Tattoos become acceptable way of life

Elizabeth Meeks and Elizabeth Meeks

Tattoos are not just related to gang members and ex-cons anymore.
More and more people are getting “inked” as a way of self-expression. For some, it is a right of passage for becoming an adult, and for others, it marks profound times in one’s life, and for Alycia Linder, 34, it is a lifestyle.
Linder, born and raised in Bakersfield, wife and mother of three, waited until she was 30 years old before she got her first tattoo. “I waited until I wanted the same thing for a year before I got it. It has so much meaning for me,” Linder said. Her first tattoo is “Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil” fairies. They are full of color and located on the center of her lower back.
Over the last two years, Linder has had continuous work done, and her tattoos now span her entire back and upper left arm. “It all started with one. But all my tattoos have to do with my family: my husband and kids,” said Linder.
Tattoos have become somewhat of a fashion statement, with varying degrees for each person, depending on how bold they wish to be. Linder found, as her tattoos became more extensive and more visible, that people began to treat her differently. “At first it really bothered me, but I realized it is their issue, not mine. Tattoos are a shield for people who can’t get past it,” said Linder.
Not only did people treat Linder differently, they also assumed she is irresponsible and/or abusing drugs. “There is a stigma with tattoos,” said Linder. “People assume you are a drug addict, a low life and don’t have any money.”
Linder is none of those things. She drives a new Mercedes, participates actively in her children’s life both in school and after-school activities. Linder is also getting ready to launch her new clothing line, Tattooedgear. The line will consist of babies, kids, men and women apparel. Her husband, who is heavily tattooed as well, holds an engineering position with Scientific Drilling and is able to comfortably support the family of five while they live in a beautiful home in Rosedale.
“If people stopped to think about how much tattoos cost, they wouldn’t think so much about what we can or cannot afford,” Linder said. Linder has upwards of $7,000 worth of tattoos on her body.
There is also an entire tattoo culture Linder is a part of. She attended the Bakersfield Tattoo Convention, which is held every year and placed second last year.”I want people to know we are very family oriented. The tattoo culture is tight knit. My kids are so close with my friends. Some are artists and have a lot of work done. It’s not a ‘party thing’ as some people might think,” said Linder.
Linder also has rules and boundaries for her children who might want to get tattooed one day and for people who are considering getting work done. For her children, they must wait until they are 18. “Because they are just figuring out who they are, and they will probably choose something, if they are younger, that they will regret. They need to wait to see who they are,” said Linder. For people wishing to get their first tattoo, Linder said, “As long as you are getting it because it has meaning to you, it’s okay. Don’t get it because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do, and make sure it’s what you want.”
Linder has had issues not only with non-tattooed soccer moms but employers as well. According to Linder, when her boss became aware of the extensiveness of her ink, he told her he would not have hired her even though he knows now what a great employee she is.
Linder knows that first impressions are everything, but wants to bridge the gap of understanding between the inked and non-inked communities. “For us, tattoos are like clothes: Don’t assume we are all one way, and if you want to know something, then just ask,” said Linder. When asked if she will ever be done getting tattoos, Linder said with a laugh that she will eventually just run out of space, and then she guesses she will be done.
Linder represents a culture that boldly displays art and feeling on bodies. She wears her tattoos proudly and befriends all who can get beyond just seeing her colorful skin. She lives with this idea: “The tattoo is the mark of the soul. It can act as a window through which we can see inside, or it can be a shield to protect us from those who cannot see past the surface.”