When my older brother got his first tattoo, it was a cross symbol near his left shoulder blade, and my parents nearly blew a gasket. Perhaps it was a generational conflict, but neither my father nor my mother could understand what made their dear son to get a tattoo out of a sudden impulse. My brother, who was then an up-and-rising medical student with a promising future, decided to mark his body physically and his life figuratively with a 'tramp mark' (in my mother's words). Oh, the horror!

My brother tried to explain his actions: "I just needed a way to express myself. I wanted to break away from the standards and expectations of society and do something that resembles a little of me."

Maybe his explanation was less articulate, but that was the gist of his message. Unfortunately, tattoos often get a bad reputation mostly due to the misconceived stigma attached to body. Contrary to the belief that getting tattoos is a recent phenomenon, its history actually existed way beyond the modern norms. In the old days, body art is used to signify family honour in some cultures, or it marked a warrior's bravery after fighting in a war. Sometimes, lovers or long lost relatives identify each other through the markings on their bodies. Evidently, there could be a poignant significance to getting a tattoo.

Personally, I believe tattoos are beautiful, not just in its physical appearance, but also the emotional connotation and social message that it delivers. In fact, I look at tattoos as if they are a statement of self-confidence. People with body art are comfortable in their own skin - literally!

Before you rush out and get a tattoo however, there are several factors you should consider beforehand. The tattoo design is obviously the forefront issue. You want an image that will reflect positively on your beliefs and values. My brother got a cross tattoo because faith and spirituality matter very much to him, for example. Since the tattoo will likely last forever on your body, you definitely don't want to pick a silly or even degregatory symbol for yourself.

Speaking of design, choosing the right tattoo ink is also an important consideration. What colours best match your skin tone? Naturally, the black-and-white tattoos are less expensive than the colour ones; however, brightly coloured tattoos stand out and may have more significant impact. Please keep in mind that the colours do fade over time.

The tattoo parlour that you visit should adhere to the basic health and safety guidelines. Always check with the professional tattoo artist whether the tattoo equipment is sterilized beforehand. In fact, a new tattoo needle should be used for each client, so always check if this is the case before you start the tattooing process. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting skin infection, which is a complicated health issue that we will address in another time.

From my brother's experience, he said that getting a tattoo was surprisingly painless. Recent technologies have made it possible for the tattooing process to feel like a minor sting, or even like a tickle. However, since there will be a needle piercing through your skin, you ought to have some kind of pain tolerance while getting a tattoo.

Finally, my last piece of advice is simple: be yourself! If getting tattoos is supposed to signify your self-confidence, then don't feel pressured by how others perceive your tattoo. Their notions of body art are obviously different than yours, so just agree to disagree. Likewise, if you don't want to get a tattoo, you shouldn't feel pressured by your peers and friends into getting one. After all, the most important thing about getting tattoos is the ability to feel comfortable in your own skin.


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