The Ink Link – ANONYMOUS a.k.a. “The Hipster Lawyer”
The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases tattoos in the workplace. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please get in contact with us.
When I was in pre-school, my parents always told me I was “special”. Obviously, for every parent, I think they see their children as being special; however, I don’t think we always appreciate the effect words have on children (or even people in general). The impact this had on me was, I guess, life determining and one which allowed me to assume the identity of being “special”, i.e. I took it literally that I was different to everyone else around me (I will call this the “special-syndrome”). To this day I still feel that my identity is determined by my self-perceived “difference” to everybody else. In my mind everything I do plays on the fact that it must be because I am different. I can’t say that it is always positive though, as I sometimes feel that I am too different for people to understand me, in which case, I close myself off to those people.
Anyway, enough about the self-loathing identity crisis that I have and let’s talk tattoos. The special-syndrome was the cause for getting my first tattoo (two stars, situated on my lower abdominal area – one says “Live” and the other says “Life”). I had this done when I was about 16 years old and it symbolised the first time that I wanted to do something which was only for me. It was significant because it went against what people said I should do or the perceptions that they had about me. My Dad in particular is a very conservative man and he absolutely hates tattoos. In his very words “people with tattoo’s are scummy”. To this day my Dad has no idea that I have tattoos and I think he may dis-own me if ever he found out. It was/is because of his perception of tattoos that I wanted to break out and disobey his views on tattoos and take my life into my own hands, i.e. “live life”.
Now ten years later, I am a qualified Attorney, with an LLB Degree and a Masters in Law. I also have more tattoos and my Dad is still none-the-wiser. For me, the challenge I guess is proving to my Dad and the greater public for that matter, that you cannot judge someone by their appearance. I find myself sub-consciously always trying to defy people’s perceptions of me and to show that really, you shouldn’t pre-determine someone merely by what they have, how they look or where they come from. Even though my Dad may never realise it, his own beliefs challenge me to always see a person for who they are, not what society dictates them to be.
Perceptions and views change as you age and now that I am older, I no longer see it necessary to put a meaning behind a tattoo before getting one. In my view, the meaning lies in the very fact that the tattoo will forever remind you of a specific time or moment in your life, whether intentional or not. Its relevance doesn’t necessarily have to remain forever, so long as it captures what was relevant at that specific time. Just like music – a musician often writes a love song about someone who means something to them today, but who 2 years later may not mean a thing at all. Ultimately, the song and its meaning remain. Similar to a picture, it captures what was going on in that musician’s life at the time. Tattoos are like this, and therein lies their meaning.
In the same way, I recently had a tattoo done by Rocio Todisco, from The Black Lodge in Randburg (who is absolutely brilliant by the way) – it is of a swallow and I had it done on the right side of my chest. At the time, I had not exactly given a meaning to the tattoo, but in some way it meant something to me. It just so happened that on the day I wen to get it done, a very close friend and colleague of mine passed away. The tattoo, although with no meaning attached when I first got it, will now always remind me of that friend. A tattoo, by capturing a moment in my life, defines part of who I am.
Having tattoos as a lawyer is difficult and I find myself continuously trying to avoid the negative perceptions associated with my appearance and profession. It is for this reason that I generally have to cover up my tattoos and also why I have chosen to remain anonymous for this post. I have had people pass comments or make glare daggers at my tattoos in the workplace initially. Slowly but surely I see that they get past their initial perceptions about it and realise who I really am on the inside. I am continually trying to break those perceptions by proving to those around me that identities are no more than what the perceiver beholds. If one looks past the perceived identity of any particular person, they will find something that is more astounding and beautiful. Our pre-conceived notions blind us and this is something I try to combat. Even for myself, I sometimes find it hard to take someone seriously who rocks up to a meeting with tattoos all over their body, which is ironic given my circumstances. It is unfortunately something we all need to be conscious of and try our best to break.
I will definitely get more tattoos, as I feel it defines who I am and my difference to every body else.
~ The Hipster Lawyer