These experiences haven’t made her lose interest in body art. Outside the office, she says, “I try to be more out and open with my tattoo to change the stigma.” Galloway recently had her first sitting for her second tattoo, an image of Athena: a feminine symbol of physical strength and wisdom in battle, “of knowing when to fight the right fight and how fight it well.” The image also includes the owl from the facade of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, where the native Texan has chosen to live.
For 25-year-old Benjamin Ehrenfeld, a tattoo was a big lesson in permanence. On his 18th birthday, he got a tattoo of a cross in order to set himself apart from mainline fundamentalist Christians while affirming his belief in Jesus. “Eight years later, I find it rather amusing,” he says, in part because he’s become an observant Jew.
Denning advises people to be careful. “Some people say, ‘I want one, but don’t know what I want.’ I say, ‘wait. This is for the rest of your life.’”
It is possible to remove a tattoo, and some 6 percent do, studies show. Some people develop an allergic reaction to a tattoo several years after getting it. Deeper blue and black inks and pastels colors are particularly hard to eliminate. In a 2006 study of 196 people who had come to a clinic to have a tattoo removed, they had on average waited ten years to get rid of a tattoo they typically received around the age of 20, many in order to feel unique. Some said that they’d grown bored with the tattoo, but two of the most common reasons for removal were embarrassment or negative comments.
But permanence is part of the appeal, a source of a tattoo’s power. “I am always aware of these characters on my back,” says Peters. “They are the story of my endurance and triumph.” Life is good, and she’s planning another tattoo. “I can’t wait,” she says.
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