Tattoos used to be dangerous. They used to mean you were a rebel. Old fogies used to recoil in disgust, decrying them as abominations! You used to get banned from certain cemeteries!

You may be disappointed to learn that tattoos are no longer that big of a deal. They are also not done with as much thought or commitment by a lot of people these days. Since they can be removed (expensively, through complicated processes that may still leave marks, anyway), more and more people get them on a whim. And the internet has offered the same designs to millions of people at the click of a button. So it's not the rebellious act it once was.

That doesn't mean the art has been lost, however. Many tattoo artists are indeed artists in the traditional sense, and take great pride in their work. If you have an original idea - highly recommended - you can use the internet to find an artist in your area who will draw you a beautiful design for a fee. Not only does this give you something that is truly yours and only yours, it also supports independent artists and helps them make a living from their work. It also makes sure you know exactly what's going on your skin before it gets there. Since the tattoo artist you go to can then make a carbon copy and fill in the lines exactly. This is especially important if you have chosen words in a language the tattoo artist does not know how to read. You wouldn't believe how many meanings have been lost because of a missing dot or a wrongly-angled line.

One important note to avoid becoming an internet laughingstock: if you don't speak that language, think long and hard about why you need it to be in that language. You won't be able to be sure of what it says, and it may be joining a very unattractive trend of cultural appropriation. You might think that Chinese or Hebrew are exotic, but there are millions (maybe billions) of people in the world who read their bank statements in that language and for them it's just a language, and it should be used appropriately. Other cultures and languages are just as boring and complex and artistic as your own, so make sure you are not just trying to make yourself more interesting without really knowing what you are doing. A great rule of thumb is: when you come up with a tattoo idea, sit on it for two years and then, if it still means that much to you, go ahead and get it. For tattoos in other languages or representions of other cultures, two years is enough time for you to learn a bit of the language or explore that culture more deeply, so you really know what you are symbolizing when you finalize the design.

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