Things You Shouldn’t Say To People With Tattoos

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 11, 2020
    Last Updated: January 3, 2021

No matter how curious you are about someone’s tattoos, certain things simply shouldn’t be said. 

We all decide to tattoo our bodies for different reasons. Whether a person’s body art has sentimental value, symbolizes an event they want to remember, or just happens to be something they need on their body, a tattoo is private for many. Just because you’re curious about someone’s ink doesn’t mean you get a free pass to ask questions or offer unsolicited opinions or advice.

It’s important to remember that when you comment on someone’s tattoos, you’re commenting on their body. Use common sense. Humans should not treat others differently based on the fact that someone has chosen to decorate their limbs.

Of course, it’s fine to be friendly. Asking specific questions like “Where did you get your tattoo?” and “When did you get your tattoo?” is perfectly acceptable and can spark interesting conversations. 

To help you out and avoid confusion, we’ve compiled a list of common questions and comments you probably shouldn’t say to someone with a tattoo, especially if you don’t know them too well.

Did That Hurt?

Do you know the process of getting a tattoo? If so, there is no need to ask this question. Of course it hurt. A sharp needle repeatedly jabs into the top layer of your skin with colored pigment for possibly hours on end.

It’s important to note that different people have different pain thresholds. Also, specific areas of your body may hurt more than others. For example, underarms and ribs are more sensitive than forearms and shoulders (see the tattoo pain chart for a color-coded idea of which locations cause the most pain). However, most likely, no matter your pain threshold or tattoo location, there will be some degree of hurt involved.  

A better option is to ask, “How much did it hurt?” You’re acknowledging that you know it was painful, but you’re opening up the conversation in a more appealing way. 

What Does It Mean?

If you meet someone with a tattoo for the first time, don’t ask them what their tattoo means. 

It’s private. 

First of all, it could be very personal. It’s possible a stranger doesn’t want to share a story about a meaningful life event with someone they don’t know. 

Second of all, a tattoo doesn’t have to mean anything. It could just be a piece of really cool art that someone wanted on their body. It could be a last-minute drunken decision, or it could be the result of months of contemplation. It does not have to be a symbol, a representation, or a story about anything at all. 

Can I See/Touch?

More often than not, this question occurs as the asker is reaching for you. You can’t grab strangers and push, pull, or move their clothes in any way to get a better look at what’s underneath, even if you admire the ink poking out. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a bar or a bank, it’s inappropriate to touch another human’s skin – inked or not. Similar to the way a pregnant woman doesn’t want a stranger to rub her belly, a tattooed person doesn’t want you to stroke their body art.

On a side note, tattoos don’t have a textural feeling, so why the need to touch it?

How Much Did that Cost?

It’s rude to ask someone about their financial decisions.

How would you feel if a stranger asked you about your rent, mortgage, your latest trip to Hawaii, or even the outfit you’re wearing right now. You may be perfectly fine to discuss this with family or friends, yet it would be considered rude from a stranger. 

Why should tattoos be any different?

The bottom line is that it’s none of your business. 

Do You Have Tattoos Anywhere Else? Somewhere Hidden?

This is too invasive. You get tattoos for yourself, not for other people’s viewing pleasure. If we wanted you to see, we would show you. Most people will not feel comfortable discussing body parts not visible, while fully clothed with strangers.

You’re Going to Regret that When You’re Older

Turns out, most people don’t regret their tattoos. Of course, some people may, but we can’t change the past, so why not focus on the present? Your body will inevitably change as you get older. Your tattoos can fade, stretch, or blur, yet every one of them tells a story about your past. With each story, you’ll be able to look back at moments that had value in your life. 

Not to mention, you’ll be the coolest grandparent around.

How are You Going to Get a Job?

Most people that ask this question are not asking out of genuine concern. They assume that your tattoos give the illusion of an impulsive person, a reckless personality, or a bad employee. 

This is not true. While having a visible tattoo may have hampered your ability to get a job in the past, the modern workplace considers tattoos widely acceptable

In 2021, society as a whole is more accepting of body art, and individuals are more likely to appreciate their colleagues’ individuality. 

You Would Look Better without Tattoos

Rude. Period. They are on someone’s body. They are permanent. There is nothing productive they can do with this statement unless they opt to laser them off. Tattoos are part of who someone is. If you are not attracted to someone because of their tattoos, don’t date them. To go back to an old childhood favorite – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

There’s a Mistake…

You don’t need to tell them. They already know it’s there. A tattoo could have lines a little off, colors that bled, or even a typo. You are not the first one to notice. Body art is not perfect, which makes every tattoo unique. 

By pointing out a flaw in a tattoo, you are pointing out a flaw on someone’s body. It’s permanent, like a birthmark, and not alterable. As you wouldn’t negatively point out a birthmark, you should avoid mentioning what you believe to be a mistake about a tattoo. 

What Did Your Parents Say?

You must be 18 years old to get a tattoo legally. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what someone’s parents said. Maybe their parents have bigger and better tattoos than they do, or maybe their parents hate each line of ink on their child’s body. It’s a personal question and not one that is necessary for you to have the answer to. 

I Would Never Get a Tattoo

No matter how you follow up this sentence, it isn’t polite. By telling someone that you would never get something that they are probably showing off proudly, you pass serious judgment. 

This bold statement also implies that there is something wrong with having a tattoo. Everyone deserves to decorate their bodies however they want without judgment or unwanted opinion. 

Most importantly, nobody asked you if you were planning on getting a tattoo, either now or in the future, so your statement is moot. If you would never get a tattoo – great – but keep it to yourself. 

Final Thoughts

Being curious is human, though we need to practice sensitivity. While many people feel quite happy to share their tattoos and chat about their life history, many more may not appreciate a stranger’s personal questions. 

If you see tattoos you admire, simply use common sense, respect people’s privacy and politely allow someone an opportunity to share their body art.

Of course, if you know the person well and are sure they would welcome any of the questions/comments above and won’t be offended, then sure, comment away. However, if it’s somebody you haven’t gotten to know too well then it might just be better to err on the side of caution.

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