Fresh ink

Many people’s first tattoo is something personal to them, and some students at MCHS have already been under the needle

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Madison Wise

Despite their negative associations, many professionals wear their tattoos with pride. At MCHS, getting a tattoo when a person is of age is a sort of right of passage.

By Stacy Correra, McHenry High School

An MCHS student anxiously waits in the chair at their local tattoo parlor. They had made this appointment ages ago, and today was finally the day — their 18th birthday. The artist shows the student the drawing for approval, who struggles to contain their excitement. They lay the stencil on the desired area, and make sure that it is exactly where the student wants it. The student takes a deep breath, and the process begins.

It is becoming increasingly popular among McHenry teenagers to receive tattoos, even before they turn 18. There are many forms of self-expression available, and more often, teens are turning to a more permanent statement. As the negativity is diminishing, students feel more comfortable going under the needle.

People believe tattoos usually have a more in-depth explanation or reason than they may show on the surface. They can tell stories and show memories, and show interests and their personality. “I don’t think tattoos are unprofessional at all,” says senior Josh Tilling. “It’s just things the person likes and wants to show off. Tattoos don’t change a person, so I don’t think people should be stereotyped based on how they look.” 

Tilling currently has a quarter sleeve of a clock with a rose, and the time on the clock is set to 9:15 to honor his late friends who passed away on September 13. He plans to get many more, including a camera to represent his love of photography, more roses, and a skull. “I think in our society today, tattoos are becoming more and more common,” he said. “They are often very meaningful to the people that have them, and they shouldn’t be looked down on for wanting to show off their memories or interests through art on their body.”

Having tattoos does not always make someone immature or bad. “Some people get tattoos and it makes them look hard or tough, but they are really the sweetest person,” says senior Khori Smith. “When people look at them, they see all of [the tattoos] covering their body, and their first instinct is ‘this person’s going to try to kill me.’” 

Smith has two tattoos currently – a scorpion on her ribcage to represent her Scorpio zodiac sign, and a compass on the back of her neck that she shares with all of her sisters. “I’ve always seen people with tattoos, and I thought that they looked pretty cool. It’s not something everyone has,” Smith explains. “My dad has tattoos, and I always thought he looked cool with them, so I wanted to be cool as well…I’m still the same person I was before I got them, and I know I’m not a bad person.”

Some people believe that there is a stereotype that people with tattoos are unprofessional in the workplace, but a lot of tattoos can have real meaning, and people with them believe they should not have to be in a hidden place on the body to appear “proper.”

 “I think tattoos are sometimes affiliated with being a drug addict or a gang member,” says senior Shane Metreger. “It’s controversial. They think that if you have a tattoo, then you’re a bad person.” Metreger has a sunflower tattoo on his upper arm to commemorate his late father, and it is his first of many desired tattoos. This tattoo is very meaningful to him because he was very close to his father before he passed away, and it is a way of keeping his legacy alive and close by permanently.

Not everyone believes there is a negative stigma around tattoos, however. Some students believe that in modern times, people are more accepting than they might’ve used to be. “In 2020, I feel like there isn’t really a negative stigma with tattoos,” says senior Brandon Clough. “Both of my parents are in the professional world, and they both have a lot of tattoos.”

Clough has a bit more tattoos than the previously mentioned, and he plans on getting many more. Currently, he has a koi fish yin yang on his arm to represent the ups and downs in life, as well as a lotus flower to show growth through tough times. He also has lettering on his arm that he has to match with his entire family along with a bee on his chest to match with his twin sister. Clough also sports a lizard on his leg. “It’s funny, but it also represents my life in Florida because I used to live there,” he says. “It also reminds me to not take life too seriously.”

In the past, tattoos have been a bit of a controversial subject, and there are still people who think that high school students are not old enough or mature enough to make such a huge commitment.  No matter the stigma may be around tattoos, however, these McHenry students have all shown the thoughtfulness that goes into getting a tattoo. From a means of expression, to a way to symbolize those close to them, these students that have gone under the needle have covered-up the stigma behind the ink.

This story was originally published on The McHenry Messenger on February 19, 2020.