Savannah's Manners

Guest Post by Savannah Santos

Savannah’s Manners: Social Skills for Dealing with People Who Have No Social Skills

Episode #1: When People Ask About Your Tattoos

People are assholes—especially when it comes to body art. I don’t know why, in 2014, people are still shocked by tattoos, but they are. Just the other day, I was shopping at the grocery store when a woman in her seventies grabbed my arm and loudly exclaimed “That’s a tattoo!”

My first reaction to these people is always to tell them to step the fuck off. Don’t touch me. My arm is my personal property. I don’t even pimp that shit out (I could give great hand jobs, if I really needed to, but instead I use my hands to draw and paint). My mother raised me to be polite, though—even to these unrelenting weirdos. She always said to me, “Savannah, respect your elders. Savannah, don’t be rude. Savannah, mind your manners.” Well, what about these fucktards who clearly don’t know how to behave toward me?

You would think that an older woman would know how to act, but sadly, this happens to me all of the time. I’ve even gotten dirty looks from people my own age. Over the years, I’ve developed  a five-step program to get everyone safely through such interactions.

  1. Remember that even though the space violator has no class, you do. Take a deep breath. You are better than these people. Inhale slowly through your nose, then exhale from your mouth—as if you’re trying to taste the air leaving your lungs.
  2. Calmly explain that, yes, your tattoo is real. Bonus points if you do this without being sarcastic. I try like hell, but usually end up sounding a little snarky. If you’re talking to a little kid, though, you better not be an asshole at all. That tiny human doesn’t know any better and really thinks that all tattoos come off in the bathtub. She is in awe that yours doesn’t, so be nice. If you’re dealing with an adult with all of her faculties, though, make sure you get it across that your ink is here to stay—and yes, you have more.
  3. Create a safe personal space. You don’t have to do anything as drastic as turning tail and running, but backing up a couple of steps is a good start. Keep your chin up, your shoulders square, and stand with your feet apart. You want to create a posture that says you are not to be touched but you are open to conversation. You don’t want to appear aggressive or dangerous. This is not a Rambo situation, okay? Keep a calm expression on your face. You might even smile. Make sure they know that you mean business, though. They are not to grab you or verbally harass you.
  4. Keep the conversation short but sweet. You don’t have to answer all of the nosy Rosy’s questions, but you can be civil and maybe even educate her about the rise in popularity of tattoos in our culture. You don’t have to justify yours or explain the meaning behind it (if there is any). Please don’t feel like you have to spend all day talking to her, either.
  5. Exit with grace, but firmly. Sometimes, you can just walk away, calling “Have a good day” over your shoulder. Most people will get the hint. Occasionally, you have to be a bit more adamant, though. You can simply say something like “It’s been nice talking to you, but I don’t need to talk about my tattoos anymore.” Throw on a “Have a good day,” and you should be good to go.

If they’re being persistent and harassing you, though, feel free to call security or the police. You can also clock ’em. I’ve had men get grabby while trying to “see more” of my tattoos. They don’t seem to understand that, first of all, I just have the sleeve and, second of all, that still doesn’t give them the right to grab my ass. I recommend making your own pepper spray and carrying it around in a spray bottle that you would use on a cat.

All jokes aside, don’t ever let anyone intimidate you or bully you because of your tattoos. That’s discrimination, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nine times out of ten, you can remove yourself from the situation by just leaving, but if you can’t, get help.

Do you have any tips for talking about your tattoos with the un-inked? Leave them in the comments below!

About Savannah

Savannah Santos is the founder of the “Meji-taí” art movement, blending classic Mexican and Taíno art into a modern celebration of Latino heritage. She specializes in cráneo portraits, celebrating Día de los Muertos. Savannah is currently building her collection to display at a gallery.

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The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, by Elizabeth Barone


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