Thursday, May 14, 2009

(Don't) Show Me

It is always thrilling to hear about the strange experiences of my professor friends and to detect possible trendlets based on limited but interesting data. This just in:

A friend of mine emailed me to tell me that two students (both male) showed him their tattoos this semester. One of them took off his shirt in my friend's office to show him a tattoo. My friend wrote:

I somehow made it to 44 years of age with no such show-and-tells; this semester I've had two students show me their tattoos. I'm thinking of changing professions.

One of the tattoos was a nerdy science picture and the other was not. Apparently neither student first asked "Do you want to see my tattoo?". If asked, my friend would have politely said "No thanks".

I have had students show me their very visible (arm, leg) tattoos that had a sciencey theme. I thought the tattoos were hideous but made an attempt at sincerity by saying something like "That's better than a snake tattoo". Fortunately I have not been subjected to more revealing displays of student body art in my office.

Ever the helpful and supportive friend, I told my tattoo-oppressed friend that he had probably invited these displays, albeit involuntarily, by having a particular association with the state of Missouri, the "Show Me" state.

I have no particular opinions about tattoos other than (1) I don't want one, not even a graph paper design; and (2) I don't want to be asked to admire student tattoos, even science-themed ones. Perhaps my friend and I are missing out on a special opportunity to bond with our young students, but it seems that we are both quite content to miss out on this particular mode of bonding.


Ms.PhD said...

Bonding is okay... but yeah, I'm generally against uninvited nudity for any reason.

I heard a story once about a male PI who yanked up the shirt of his grad student to show another male PI the female grad student's belly ring.

Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking how many thing are wrong with that story.

dr said...

i like the graph paper idea. i told my class the other day that it would be handy to have a small table of physical constants that i can never remember tattooed on my forearm for easy access. but Google Calculator hurts a lot less.

Alyssa said...

Woah - that's crazy the guy took off his shirt to show his tattoo! Talk about over the line!

Tattoos are really very trendy these days, and are practically common place. I myself have three (all smallish and unassuming - one is science related).

Opposite to your issue - when people find out I have tattoos they ask to see them because they can't picture a "normal" gal with tattoos! I feel weird in those situations, particularly with the one on my back (I usually just show the one on my arm and hope that's enough :P)!

Anonymous said...

How about (3) I don't want my son/daughter to have one. Or, (4) Hepatitis, hepatitis, hepatitis.

Tom said...

I've toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, but it would have to be relatively invisible under ordinary circumstances (since I need to look professional when I'm at work, at conferences, and when dealing with the public). Which means that it'd be covered, and as such, then what's the point?

If that were the case, I'd be stuck having to show people at odd times, leading to awkward situations like you presented here ... and I'm just not up for that either.

I guess I'll leave my body alone. Oh well.

Dr M said...

I have no particular opinions about tattoos other than (1) I don't want one, not even a graph paper design; and (2) I don't want to be asked to admire student tattoos, even science-themed ones.I'm with you on this. It is also somewhat socially inappropriate to show off any not immediately visible body art without asking first (and in the professional professor-student situation, even asking is straddling the line, as I see it). However, as long as the student isn't showing tattoos situated on very inappropriate body parts, I don't really see any reason to get worked up over it either. Of all the socially inappropriate things people (ourselves included) do every now and then without meaning to give offence, this must surely be one of the mildest transgressions.

MGS said...

I have a tattoo of a local organism I worked on in a class in undergrad that my professor does most of his research on. At the end-of-year school wide-party I showed him my tattoo, which is on my leg. He seemed to think it was pretty cool, but he was also really drunk at the time.

Katemonster said...

I got myself tattooed with a biohazard symbol the summer before I started graduate school and have never had occasion to regret it. It is in a discreet but accessible location (but I am very glad that neither of my male PIs ever knew about it or tried to show it off to anyone else).

Tea said...

I know a high-schooler who got a tattoo on his chest as soon as he turned 18, and judging my the number of times I saw him pull up his shirt to show it off, I think that half of his thrill was that he could shock people, and I agree with you. That sort of thing isn't really appropriate for school.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I have a tattoo, but I'm pretty sure my students would drop dead from shock if they discovered this.

I do, however, wish that my biggest TMI complaint was that students were showing me their tattoos. In just this past semester, I've been shown infected, oozing eyeballs, stitched digits, and locations of metal parts. (I'm going to spare you the emailed details about the urinary tract infections,, and food poisoning.)

Kevin said...

Here on the Left Coast, tattoos are pretty standard fare---even middle-aged female attorney have them. I've not gotten one, mainly because I've not seen a design that I liked well enough to put up with the pain of acquiring a tattoo (and because my wife would have to approve).

Lifting one's own shirt to show off a new tattoo seems like fairly normal behavior to me. Lifting someone else's shirt seems way over the line.

Alex said...

If students ever start showing me tattoos, I'll probably have no choice but to hold all of my office hours in a very public location with lots of witnesses who can testify that I neither requested the display nor approved of it. The last thing an untenured person needs is a situation with a student removing clothing in his office.

Anonymous said...

dr: I think you want a shirt like this one:

It's not easy to tell from the picture, but the equations are upside down so they're easily read by the wearer. I haven't seen one for physical constants, but it's a good idea and doesn't hurt. :-)

I really like tastefully done tatoos. When I was dancing, one of my students had a gorgeous one of a vine criss-crossing over her back with butterflies. Considered getting one myself, but my husband really doesn't like the idea. Even if I did, though, I probably wouldn't show it off "out of context". Even if it doesn't embarrass me, it's sure to embarrass the person being forced to see.

Karl said...

"What's the difference between a physical chemist and an analytical chemist?

A physical chemist has Schrodingers equation tattooed on the back of their neck (and one other place)."


Anonymous said...

there was at least one researcher in brain imaging who had graph paper tattooed on his scalp so that he could check the repeatability of his brain stimulation expts. I don't know if he went bald later!

Eppendork said...

Having a tattoo does not always equal hepatitis infact none of the people I know who have tats have hep. I have a large tat on my back - if people notice it I talk about it but i dont tend to show it off - it was done for me not to be showed off by me. I have seen many types of body modification - each to their own as long as its done in aseptic sterile conditions no worries. I dont like the whole randomly showing me your half naked body without permission :-p that's just odd.


Been thinking about more as well.

Candid Engineer said...

I told my tattoo-oppressed friend that he had probably invited these displays, albeit involuntarily, by having a particular association with the state of Missouri, the "Show Me" state.Ahh, FSP, sometimes you really crack me up. :)