Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Tattooed Doula

I like tattoos. Always have, always will. I can't tell you when my appreciation began but the fact is that I now have three and will have more. The first two I have are small black and grey and not very "conspicuous" you might say, but they are very meaningful. For my 40th Birthday I decided to get the tattoo I have wanted for a very long time. I found an artist I felt good about, put much thought into the design and now I have a beautiful coloured half sleeve that I love.

I never felt much either way about how people might perceive me knowing I had tattoos. I mean I understand that for years people associated them with "bikers" and other wild personalities, but honestly they really have become mainstream by now with so many people getting them these days it is hardly shocking to see.

The funny thing about getting a tattoo of this size is how much of a social experiment it can be. I mean people that already knew me for awhile were not at all shocked, but it took others by surprise. These were mainly customers at the store and other people that I knew but didn't see often. The typical reaction was "Wow, you have a tattoo?" and the facial expressions were mixed. Would they think differently about me now? I could have had the tattoo for years for all they knew, but somehow "seeing" it potentially put me into a different light. The large majority of them were very positive though.

For people that like tattoos or had their own it served as a discussion point. They would admire the work, ask about the design etc. and talk about their own tattoo story. Other people commented on how I didn't seem like the type to have a tattoo, whatever that means and others would notice it and look visibly uncomfortable. I generally accept that people are curious, and yes there are those that just don't appreciate the art, but I have never felt "judged" by my tattoo. That is until a recent trip to Las Vegas for the ABC kids expo. Now it wasn't dramatic or blatant or anything just that I was a little more aware of what having a large tattoo means as far as the attention is gets.

As I went from booth to booth chatting with vendors and looking at the products I began to see a pattern. As I approached, one of two things happened depending in whether or not they noticed the tattoo before we started chatting or during our conversation. For those that noticed it right off they would either continue to initiate the conversation and as we chatted get warmer or they would be very short in conversation and not put out warm vibes so to speak. The rudest were the ones who noticed the tattoo and lacked the social etiquette to hide their reaction to it ( body language wise if you know what I mean). Let's just say those conversations were short. For those that noticed it well into our conversation it didn't seem to affect our interaction very much. Some would carry on like nothing and others would ask me about it.

This experience got me thinking about how one's appearance has the potential to affect their work life. It reminded me of when was younger and decided to get my nose pierced over 20 years ago now. I was told in dental assisting school that I would have to remove it or no dentist would hire me. Not wanting to reduce my chances for a job I obliged. I wonder if that still holds true today? Tattoos and piercings are fashionable now with many people sporting skin art and body jewelry. I bet plenty are dentists. Well, maybe not "plenty". The question is how does this affect peoples perceptions. Does the number of tattoos or piercings play a role and if so, what is considered acceptable?

I wonder if a tattooed doula could potentially not be hired because of her skin art? I mean imagine having a long telephone conversation with a women discussing her wishes and how they can work together to make the birth as positive as possible. The woman feels very comfortable with her philosophy and experience and is confident in her abilities and then she meets her face to face. Tattoos can be visible or invisible depending on the location of the tattoo and what you are wearing, but let's just say that at least a few are obvious in this example. Can you imagine how sad it would be if this initially positive relationship ended due to the appearance of the doula. A warm, competent doula who happens to sport tattoos might not be hired due to her appearance.

Okay I know that first impressions are important, but if the first impression over the phone was excellent then I guess there is very much a difference between first impressions and "visual" first impressions. It just got me wondering about my doula colleagues with tattoos and what their experiences might be. I have had plenty of client's with tattoos over the years and more than a few with various piercings. I can safely say that even if I didn't appreciate tattoos it wouldn't have meant anything either way about how I felt about them personally. With any luck a good match between a tattooed doula and her potential client's will be the same. I know plenty of beautiful tattooed doulas who Iwould welcome at my birth.

Peace Out,