Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind their ink

Carolyn Parmer

At 14, Hannah Carney told her mom she wanted matching tattoos. Four years later, her dream came true. A Celtic knot intertwined with a flower decorates Carney’s left shoulder and her mom’s back. 

“​​I was very much in pain because getting your first tattoo on your shoulder right on your collar bone is not the smartest idea,” the psychology and social work sophomore said. “But the pain was outweighed by the fact that I could share something with my parents.”

Carney’s tattoo, which her dad designed, symbolizes her Irish heritage with the Celtic knot and her middle name, Lei, with the Plumeria flower, one often used to make leis. Tattoos are a Carney family affair, with her mom sporting multiple tattoos while her dad loves designing them. However, Carney’s mom warned her that not everyone loves tattoos like their family. 

“Even though (my mom) has a lot of tattoos, they’re all places that she can hide them,” Carney said. “I’ve always been like, ‘I think (tattoo) sleeves are really cool. I really want one.’ And she’s always been like, ‘Don’t do it. You’re not going to get employed. If you’re going to get a tattoo, get it where you could hide it.’” 

Despite her mom’s advice, Carney said she still plans to get a sleeve on her arm and other tattoos around her body. 

“I just love tattoos,” Carney said. “They’re works of art. I was very proud to say that I had (one) and could show it off. 

When she shared the meaning of her tattoo with her spirit group, Carney said she felt the members’ admiration. 

“I just felt so seen,” Carney said. “I explained it to everyone, and everyone was like, ‘That was the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. I wish my parents would do that with me.’ I know I’m lucky that my mom loves tattoos as well and that my dad was willing to design our tattoos.”

 Carney hopes to work as a child therapist, and she said she hopes the stigma against tattoos in the workplace fades soon. 

“With parents now, like the generation above us, I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe they wouldn’t feel comfortable with their children being with a therapist who has a bunch of tattoos,’” Carney said. “There’s definitely going to be a part of my career path where I’m going to have to hide them, but I think later on when our generation starts having kids, I’m not gonna have to.”

While she took her time dreaming up her first tattoo, Carney said she doesn’t view spontaneously planned tattoos as less significant than more planned-out ones. She hopes others will appreciate tattoos like she does. 

“A lot of the time (a tattoo) really shows who that person is, and they’re expressing themselves through that piece of artwork on them,” Carney said. “I just wish people took that as not a negative and (realized) that people aren’t making a mistake for putting something permanently on your body, because there’s probably a reason why you chose to do it.”