I have grown rather fond of my local Waffle House. As a child, I would eat with my family at the establishment on weekends. Having grown up in a Baptist household, we were rather fond of going out for food after Sunday service. At my young age, I’d never put much thought into how the servers and cooks looked. Their appearance was of the least of my concerns. I just wanted my scrambled eggs and waffles.
A few weeks ago, while ordering breakfast with my room mate and fiance, I fell into my own flirty ways and began to sweet talk the young server. It wasn’t until she brought our food that I realized she had an arm entirely covered in tattoos. We talked for a bit about what each one meant before she went to tend to her other duties. I was pleased to learn that body art was starting to be accepted in the workplace.
For many years, I’d worked in the service industry. All of the applications included “Visible Tattoos and Facial Piercings Are Unacceptable”. I never really thought too much of it. Upon the time of the interview, I’d simply remove my tongue ring and eyebrow piercing. The employers never seemed to notice the small holes around the tip of my eyebrow. They seemed more intrigued with my work ethic and personality.
As time went on, I would often see potential employees turned down for their visible body art. I never grew frustrated about it but I always wondered just why people made such a fuss over it. I’d never seen a customer walk out of an establishment due to an employee’s tattoos or piercings. I’d never so much as heard a complaint on the subject. Living in the Bible Belt, I was sure there were many customers who may be uncomfortable with body art but I usually thought it was a company policy more than anything.
I asked my manager about body art one day and he replied, “It’s about appearance. We don’t want people who look like trash working for us.” This was the first time I’d ever gotten angry over the topic. I’d heard a lot of people thought poorly of body art but never had I heard people called trash over their expressions. I promptly quit that job. Although I had no intention of re-piercing my eyebrow or tongue by that point, I didn’t think anyone deserved such discrimination.
Had I told and African American co-worker that they looked like trash, I’d have been hit with a lawsuit. Why are there laws to protect race, gender, religion and sexual orientation but no laws to protect individuals who partake in body art? It didn’t seem fair to me. Religion is a lifestyle choice and is protected by law. Why shouldn’t all lifestyle choices be protected? Do people really still see body art as nothing more than teenage rebellion?
I’ve began to notice a trend since my Waffle House experience. I’ve seen tattoos visible on employees at more and more establishments. While there are still no laws to protect body artist from discrimination, it is nice to see employers having more open minds. I’d enjoy my eggs just the same if it were served to me by a man with facial piercings.