Last year, I went to Barbados on a family holiday – we’ve got friends there and generations of family memories, and so I was looking forward to going back for the first time since I was a baby.
Many Bajan people are friendly and confident – you’ll always exchange pleasantries with people you pass in the street or strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. The island runs at a slow pace, fuelled by conversation and rum.
Within 48 hours of being there, I’d been nicknamed ‘The Tattoo Girl’ by the guys who ran our local beach, I knew various people on a first name basis, and was clearly settling in.
A few times whilst walking in the street, I had been grabbed by women wanting to compliment my tattoo sleeve. I’d been forcefully pulled to one side to experience a complete stranger run their hands up and down my arm.
I didn’t take offense. I’m quite a touchy-feely person who doesn’t mind being confident and open to people who I have just met. That’s why I love the atmosphere there.
For me, wanting to talk about my tattoos also depends the context of where I am, and how I’m feeling emotionally. Sitting on a beach in the Caribbean sipping cold beer, I was more than happy to talk quietly to some lovely locals about what my tattoos meant. In other situations, I didn’t react the same way.
Just last week, a colleague at work that I didn’t know very well, shouted over the desks at me to ask who the woman was tattooed on my arm. In the middle of writing a work email, with other people in the office turning their heads to listen to my reply, I simply said, “I will tell you another day.” It just wasn’t the right time and place for me to go into detail about a personal and intricate tattoo decision.
Like my colleague, Bajan people wouldn’t think twice about quizzing a stranger on their tattoos, or anything else for that matter. I sit here now, on the train to work, looking around at 100 people in silence with their heads down in tablets and laptops, and I think that, actually, maybe sometimes, we could do bit of Bajan here in the UK.
Not everyone I know would feel the same way I did. Most would probably be uncomfortable and even annoyed by a random person yanking them off the sidewalk to interrogate them about the way they looked.
There are always memes doing the round on social media that reflect this – quotes from people expressing their anger at the fact that, just because we have tattoos, that doesn’t make it OK for people to stare, touch, or ask questions about things that might be very personal to us.
Things are considered bad, and good, tattoo etiquette, and most of us that have tattoos, know that we didn’t get them because we wanted to receive any attention. Ironically, most of us are often the complete opposite, and want to draw as little attention as possible.
As all of this had got me thinking so much, I was able to finally come to one solid, intelligent, realistic conclusion…
I’m thinking of moving to Barbados.
Originally published in Skin Deep Magazine Issue 255
Words: Beccy Rimmer