It’s 11pm and I’m at the gym doing my thing when what I consider one of the most annoying things about being visibly tattooed happens–someone interrupts what I’m doing to ask me tattoo-related questions. It’s only natural for your eyes to be drawn to someone with a decent amount of tattoo work in public, I know I enjoy looking at other peoples’ tattoos. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a guy that’s been staring at me for the past 10 minutes and immediately do the only thing I can think of to discourage him from talking to me; I avoid making eye contact. I put my head down, pick up speed and using my peripheral vision keep an eye on this gawker’s location.

Tattoo gawker

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That sounds mean, doesn’t it? Avoiding people I can clearly tell either want to stare up close or strike up a conversation isn’t exactly friendly. I think the real issue is, I’m tired of being interrupted (be it in the gym or out at dinner with friends) by someone I don’t know. I can’t be the only one that feels that way; I’ve seen other, more heavily tattooed, people be downright nasty when someone comes up to them in public. As much as I understand where their frustration is coming from, I always seem to wind up humoring these strangers.

Trust me, in the back of my mind all I want to do is tell these people “I’m in the middle of something and really not interested in having this conversation.” I would never walk up to a girl and start asking her a bunch of questions about the dress she’s wearing; how much she paid for it, when and where she purchased it, etc. But I still took off my headphones and humored him through a borderline painful conversation about where I got my tattoos, as well as him showing me his $50 outlines he wants to get filled in. Typically, this is the point in the conversation where things get awkward. I’ve been touched, twisted, and manhandled by people that have approached me, and of course I’ve been treated to a number of super market strip shows – but both of those are topics in themselves.

Here’s my predicament–I don’t want to be nice to these people. I don’t necessarily want to not be nice to them either. What irritates me is the fact that I don’t think they would do the same thing if they saw someone on the street with an article of clothing or hairstyle they were intrigued by. However, I do feel that as being heavily tattooed becomes more common there is a certain level of decorum required to gain acceptance among mainstream society. I’m not saying I expect the average person to be comfortable with a guy covered from throat to fingertips wearing short sleeves, but I do think helping nudge things in that direction couldn’t be a bad thing. There is definitely an overall perception by society that a heavily tattooed individual falls into the criminal/social delinquent category by default, and I figure if they have at least one person they’ve met who didn’t act like a total jerk, maybe I can have a positive impact on how they approach tattooed people as a whole. On the upside, I try to use every single one of these as an opportunity to hand out a card to whichever tattoo artist I’m recommending. If nothing else, maybe I can help keep the flow of business up at shops I enjoy going to.

So you tell me, am I a fool for expressing an infinite amount of patience when dealing with these people? I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels obligated to at least be polite during these kinds of exchanges, but I’m also intrigued in the personal reasoning behind those of you that don’t bother with these niceties.