Self-expression comes in many forms

Tattoos do not need to have meaning

Madeline Fuerstenberg

More stories from Madeline Fuerstenberg

November 2, 2020

Photo by Submitted

Thirty-six percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have tattoos.

I have five tattoos.

I love my tattoos. They tell the world who I am and what I care about. 

“Only get a tattoo if it has a meaning behind it.”

It’s a sentiment I’m sure many people have heard, but I simply disagree. 

According to, 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. Thirty percent of college graduates have tattoos.

“Thirty-one percent of those that have tattoos feel that tattoos made them sexy,” the website said. “Twenty-nine percent feel that it made them (or shows them as) rebellious, while 5 percent feels that a tattoo shows them as intelligent.”

For some people, tattoos are often viewed as signs of deviance or delinquency. Whether or not you agree with any of these claims, I believe there is one clear function behind most tattoos: self expression.

You want to get a little sun tattooed on your ankle? Go for it. You like the way that wolf tattoo looks? Do it.

You don’t need to have some deep, meaningful story behind either of those things. Your body is a blank canvas and nobody can tell you what you can or cannot put on it. That’s up to you.

Sure, 17 percent of Americans have said they regretted getting a tattoo, said, but the top reason for that regret is the fact that many of these tattoos feature someone else’s name. 

So, maybe name tattoos aren’t always the best idea when that name belongs to a friend or significant other, but that’s not my point. 

Getting a tattoo does not need to be this momentous, special occasion to memorialize something important to you — though they certainly can be. 

Some of mine have special meanings, but all of them make me happy — and that’s what really matters.

If you see an image or tattoo that makes you happy, then don’t feel ashamed to get it. Of course, putting anything permanent on your body is a major choice to begin with, so at the very least, you should be certain that you are willing to live with it. 

I’ve gotten at least one tattoo every year since my 18th birthday and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. There are people in my life who disapprove, but tattoos are my favorite form of self-expression and I refuse to let anyone judge me for that.

I’m not here to talk you all into getting tatted up. 

I just think it’s time for everyone to be more accepting of other people’s choices regarding their own bodies. 

Whether someone refuses to go anywhere near a tattoo parlor, someone only gets tattoos with deep, personal meanings or someone gets whatever sort of tattoo piques their interest that day — there is no right or wrong choice.

As tattoos become more acceptable and commonplace in the United States, I would like to urge you all to understand that not everyone will share your values or ideals. Don’t ever judge or limit someone for doing something that makes them happy.

Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected]