How do you (secretly) feel about people with tattoos?

With thought of a Christmas break on my mind I’ve been keeping my eyes open for cheap flights and while I was out shopping the other day I saw a really good deal in a travel agent’s window.

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I nipped in to have a word with one of the consultants and was greeted by a handsome man in his late 20s. He was immaculately turned out in collar and tie, with short, neat hair and the aroma of shower gel and a subtle cologne wafted around him. I was welcomed with a broad, winning smile, eye contact, and a desire to be helpful, but as he started to speak I couldn’t hear a word he was saying.

His words sounded muffled and distant as my eyes fixed on his tattoos. They were on his hands and arms, and I could see some trying to escape from the collar of his crisp, well-pressed shirt, curling up behind his ear. I kept staring at them, trying to work out what grand design was going on under his shirt. Why did he have his neck tattooed, was he part of a gang, or had he misspent his youth before he finally broke away from the hell I imagined he’d been living, to become a travel agent?

I couldn’t reconcile the clean cut, charming customer service with the inky patterns on his neck, arms and hands. I walked out without the flights, having failed to judge the young man on his professional ability. The ink had been too confronting for me, but why? It’s only art drawn on skin. He hadn’t let it define him, why had I?

Here in Australia there are people who love tattoo sleeves and full image tattoos covering a large portion of their bodies, and others who appreciate tattoos but have decided to keep their ink-loving small scale. Research surveying 500 ordinary Australians revealed that 12 per cent of individuals had one or more tattoos.

Is it wrong to judge people on the tattoos they have, even if they are confronting? Isn’t it what’s in a person’s heart and not what’s on their skin that’s important?