Happy Sunday, Kids. I’m offended about a new thing. It’s not a gender thing (weeelll maybe a little but we’ll get to that), an issue of race, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. Last night I ate nachos with a good friend of mine and we talked about an annoyance we’ve both taken issue with at some point. We couldn’t come up with a snappy description for it, so we’ve feebly (and satirically) named it “interest-shaming.”
I’ve talked on here before about how I am someone with a distinct look. Among my group of friends this isn’t really the case. Among my group of friends I have the lamest taste in music and movies and do the least cool things. But in other people’s worlds I am seen as exciting and rebellious and all those labels that the 14 year old me would relish in.
So yeah I’ve got tattoos and sometimes I put weird color in my hair. I don’t care if people comment or ask questions, because I know I stand out and I can admit I’ve done these things to assert my individuality. Maybe I just want to piss off my dad, I don’t know. I grew up in the 90s so angst probably plays at least a minor role in these decisions.
Regardless, I know that I’m going to get looked at.
What you’re kinda not allowed to do though, is treat me like public property. And now I want to tell you a story.
So yesterday I’m on the bus. I’ve got a head cold and I’m running errands, and I’m gussied up to go to this pool party that I want to get to- and I just kind of want to listen to Otis Redding and stare straight ahead into nothingness for a while. Because it’s the weekend after all, and I’m worth it.
So this couple gets on the bus and they’re sitting on opposite ends of the vehicle but carrying on a conversation. They’re loud as shit and harshing my flow a bit but this is the bus after all so whatever. Then the guy leans over to me and motions for me to take my headphones off because of course he’s going to talk to me.
“Hey, I like your tattoo” pointing to the Guadalupe on my arm.
“Who did that?”
“Chris Stans, he works at-”
“How much did it cost?”
When people ask me this for no real reason, I get a little uncomfortable because it’s a personal question. If you’re thinking of getting something done and you want a ballpark figure, the best person to ask would be a tattoo artist. I’d be happy to write down some names for you. But I don’t want to tell you how much I spent on my particular tattoo because you don’t really need to know and to be perfectly honest I don’t remember the exact figure.
“Well come on.”
“I just don’t-”
“Come oooon. I bet it cost more than $100″
“Well, most good tattoos cost more than $100. The artist has to-”
“I bet that cost more than $100.”
“Well, yes. But-”
This belligerence goes on for a bit and we conclude that yes- this cost more than $100.
“So why’d you get it?”
“I don’t know. I liked it.”
“Come oooon, what’s the story? You got it there must be a reason for it.”
*trying to think of something succinct someone would say on a tattoo reality show* “Because the image resonated with me.”
“Yeah but why. Come on, tell me.”
“I don’t know, man, I just-”
“What’s that skull there? Like… life and death or something?”
Something people need to understand is that berating somebody with questions is uncomfortable, no matter who that person is and what they look like. You wouldn’t just plop down next to any old person and ask them if they had a rough childhood, so you don’t really need to know my personal stories because I paid someone to put ink in my arm.
At this point people are shifting uncomfortably in their seats and looking over at me with the “sorry this guy is an asshole” eyes. I figure I’ll answer his questions and move on. I got these tattoos, it’s my fault this is happening… I guess? My stop is coming up anyway.
“The original image had a cherub there, but this has kind of a Mexican “day of the dead” style to it so there’s a skull there.”
“Well let me see it.”
Trying to be *nice*, I hold out my arm kind of awkwardly, not enough for him to grab me (has happened) but just enough that he can see the piece a little better.
“Move your strap. I want to see it all.”
“I want to see it.”
“I’m sorry- you’re making me really uncomfortable.”
WHICH SHOULD ALWAYS BE WHERE YOU STOP DOING THE THING YOU’RE DOING. Sometimes I do something that I think is innocent based on my sensibilities, but if I hear that sentence come out of a person’s mouth, I stop.
“Well I just want to see it. Because that looks like Mary to me.”
“Yup. it’s Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is my stop though.”
So I start to get up and he’s calling after me.
“Well I just don’t know why there’s a skull there. Because that looks like Mary to me. Look. I’m sorry I offended you *please forgive me* but I bet you get asked this stuff all the time.”
And that’s it right there. That’s “interest shaming.” If you want to talk about tattoos, sure I’d be down for that. I have them, so I’m going to get asked about them and that’s really ok. But I’m not an episode of Miami Ink and I don’t need to sing for my bus ride and I don’t owe you an explanation. People with alternative looks or cool jobs or neat-o names are compelling, but they aren’t dancing monkeys either.
And you’re probably thinking this guy is just some rude asshole and who the hell cares. But people use my tattoos (please don’t call them “tattys” bee tee dubs) as an excuse to grab me, badger me, or vocalize their assumptions about me pretty regularly.
In the midst of writing this entry, I found an article by a lady with the same issues. I smiled and nodded and thought of maybe not even posting this because she’d already said what I wanted to say, and her story is better written anyway. Then I saw the comment section. (Why, WHY do I do this to myself?)
And here’s the thing. My mere existence isn’t “in your face” just because I have colours on my arm. Tattoos aren’t speech unless the tattoo in question says “ask me about my tattoos.”
If you interrupt a celebrity eating their lunch and they don’t want to give you an autograph, that isn’t because they are “mean.” It is because they want to finish their lunch. And being on your favourite show certainly makes them someone you’re welcome to admire or approach in a polite way, but it doesn’t make you guys best friends and it doesn’t make them any less human.
My choosing to look different doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to be treated with respect. If you want to compliment the way I look, or ask my advice on something you might be thinking of doing, there’s a polite way to do that.
If I’m in a happy mood and you’re being cool, maybe I’ll talk to you for a bit. If I don’t feel like talking to you that’s really ok, regardless of the choices I’ve made about my appearance.
And if you don’t believe me, think about going up to someone in a business suit and being all “Hey- that’s a nice suit. Where’d you get it? Wow, you most make a lot of money. How much do you make a year? Are you supporting a family with that money or are you single?” And think about how uncomfortable that might be. But it’s that person’s fault, right? Because they should have worn sweats and brought their suit to work if they didn’t want people to ask about it. It’s just such a nice suit, they had to know people would want to know all about their personal life once they saw it.
And if you can’t look at someone without feeling entitled to them in some way, I’m going to go ahead and say that you are the problem. Unless maybe the person you were talking to was this lady:
Because ok- I do have some pretty pressing questions on this one.