Tat-Tuesday: People on campus share stories behind ink

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: Tat-Tuesday is a weekly series that features people around campus and their tattoos.

Photos by Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Frank Mann

The molecular bonds tattooed on psychology graduate student Frank Mann’s arm were born out of a challenge. One of his friends, who has a crucifix tattoo, suggested that Mann did not have anything he was passionate enough about to get tattooed.

Mann decided to get oxytocin, testosterone and a neuron wrapped around his arm. In a study of different species of small rodents called voles, elevated levels of oxytocin were found to lead to monogamy and familial ties, while testosterone is often associated with aggression and competition. For Mann, the two compounds represent a naturalist’s yin and yang.

“You kind of get the two polar ends of human emotions caught in their molecular forms,” Mann said. “It was more for me a kind of way to capture or represent things to me that are very important but free of religion or spirituality.”

Despite the meaning of the tattoo, Mann said the body art evokes a different memory now.

“Honestly, the episodic memory it brings back more than anything is the crazy ex-girlfriend that I got tatted with,” Mann said. 

Holly Duban

Austinite Holly Duban was stationed in Hawaii for four years during her time in the Air Force. She said she decided to get a tattoo of the plumeria, a prominent flower in Hawaii, to remind her of her favorite aspects of life on the island.

“I didn’t want to get a military tattoo because that wasn’t really the bright spot of being in Hawaii,” Duban said. “It was all the other stuff like being at the beach and having good times downtown in Honolulu. So that’s why I decided to get a plumeria.”

The four plumerias immortalized in ink on her back represent each year Duban spent in Hawaii. She and her husband, who also has tattoos of the flowers, met while stationed there. A native of Lubbock, Duban and her husband now live together in Austin.

“Island life is so easy,” Duban said. “I’m not really much for the cold weather, and they have these flowers year-round, so it just really suited me.”

Bruce Spink

Philosophy junior Bruce Spink can count on one hand the number of times he went to his philosophy class 15 years ago, but the lesson he took away from the course ended up tattooed on his head. He learned the word arete, which refers to an ancient Greek concept of virtue, and decided to dedicate his life to the ideal.

“It signified a fundamental shift in my relationship with goodness,” Spink said. “The concept was really important to me, so having that concept as a tattoo was a declaration that it was going to stay important, kind of like a ritualistic announcement, like a wedding or something.”

Spink said the placement of the tattoo above his ear has been somewhat problematic, given the word’s meaning in another language.

“Unfortunately, it’s also a Spanish word, and in Spanish it means ‘earring,’” Spink said. “So most of the time, the question I get is, ‘Why does it say earring above your ear?’ People ask what it means, but most of the time they’re just acknowledging the fact that they’re staring at my tattoo.”