To Cover or Not to Cover?
02:49 PM
greek tattoo2.jpg

The past few weeks, Needles and Sins has been a bit light as I finished up my latest tattoo book and then fled for Greece. Right now, I'm on the island of Chios (where my dad is from) in the Aegean Sea. Yes, I know whatcha thinkin: Why the hell is she online when she's on a gorgeous Greek island.

Well, for one, I missed you. Two, I'm a nerd. And most important, I wanted to share with y'all a snippet of my experience here and get your thoughts on it. So, it is with great introspection, social interaction, and very expensive education that I have deduced the following:

Being heavily tattooed in Greece still sucks.

Ooh, I can hear your thoughts again: Boo-freakin-hoo. People stare. People comment. And they do so in different languages. Deal with it, Marisa. You're on a Greek island!

I have been dealing with it. For years now. Remember my whining last year to Athens News about being spit on and other fun interactions with old Greek ladies because I've defiled myself? 

I've also promoted Greek tattoo artists here like Dimitris Kalomiris/Hellenic Stixis (whose work is above) and Mike The Athens. Both artists take a spiritual approach to tattooing in a country where many believe tattooing to be sacrilege. There are, in fact, many great artists in Greece, and that talent is growing. There are even two(!) studios here in Chios including Birthmachine Tattoo, who did the following work in progress. Nevertheless, the heavily tattooed are still significantly few here, and life isn't easy for those who are.

birthmachine tattoo.jpg

Which brings me to my point: because of the negative reactions from strangers and even my own family, I've been hiding my tattoos. I'm talkin' wearing long-sleeve tees to the beach in 100 degree heat, and wraps over all my dresses at night. [Now, when I go to baptisms and weddings, I cover up because I don't want the attention taken away from baby and bride. That's not a big deal for me.]

For those days where I just want a swim or a drink at a bar, I wonder if I'm doing myself a disservice by covering up and not instigating discourse to try to dispel the myths surrounding tattoos--and especially tattooed women. In this act of conflict avoidance, am I creating more problems by letting those in the know think I have something to be ashamed of? Or am I just trying to have a nice vacation with my family in a place I love without causing too much of a ruckus. I'm having a hard time figuring it all, which explains all this blah blah.

So my question to you as I look upon my next week here: To cover or not to cover?

Let your freak flag fly! Who care's about some random Greek's opinion? Enjoy yourself on the beach and get a nice tan! You have beautiful artwork, dont be ashamed to show it off, and dont be swayed by the opinions of people who you'll never see again.

I know we are all proud of our tattoos and ink but when in a different country/culture, perhaps its best to try and avoid any uneccessary negative attention. Dont get me wrong, I love my tattoos and all but I dont need to show them off to prove anything to anyone. I am perfectly fine wearing a long sleeve shirt to cover them one has to know about my tattoos but me....

I think you should wear a bikini and shave your head. Maybe even get a new tattoo while you're there. ;)

I can understand covering up. It is slightly disruptive in a large US city when you are constantly getting asked who your artist is (not taking new clients), how much "that" cost (a lot of money) or what that is/ what that means, but I can imagine it's something else to be spat upon. I'd try it at a bar though.

Based purely on the fact that you are with your family who live thousands of miles away. I say cover up. It's a small sacrifice to pay for having all the focus put on you and your family, instead of having to try and justify yourself to the locals . It's only for a short time and I'm sure that however much your family loves you, they will appreciate the sentiment.
If it was just a holiday without the family, then I'd agree with Tim. Get your bikini on and get yourself a new tattoo over there!" ;)

The family thing is a big part of it--if not the biggest--because my choices now affect others.

At the same time, I'd like to think that the stigma of shame surrounding the tattoos wouldn't be so great if I did hold my head up high and let my freak flag fly (I love it, Chris!!)

Still figuring it out, so I really appreciate all your thoughts.


Oh, and Tim just wants me to shave my head because he put a big beautiful tattoo there that no one sees any more!

I feel you big time due to my own family background and honestly can see both sides of the argument and so here is what I guess I'd ask myself:
how often do you plan on going back there? are you willing to set a pattern with your family that you will cover up around them? If you feel that in the future, you just want them to get over it already, I'd say there's no point in waiting. Sorry to answer your question with two questions.
I wouldn't be surprised if half the people who stare are secretly jealous b/c they see you are braver and freer than them in your mindset due to having seen more of the world or just being born that way. (not to harsh on anyone, I've just found that is often the case with people in general.)

Melina, you hit it on the head with setting precedent.

I go to Greece every year to see my family. I've been tattooed for about 17 years now but in the last seven, it has been more difficult because, well, it's hard to hide them.

In the beginning, I was told that I should even cover them when at home but I refused, and now I walk around the house, no one blinks.

Yet, it's different when my family has to deal with the reaction of others who may always have something to say.

There are actually a lot of layers to this but culture and family are key here.

Marisa, when I need to make an example of a professional tattooed person who represents the community in a positive light, you are who I refer to. You are a blessing to the tattooed community and a great example of living outside of the stereotype. I can think of no one better to help "dispel the myths surrounding tattoos--and especially tattooed women".

That being said, you have done more than your share of that and like anyone else deserve the right to a peaceful vacation. It is not your obligation to be "on" all the time. If the vacation is more relaxing and you can focus your time more on your family by covering up, then by all means do it. If you are more comfortable exposed, then do not cover up, this is your vacation do what is most relaxing for you.

While, I in no way regret my heavy tattoo coverage or other visible mods, on rare occasion I wish I had the option of going under the radar. You do have that as an option and there is nothing wrong with using it.


I'm with you Marisa. I cover up in public with my family who I visit once a year too. In the tropics!! Next year I may go for Chinese new year -- even more family. I'll look like a religious freak with all my clothes on. Although 'home' is a modern city and there's more and more tattoos there, significant cultural events aren't really the place to explain tattoos. And for the older folk let's not even get started on Japanese tattoos when Japan occupied us during WWII.... In conclusion, I wish my family lived in Iceland but unfortunately there're in the tropics for good. :)


I echo Sean's statement above. You do more to promote tattoos in a positive, professional light than almost anyone else I can think of. That said, you were not elected as an ambassador for the inked nation, so you should do what your heart desires, and if your heart desires a little peace and quiet and a vacation from ignorance and prejudice, you should cover.



That is such a tough call... I get the not wanting to cover up, but I also get the idea of not wanting to be gauked at and possibly even assaulted do to your tattoos being considered a defilement of the body.

I guess it all boils down to what you are willing to take from people... I mean I wouldn't think you were "selling out" if you wanted to cover up to avoid complication and confrontation. More often than not, I think that is the root of why folks want to resist hiding tattoos... they feel like they are betraying a piece of themselves by denying the freedom that they exercised when getting tattooed.

Personally, I adhere to the "when in Rome" philosophy. If I was being spit on by little old Grecian ladies I would cover up. I mean you ARE in their world, participating in their culture, and unfortunately, that is part of it... But thats just me.

It also sucks that you are receiving more harsh reactions due to the fact that you are a woman... it's like a double-whamy of discrimination.

In a some-what related situation (minus the salivary assult), my gal gets told numerous times by all of the different supervisors to cover up each time a client comes to visit our work place... yet I haven't been told once. And for that inconsistency in society I am sorry. However, as a show of solidarity and devotion, I cover up my tattoos when she has to. I don't think it's fair that she is hounded about it, yet I haven't heard a peep.

Good luck to you M.

I'm with the majority. Cover up when you feel it's appropriate. No point in making your family uncomfortable when you are out in public with them. Though, getting a little dialog going when you are out by yourself would be a good thing. You certainly repreresent the tattooed community well. While you are sweating it out in long sleeves, you can tell yourself you are protecting all your fine artwork from the sun.

I have an ex-boyfriend who used the exact same words, wanting to know what I disliked about myself so much that I felt I had to "defile" myself in that way. Notice he is an "ex". I can totally understand someone not liking or understanding tattoos but especially when it comes from someone that is supposed to care about you, a statement like that is terribly demeaning. If you saw me and the artwork I have, you would see there is absolutely nothing that I am ashamed about with my body (similar look, age and body of Marisa).

As an addendum though, I will agree that for the sake of your family harmony and what they might go through, covering what you can while you are out in public with them would be a diplomatic choice, and does not undermine your overall body attitude. I admit that my parents dislike my tattoos (I've gotten more visible ones over the last year) so I am more conscious of them when I am going to be going out with them, or even just visiting (we live in the same town). But if family was not a concern, I also like to think that, as a computer professional who happens to be an attractive mid-40s woman, I can help dispel some of the stereotypes as well.


End of story.

Contrary to popular belief, most fabrics do a poor job at blocking UV. Long sleeves alone won't protect your tattoos.
Maybe you need to wear a tee, emblazoned with "Yes, I am a Lawyer", while in Greece.

Long sleeve shirts have been protecting my tattoos for the past 17 years, and honestly they don't look aged or sun baked compared to the many retards that feel the need to parade their tattoos under exposed sunlight.

From what I have read, some shirts block rays better than others. I recall reading that dark,heavy shirts provide the most sun protection, but I have taken to applying SPF 30 and wearing a long sleeve shirt in the summer months.

Just be yourself, be happy and do what works for you.
no one can be an educator 24 hours a day!

i show mine almost all the time, but im willing to cover-up for funerals and family. like when it would detract from someone else's celebration, etc

PS: i love that 1st photo, at first i thought the grey lines were arm hairs!

PSS?: showing your tattoos under exposed sunlight makes you a retard?
i have been asked to forward a message from the disabled folks i work for:

"fuck you, asshole!"

PS: thats meant for zed, NOT the staff of N+S

also, my crew at the work shop (for the developmentally delayed) think Marisa is 'hot with her cool tattoos' and suggest you show them all the time.

BTW some of these folks get body art too, so dont leave them out!

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