#NoRegrets: SAS students with tattoos

Ink. Needle. Permanent.

For thousands of years, humans have been permanently marking their bodies through designs in junction with ink, and SAS students are no different. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, these markings have served as “amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.”  

Dating back to “c. 3000 B.C.,” Egyptian females – usually associated with the royal – had tattoos that served as “amulets” or “naturalistic images.” Dark black pigments such as “soot was introduced into the pricked skin,” by “a sharp point set in a wooden handle.”

Within all cultures, art is used to modify appearance, and today we see our own SAS students with permanent, purposeful body art. Junior Hayden Reeves has a tattoo behind her left ear that says “love” and a second one on her ribcage that says “Still I rise.”

Her first was done in the February of her sophomore year, and the second one the August before junior year.

Junior Hayden Reeve’s “love” tattoo. Photo by Christen Yu

Since she was six years old, Hayden has always wanted to get a tattoo. She just had to “wait until [she] was old enough to get [her] parents to say it was okay.”

Hayden’s second tattoo is “based off of a Maya Angelou’s poem titled ‘Still I Rise,’” one of her favorite poems. She said, “I got the one on my ribcage during a time in my life where I was lost and alone. It was a way to remind myself that no matter what happens to me, I can always find a way to pick myself back up.”

Hayden said that “the first time I went in, I expected it to be a lot more painful than it was…I think on a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate the one behind my ear a three, and the one on my ribcage a seven. The second hurt a lot more than the first.”

Hayden believes that “tattoos can represent the chapters of your life.” Although she does feel like she gets judged when others see her tattoo, she really doesn’t mind. “It’s my life, and I’m happy with it.” 

Junior Hayden Reeve’s “still i rise” tattoo. Photo by Hayden Reeves

Hayden isn’t the only student that has body ink. Junior Aime Fukada got a “wave” tattoo on her ankle two weeks before her 16th birthday, inspired by her “love for swimming, the beach, and water in general.”

Just as tattoos appeal to the naked eye, they also hold a special meaning. Aime said that “every day when I look down at my tattoo, it reminds me that no matter how many failures or setbacks I face, and as long as I’m doing something I love, it will carry me through everything.”

The wave will “wash [her] back onto shore when [she’s] facing difficulties.”

Since tattoos are permanent, the issue of regret always works its way into the conversation. However, Aime said, “I don’t regret my tattoo at all. It reminds me every day what my morals are and why I do everything I do.” And if she ever feels like she is being judged, she “doesn’t care because they simply don’t know the story behind it.”

Prior to getting her tattoo at EZ Tattoo at Far East, Aime “thought it was going to take a while and that it would hurt a lot.”

While getting inked and listening to her pump-up playlist, her “tattoo was done 34 seconds into the first song.” It really was that fast.

Junior Aime Fukada’s wave tattoo. Photo by Aim

According to Sha, one of the tattoo artists at EZ Tattoo, their clients consist of “both boys and girls.” Depending on the size of the tattoo “the minimum is $50. Colored tattoos are more expensive than a monochrome black one. Tattoos generally take two to four weeks to heal, but it “usually depends on the individual’s own body.”

Modern tattoo machines used in professional parlors involves tapered needles of different diameters, oscillating up and down, placing pigment into the skin’s dermis, the layer of dermal tissue underlying the epidermis. The machine rapidly and repeatedly drives the group of needles in and out of the skin, usually 80 to 150 times per second. Although this process seems like a painful one, it really isn’t.

Junior Brenae McLeish has a tattoo that says, “Even though you’re fed up, you gotta keep your head up” on the right side of her ribcage which she got during her sophomore year. Going into the parlor, she “was really nervous” and expected to “scream or cry, but it turned out be fine.” For Brenae, “it just felt like pinching.”

Brenae’s tattoo isn’t just a mark of artistry – there is a personal meaning to it. Her tattoo is a quote that her best friend always said to “keep [her] going through the tough times.” Brenae explained that “my best friend Deja had been killed by two cars that hit her…I got this tattoo in memory of her, so that I’ll never forget our friendship. It also reminds me of how I can’t stop even if I feel like I’m done.”

She “doesn’t regret” getting this tattoo at all – it’s in a hidden place where people can’t see.

Senior Mike Khongchan has four tattoos. He’s wanted one since age nine, but “never knew what to get. In the end, [he] figured that [he] would get something that represents [him].”

Mike said, “I could go on and on about what my tattoos mean to me, but it boils down to never giving up, strength, and courage. I got my first tattoo during the winter break of my sophomore year. The second one was during summer break. The third one I got was during the winter break of my junior year, and my latest tattoo, I got the first week of 2016.”

Mike gets his tattoos done at a studio in Thailand partly because he’s Thai, and partly because he likes the artist’s style.

Prior to his first tattoo, he asked around and looked it up on the internet. He was “freaking out.” However, Mike says, “all things considered, the first one was a lot less painful than I expected, but the second one was a KILLER. They told me that it was going to hurt a lot because of the size of the tattoo and because I was getting it done over my ribs. There were times when I wanted to scream. It was that painful.”

Close up of tattoo needle inking the skin. Photo by Creative Commons.

Mike believes that “tattoos aren’t something anyone should decide to get on a whim. It’s going to be there for the rest of your life. Before I made the appointment, I spent about one month contemplating to get it, and more importantly, why I’m getting it. I don’t regret getting my tattoos.”

In our society, people may be quick to judge others based on preconceived opinions, not based on actual experience.  Tattoos are just one example that unveil how there is more than meets the naked eye. They are permanent scores that “represents a part of your history,” said junior Hayden Reeves.

“People always judge you for something or another, and having tattoos is no different,” senior Mike Khongchan said. “I’ve been complimented on my tattoos before, but I’ve also been asked some very direct questions. Honestly, it’s my body, and it’s my life. People can look at me and see my tattoos. But 99.99% of the people in this world don’t know me, so why do I care if they judge me?”

Author: Christen Yu

Christen Yu is a senior and one of the co-editors for the eye this year. She has been a student at Singapore American School for fourteen years, and despite having been born in Southern California, she considers Singapore her home. A few of her favorite things include wasting time and money on Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise episodes, and overusing the snapchat dog filter. She finds happiness in drinking bubble tea, and making friends laugh. She can be contacted at yu18985@sas.edu.sg.

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