Tatoos: An expression of the self

As far back as the fifth millennium B.C., humans have been permanently inking their skin through the art of tattoo. Though originally for spiritual purposes, tattoos have taken on a culture all their own in our day and age, especially in this country.

We pay people to design our tattoos, parlors to get the ink done and to remove them, if need be. Television shows like “LA Ink” and “Miami Ink” follow the lives of people who design and apply tattoos and the lives of people who get tattoos. There are tattoo expos at trade centers where enthusiasts can showcase their fleshy art and their artsy flesh. It is big business. Students and teachers alike have a plethora of tats and a wide array of reasons for going under the needle.

Business student Eugene Ivashchenko has two tattoos, the symbol for the band “Thrice” and the equation E=MC2.

“The story behind the ‘Thrice’ symbol … I don’t actually like the band too much. I saw their band logo on the kick drum at one of their shows and it really reminded me of a butterfly. … I love butterflies.”

As for the theory of relativity equation, “About a year ago, I picked up the Mariah Carey album of the same name, and frankly it changed my life. On the surface, it has pop sensibility and great vocals, but then I started reading the lyrics so I could better sing along and I was inspired. You can’t read them and not be changed.” said Ivashchenko.

Lori Saffin, who teaches sociology at the college, has ink on her left forearm that encodes a portion of her life story. “It is a gender tattoo,” says Saffin, “it is a symbol of the fluidity of gender, talking about male/female because I identify with lots of different aspects of both.”

The design incorporates the infinity symbol, representing the interconnectedness of gender. “I got it five or six years ago when I was struggling with my own identity.”

Transfer student Stephanie Strothers has a series of animal footprints on her right foot. “Animals are my passion; [they] always have been,” says Strothers, who also works at a pet store.

Ryan Miller, a psychology student, has an intricate story behind his tattoo. “I have my family crest on my upper back,” says Miller. “It has three griffin’s heads. I believe it’s a Giles.” He knew early on he wanted his family crest because he wanted to get a tattoo of something about him that would never change. “I didn’t want to get a weed leaf and wake up one day when I’m forty and say ‘What was I thinking?’” One day he was talking with a woman who had full sleeves up and down her arms and mentioned he wanted to get something related to his family. “She said, ‘Let’s go get it done right now.’” He said that it was a mistake because the artist screwed it up. He wished he had checked the artist out first.

, another psychology student, has a simpler motive for her ink. She has a flower on her collar bone and a heart on her left arm. “I designed both of them, so there isn’t really any significance there. I wanted to have something that I wouldn’t find on anyone else’s body.” She said the notion of putting your energy into something that will end up on your body permanently really speaks to her.

Tattoos say something about us as people. What we decide to put on our bodies is a testament to some aspect of our personality and, given the permanence of the ink, the need to tread lightly is paramount.