Ep. 46: Nine Good Reasons People Get Tattooed

After tattooing for fifteen years, I have noticed that often people feel like their reasons for getting tattooed are somehow less valid than others'. (Or sometimes more valid.) People often feel like they are "uncool" or "dorky" for having their reasons. 

I am here to say that we are all just trying to feel at home in our bodies. One way we do that is by putting permanent marks on our skins. 

In this episode I compiled nine of the most common reasons I could think of that people get tattooed. 

From honoring one's roots to expressing solidarity towards a social justice movement, to just decorating "your temple," they are all good reasons. 

I hope that you listen. 

You can connect with me, Micah Riot, as well as see my tattoo art on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/micahriot/

Micah's website is www.micahriot.com 
The podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout but truly lives in the heart of Micah's website at:


Hello. Hello my darlings.

This is Micah Riot with another episode of Ink Medicine podcast. It is the 19th of October. There is a fly in my recording room, so if you hear the fly buzzing, that's what it is.


Today we're going to talk about reasons people get tattoos. In general, people get tattoos because they want to feel more at home in their bodies. I would say that's the umbrella reason. And then there are reasons underneath that. People get tattooed for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes the reasons are really deep, sometimes they are not. There's no right reason to get tattooed and there's no wrong reason to get tattooed. We're all different and we all do things for our own selves, in our own way, in the way that feels best to us.


Before we get into it, I would like to ask you to please share this episode or share another episode with a friend. Review Ink Medicine on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. I would really appreciate it. It really helps spread the word.


Let's have some personal updates. I am working on reorganizing my office area. It's also my sewing room and also my girlfriend's workspace. I'm not the tightest of people. We have come up with a way to reorganize the space that looks better and is more conducive to working in it. I'm excited to have my sewing area be a little bit more approachable. I bought some of those wine crates from Michaels and I stained them with this black stain that they look really cool. Now I'm going to put them up on the wall to create shelving for my fabric and for my girlfriend's knitting supplies as well. I'm excited about that. That's been an ongoing project. The crates took two days to dry. I'm going to put them up on the wall later today. That's exciting.


Working on your home is akin to getting tattooed in the way that creating more home in your home is like creating more home inside your body, which is also your home.


That's my very casual personal update. The other personal updates are too personal for this medium. A business update is that I'm going to make some more merch soon. I'm hoping. What am I talking about? I haven't started, but I'm hoping to do it and to have it this winter, not for the holidays, just this winter, because I am not very good at business. If I was, I would have them ready for the holidays. Maybe I still can. There's still a little time, right? So, yeah, okay, let's jump into the episode and talk about why people get tattooed.


Reason number one: memorial. To commemorate somebody, usually a person. That's not true. Half the time it's a person, half the time it's an animal. I've done a lot of these. Usually people want something that reminds them of the person. I don't do a lot of portraits. I've done portraits but I don't usually do them. So people don't come to me for portraits, but they come to me for, for example, favorite flowers of their family member. In the case of animals, people usually want something like a paw.


Reason number two is sentimentality. It seems like it's relevant to the first one. It seems very similar, but it's not the same one, not the same thing. Sentimentality to me is more about other things and pieces of your life that are not about a specific event, like a person dying. Sometimes it's about where you come from or where you've lived. People get the Skyline of San Francisco or the Golden Gate Bridge Tattooed because they lived here. Either they're from here or they lived here for a long time and they love it here. Maybe they're moving away. Or Golden Poppies, california State Flower those are all sentimentality examples or something to do with their family of origin, even flowers Flowers their mother grew in the garden and it reminds them of their childhood not necessarily of their open events of a loss of appearance.


Number three is to decorate the body. Some of us just feel better with tattoos on us. We feel like they belong there and make its skin is too much or too little, or something. They can be ornamental pieces they can be. To decorate the body can mean different things and it can look different ways. I think of the kind of work that I love to do. Abstract watercolor type of work is very decorative also, but also something that's ornamental, that can sit on the body like a piece of jewelry. Wood or gem tattoos, what we call entrebeau tattoos. Those things can be decorative on the body, just plainly decorative.


Another reason, reason number four is something that's related but not the same thing to enhance the beauty of a body part Pieces like blackwork or sometimes patterns, things that are symmetrical, that will go down both legs, that will go down both arms, that will swoop under a breast, that will come in like a corset around the most narrow part of the back or the front. So pieces that are body part dependent, as opposed to just sitting on a body part, to be decorative in order to enhance the muscle or the curve of the body.


Reason number five to be funny or to be punny. People get funny tattoos all the time. I don't do a lot of them, I guess I'm not really like a more of a serious person, so I don't tend to do the jokie tattoos. So they're really adorable sometimes and funny. I think my favorite one and I've mentioned it on the show before is a tattoo I did not do, but somebody did at my shop many years ago and it said "this tattoo shall pass." I just love that because it's so true All of this will pass, we will die and that tattoo shall pass. So that's a punny type of piece and you know the things you see out there, like a little person with a lawnmower along the line of someone's like pubic hair, or maybe a cat butt with the belly button as the butthole. Not really my thing. That's something I'd want to have. I'd be happy to do it. It would be hilarious, of course, for a minute. But yeah, to be funny.


Number six to express their beliefs and express their values, and that can mean also artistic values. People get poetry tattooed on them. People get reproductions of their favorite paintings tattooed on them. It's the love of art and also political slogans. I've tattooed the raised fists like black raised fists a bunch of times on people Along the same lines. Tattoos that may not look political or about a person's values may very well be. For example, a Medusa head tattoo is something often the survivors of sexual violence get as a way to feel empowered, past their experience of trauma, to symbolize healing and to symbolize fighting back. There are lots of ways people express ideas that are most important to them in their lifetimes, things they feel very passionate about.


Number seven people get tattoos to protect themselves, to create a shield between them and the world, to look tougher. It's a way of it can make somebody feel more protected, like there's a shell around them, and that can be necessary and something very valuable.


Number eight to cover up scars. Sometimes life gives us shit that isn't cool, like cancer, right? People lose body parts and end up with scarring, and instead of looking at the scars and feeling good about surviving, they might want to cover the scars with ink so they can have something even more beautiful to look at than just the symbol of their survival. Or people get tummy tucks after losing a great amount of weight or having kids and also want to decorate the scar or to cover up the scar or to detract the tension from the scar so they can feel more confident in their skin. Another common scar cover-up that I have taken a part in has been chest scars for trans men, who get surgeries to remove any breast tissue and make the chest flatter. Where some people want the scars to be minimally noticeable, other people are looking to decorate their chests with a great deal of pride in the experiences that they have had in their own body.


Number nine is some people really love the way they get tattooed feels they are really into body modification the catharsis, the release, the chemicals, the natural release of dopamine that happens in the brain when you go through a painful experience, the intense sensation of getting tattooed. I said a pain earlier, but that is like I'm talking about it from a really scientific perspective. When pain gets activated, our bodies release chemicals to help us cope and they can feel like being a little bit drunk or high. It can feel really nice, really pleasant. Some people really like that feeling. Some people just really enjoy that type of experience and the therapeutic benefits of that release. It feels like therapy to people. They say that to me all the time, which is why this is called ink medicine. So for some people, they love the experience for the sake of the experience, and the tattoo is a bonus that they're getting out of the experience. I would not say that that's most people by any means, not even a significant chunk, but there are people for whom getting tattooed for the sake of getting tattooed is valuable enough.


It's possible that I missed some reasons. Let me know if I did. If you can think of other reasons, or maybe you get tattooed for another reason, let me know. Thank you so much for listening. I so appreciate you, every one of you, being here and giving your attention to my little podcast, and I'll talk to you very soon.