to be. I tossed around a lot of ideas: a compass; a map; a quote from my favorite book, "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London.

I toyed with each idea in my head for a while, imagined it on my arm or my shoulder. None of them seemed worthy of putting into my skin forever.

I knew I wanted something important to me.

I ended up making a decision: a set of coordinates pointing to a house in the small town of Hoagland, Indiana. To anyone who types in those coordinates, it may not mean anything to them.

Google Maps will pull up a small, rickety house that is slightly off-kilter because of an unsteady foundation. The roof of the front porch is sunken in from rain water.

What they would not see is the amount of beautiful, small moments I spent in that home with my mother. It was a transformative time of my life. I learned a lot about myself and my mother. For me, it is an incognito “mom” tattoo. 

It is for that reason I refuse to be ashamed of it. I refuse to try and hide it from potential employers at an interview. Any place that doesn't hire someone because they are choosing to express something important to them is not a place I want to be anyway.

Now, it is a different story if the tattoo is something vulgar. If you have a naked woman tattooed on your arm or inappropriate words on your knuckles, perhaps you should reconsider a job at Toys"R"Us. 

I love my tattoo because it means something to me. I plan on giving similar importance to all my future tattoos. I have been tossing the idea of getting a dagger tattooed on my other arm as an homage to the years of Dungeons & Dragons I played with my cousins during another transformative time in my life.

But that is just my personal ideology and justification for putting a permanent image on my body. For many, it is a form of artistic expression or a way to highlight certain personality traits.

My girlfriend, for example, has 10 tattoos with plans of many more. For her, a tattoo is similar to jewelry or clothes, it is just another way to express yourself. 

Most of her tattoos do not mean anything. She just thinks they are pretty, which I think is fantastic.

However, more along the lines of my ideology, one of my best friends has a tattoo I have always loved. It is done in a faded red color and is a circle on the underside of his wrist. In the circle is a pig standing on its hind legs and carrying a medieval-looking banner that is blowing in the wind.

It is obscure, and I was always curious about its meaning. When I asked him about it, I was almost expecting a tale of a drunken night from when he was in college that ended in a tattoo parlor.

It turns out the tattoo was a sort of memorial he and four of his other friends received in honor of their fifth friend in the group who died. He originally had the tattoo so the living friends decided to honor him by replicating it.

Suddenly, this ridiculous image of a pig standing on its hind legs became one of the most beautiful and touching things I had ever seen. It is not often that a form of art can do something like that.

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