To Tattoo, Or Not To Tattoo?


It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin. ~Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick”

Tattoos can be cool....

 
Occasionally I’ll sit back and actually take notice what people and spambots are Googling to get to P&Q. One of the most common search terms, as it turns out, is something I’ve never previously written about. Tattoos. Which is odd, since I have no body art of any kind and don’t own the Howling Mad Tattoo Shop in Bangkok (though I wish I did.) So, today’s post is for you, all you body art junkies, sailors, bikers, pirates, Maori warriors, and ex-cons.
 
Tattooing is clearly one of those issues that refuses to go away. Just this week I came across the Georgia mom who allowed her 10-year-old to get inked and a fluff piece about the trend of “mommy tattoos.” Rare is the person who doesn’t have a friend, family member, or co-worker with ink somewhere. Surveys such as this one suggest that over a third of Americans in the coveted 18-34 demographic have at least one tattoo. Off the top of my head I think I’m the minority in my circle of friends in that I am un-inked. So what does all this mean? And how do I really feel about tattoos?
 

Pleased to meet you, "Amsome"

 
Lemme start by saying tattoos are no different, in my opinion, than any other form of art. They can range from the sublime (Van Gogh, Vermeer) to the common and trashy (the velvet Elvis paintings at flea markets.) If you don’t believe me on the latter, pay a little visit to WTFTattoos. Personally I think the decision should be left up to the individual. If he/she is the slightest bit intelligent, they will put some serious thought into what is, after all, pretty darn permanent. They will also stop to consider what other people might think of the Playboy logo, Justin Bieber’s face, or the cast of Twilight as a skin shrine. It’s a decision only the individual can make.
 
I don’t necessarily distrust people with tattoos…after all, several of my best friends have them…but in some ways I concur with the late playwright Larry Shue, who wrote, “Psychologists tell us to beware of a man with two tattoos. One One, he may have gotten on a drunk or a dare. But two means he went back.” Really ,it boils down to the artistry of the tat(s). I can really appreciate a cool tribute to a friend or family member or pet, a military or police brotherhood tattoo, a tribal design from one’s ethnic heritage. I don’t dig the tacky stuff. Cartoon characters are generally a dealbreaker for me, as are pin-up girls/mermaids, corporate logos of any kind, and “celebrity-inspired” crap. The whole point of tattoos, in my humble opinion, is to express one’s individuality and soul. It’s not a cheap billboard for other people’s idea of “individuality.”
 

I'll be honest...I think they both look silly

Tattooing, it seems, are one of those industries that is recession-proof. Everybody from teenage girls to middle-aged moms and old guys are getting them these days, it seems. And that’s fine with me. People can do whatever the hell what they want with their bodies, whether silly or sublime. It doesn’t affect me. The one exception I’d make for this would be minors, as in the case of the kid in Atlanta. It’s a decision adults need to make, considering the permanence (not to mention the elasticity of the human skin, and what the thing is likely to look like in 50+ years.)
 
As for judging people with ink, I generally don’t. I know what I personally consider cool and what I consider wince-worthy (hint: all you people with neck tats) and I’ll stick to that. Like all things it’s pretty much on a case-by-case basis. If you’re a smart, articulate, cool person who just happens to have Kat Von D-style ink all over, that’s all right by me. I will treat you as smart, articulate and awesome. If, however, you’re a saggy-trousered knuckle-dragger whose articulation consists of grunted single syllables, well, I think you know where I stand on that.
 
And I’m sure my readers are wondering whether I personally would ever get inked. If I could ever get over my near-paralyzing fear of needles, I might go for something like this (it’s my animal totem, and I’m a huge Poe fangirl). Where? That’s between me and the tattoo artist, but thanks for asking and reading P&Q.
 
 
 
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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 22, 2012.

15 Responses to “To Tattoo, Or Not To Tattoo?”

  1. I don’t have any either so you are not alone.

  2. I don’t even have pierced ears……and at this point in my life, I don’t have a plan to get them (or a tattoo).

  3. It’s bad enough to consider an 80 year old regretting the tats of their rebellious youth, imagine a 20 year old trying to live down whatever the modern equivalent of a My Little Pony tat would be!

    I am needlephobic too, so also uninked and unpierced. My problem when looking at folks who have body art is that it often makes me wince in sympathy at the pain! Even if it didn’t bother them.

    • Exactly! I have to wonder how much pain some of these people endured. I’m pretty much wincing for them. Agreed that I wouldn’t want to be an octogenarian explaining the wrinkled image of SpongeBob on my cleavage. Seriously.

  4. I too am needle phobic, but I do have one tattoo on my back (apparently if I can’t see the needles, it’s alright, even though I faint when I have blood drawn.)

    I appreciated this post. It was hilarious and insightful.

    If you ever do muster the strength to get inked despite your fear, I hope you do get the raven tattoo. I think it fits in more with the Van Gogh ink category than the velvet Elvis.

  5. I don’t have a single tat either, so you’re not alone.

    I think about the poor girl who got the first small of the back tattoo (now known as a “tramp stamp.”) When she got it, it was sexy and cool, but now, well, you know…

    I did date a guy once who was a tattoo fan, and he surprised me one weekend by showing me his new one. It was my name. In huge block script, on his pectoral muscle. We broke up a year later, but that tat stayed around long after I did. That alone was enough to ward me off of them forever.

  6. I’m 32-years-old and ink-free; One in three, heh? I wonder where they find people to take these oft-quoted surveys? 😉

    Having worked in retail, I’ve seen all number of oddities… including the woman with a jumping bass fish tattooed across her cleavage?! (and yes, her shirt was low enough to display the fish’s wide mouth and fins)…

    Recently I saw a man bearing a grotesque, snarling demon covering his chest. My first (naughty) reaction was to wonder whether or not his Significant Other liked seeing that hideous face in bed. (The demon’s face, that is…) I wouldn’t want to. 😛

  7. No tattoos here, but it doesn’t surprise me that people find your blog using some odd search terms – I get people looking for the lyrics for I Am The Music Man, a “Biblical Prototype for the TARDIS” (?!) and, bizarrely, Hitler in 3D…

  8. No tattoos here either. Where in the world am I gonna put it so it doesn’t stretch out when I get pregnant or that doesn’t look trashy.

    Plus I just can’t think of someone I want on me forever. I like dragonflies, but what if they mutate and suddenly become man-eating insects? So I’ll have a man-eating dragonfly tattooed on me. Wait…maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

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