There seems to be an unfortunate paradigm created out of this fast-changing and ludicrous world we’re living in: People’s innocent tattoos are getting dangerously misconstrued.
Last week, a woman named Leah Holland from Kentucky went viral on TikTok for sharing a meaningful tattoo she got before the pandemic that said “Courageously & radically refuse to wear a mask.”
Holland told BuzzFeed News at the time that she got the tattoo two days before Kentucky announced its first COVID-19 case. The message was referring to not wearing a metaphorical “mask,” or pretending to be someone you’re not.
Of course, Holland’s tattoo now has a completely different meaning. This is becoming a deeply unfortunate trend.
A 27-year-old woman named Caitlin Kennific from Toronto says she’s now wrestling with a similar issue. Seven years ago, she got a big Q tattooed on her upper back.
Kennific told BuzzFeed News that over the last few years, as the QAnon delusion has gained momentum online, she “definitely started getting anxious” about her tattoo and what it could accidentally communicate to people.
In 2013, when she was only 19, Kennific got matching tattoos with a friend as a symbol of their bond.
“The letter ‘Q’ was this inside joke thing with a friend where we would send the letter ‘Q’ when we were thinking of them when we didn’t talk,” she said. “And then I started to become aware of QAnon a little before the rest of the world did because I’m fairly online.”
Kennific was wary because the font of her Q tattoo was very similar to the one the far-right group was using.
“It was just after the election when things started to be on the internet about that, I remember when the Pepe the frog meme became a symbol of the alt-right, and I definitely started to get anxious,” said Kennific.
For years after the 2016 election, Kennific worried she would have to get her tattoo removed. But friends had said to her, “Oh no, [QAnon] is so fringe; no one would be able to associate that with you,” she recalled.
But Kennific said that after the storming of the Capitol this year, she decided she would get it removed.
“It’s high enough on my neck that a T-shirt can slip down and people can see it,” she said. “It’s actually a huge anxiety that someone can look at me and think that I’m signaling something to them that I’m not. Now all I can think of is when the world opens up, I’m getting this removed.”
She said she felt a special kinship with Holland when she read about her tattoo misfortunes, too.
“I feel the world is changing faster and faster, and when you get tattoos, your mom is like, ‘That could change and your feelings can change,’ but you don’t imagine it can change like that,” said Kennific. “She wanted something nice on her arm, and I wanted something nice on the back of my neck, and look where we are now.”
Kennific said this strange and unlucky experience has taught her a lesson about being adaptable — even with something so technically permanent.
“It’s taught me that life is about adapting to things: I had no control over how things I decided to do would be twisted by other forces,” Kennific said. “And now I just have to choose how I move with them.”
“Life is weird,” she added, laughing.