“You Don’t Like A Little Attention?”

Photo by Wiros via Flickr

I have full tattoo sleeves, which I understand is pretty unusual for a woman, but what is strange is that people feel compelled to A) touch my arms, and B) grab my arms to turn them over and look at my tattoos. I’m talking about complete strangers, without asking or provocation. For some reason I used to allow this (I guess I figured my tattoos were something one doesn’t see every day, and that if I put myself out there in an unusual way, I should expect it), but it’s always creeped me out, so I made the decision to adopt a zero-tolerance policy unless asked.

Anyway, my story:

I was standing on the green line platform at Gallery Place, wearing headphones (as I generally do), and felt someone standing uncomfortably close to me. It was clear they were trying to talk to me. I turned and there was a young kid, probably 16-18, right in my face, saying something like “I like your tattoos – I need to see those tattoos up close.” and, as predicted, both hands shot out for my arm. I jumped back and said, “DON’T touch me.” I would have done that with anyone, but the kid seemed… off in a way, I don’t really know how to describe it.

The metro pulled up, and I tried to move quickly to get in another car from the kid, but he was right behind me, talking in my ear the whole way. Even though I put my headphones back on, sat in a seat, and kept my head down, he kept getting in my face about seeing my tattoos, wanting my number, etc. I told him “seriously – you need to leave me alone” to which he said, “what, you ARE a woman, aren’t you? You don’t like a little attention?”

Of course it was a rush-hour-full Metro, but nobody said anything.

So, furious, I said, “Last I checked, I am a woman. A woman who is NOT interested in you, so step off…”

I’m sure the kid called me a bitch or something – I have no idea. I rode WAY past my stop to make sure this kid got off the metro. I wasn’t afraid of him, I just didn’t need him following me home. It pisses me off that I had to get aggressive toward him. I would think “don’t touch me” would suffice.

Submitted by Anonymous on 06/09/2010

Location: Gallery Place / Chinatown Metro Station

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7 Responses

  1. marissa

    I have a 3/4 sleeve on my right arm, a large chest piece, half-back piece, and the tops of both of my feet tattooed. It never ceases to amaze me how random people, mostly men, seem to think it’s okay to reach out to touch me. I’ve used the phrase, “you look with your eyes, not with your hands” quite a bit in response to this.

  2. cathy

    i have a friend who’s working on covering her full body, and she has the same problem. how does anyone think it’s ever okay to just touch a stranger?

  3. Harry Mauron

    Meh. Tattoos attract LESS random touching than a pregnancy, although a much higher percentage of belly-gropers are women.

    • hollabackdc

      although your observations are duly noted, it doesn’t lessen the experience that our submitter went through.

  4. Kara

    I have a large back tattoo that kind of peeks out over some of my shirts. I can’t believe how many people will actually pull the back of my tank top out away from my body and looks down to see the rest of the tattoo. I guess when you have a tattoo…or a pregnant belly ( now the I think back on my pregnancy), people seem to think your body is public property. Grrr…

  5. Darcy

    I have a full back tattoo and have the same experience. Casual acquaintances and sometimes even total strangers will yank at my shirt to look down my back. My tattoo artist said the same thing happened to him until he got so many tattoos — full coverage everywhere except hands and face — that people found him too intimidating to take such liberties.

    I do have to say that this has only happened to me in small towns & small cities. In major cities I’ll hear people standing right behind me talking about the tattoo but they don’t touch.

  6. Ms. D

    Guess I’m a little late to this party but something kind of similar happened to me the other day. I was standing on the sidewalk, minding my own business and staring off into space when I got the strange sensation someone was really close to me. I look over to find two older women (I’m guessing mother and daughter, they appeared to be mid-50’s and mid-70’s, tourists) STARING at the tattoo on my arm, noses only inches from my arm. Now, I frequently get compliments on the tattoo when people see it, but they usually address ME, and these two women were standing there staring at me like a zoo exhibit talking amongst themselves about it. The strangest part was when I looked at them, all startled, they simply looked me in the eye, and then WALKED AWAY CONTINUING TO TALK ABOUT THE TATTOO. They never once addressed me.

    Talk about being treated like an object, and by two WOMEN who were obviously aware of my discomfort when I realized they were staring at me! Fortunately I’ve never had someone try to touch my tattoo…you would think that people would realize that a tattoo feels, I dunno, like SKIN maybe?