By Jayme De La Cruz

I pressed against the seat’s backing, the bottoms of my legs sticking to the leather booth, and carefully unpacked my large fries from its paper bag. As I crumpled my receipt, the bell rang to indicate someone else had entered the McDonald’s, and on impulse I glanced up. The man that strolled in ignored the odd looks he received and, undeterred, reached the counter and gave his order. I watched as the cashier stared obnoxiously at his face, her countenance projecting prejudice and judgement

The dude had a huge tire track tattoo plastered diagonally across his face.

Some girls by the counter stole a few glances, whispering to each other amusedly. I focused on my food, but the atmosphere of the restaurant made me uncomfortable. The secondhand embarrassment for the guy distracted me from the flavor of my food.

Leaving the McDonald’s, it occurred to me that that man was being judged for no reason. The tattoo indicated nothing of his personality, other than the fact that he preferred a more outspoken form of self expression, and that certainly did not speak for his moral code. So why was it that the tension back in the restaurant implied an unspoken understanding that he was irresponsible, maybe even a bit dangerous for sporting such markings?

Our society is plagued with judgment, and one of the largest stigmas is focused on bodily self expression. Whether it is tattoos, dyed hair, or unconventional piercings, if you do not embody the ideal image of a natural person, you are considered an outcast. Along with this rejection, you are pinned under certain stereotypical characteristics which supposedly describe you as irresponsible, shifty, and unreliable.

Bodily displays of expression are utilized by every living person, whether it is through haircuts, fashion, or makeup.

Why has society placed boundaries on physical expression? Why are haircuts okay, but unnatural color dyes are too “out there”? Society encourages us to express our individuality, but cross the line and your uniqueness is translated to “seeking attention” or “being rebellious.”

Certain people truly feel that they are a walking canvas. Colored hair, piercings, and long thought out bodily inkings serve as personal art forms. In fact, accessories such as tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, considered the meeting point of fine art and high fashion. As interest in new forms of self assertion increased, watercolor and black line tattoos have gained a mainstream popularity in the past year.

There really is no acceptable excuse for frowning down on a demographic that prefers a different way of channeling passion. Essentially, the purpose behind manipulating your personal aesthetics through ink or dye does not differ from that of wearing makeup or curling your hair.

Next time someone crosses your path sporting a daring trend, rather than automatically judge them, admire their courageousness to fully and publicly embrace their individuality.