#64: Don’t Fear The Tat

Tat is of course short for tattoo, and the truth is, I do fear them. The neck tattoo is, to me, what shaggy hair and elephant bells and leather jackets were to our parents: A sign of both danger and decay. Show me a neck tattoo, and I’ll show you a pregnant 15-year-old who drinks Pepsi for breakfast and lives in a trailer with plumbing that drains into a wading pool.

Of course, I could show you a neck tattoo, and you might show me Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice aka Mrs. David Beckham. Or Eva Longoria, aka the Desperate Housewife who would never really live in the suburbs. Or Angelina Jolie or Ben Affleck or Amy Winehouse (there’s a role model) or just about any contestant on any reality show, tattoos, neck or otherwise, seeming to be a prerequisite for crossing the Hollywood town line.

Why would anyone get a tattoo? That’s a very good question. In fact, let’s do a Q and A on the subject with a noted authority, me:

Why would anyone get a tattoo?

The young get tattoos for the sole purpose of setting themselves apart from the old. “I’m nothing like you,” the tattoo signals, “and I want to make sure the entire world knows it, so I’m going to etch this large dark blue and red symbol on my neck. Just so there’s never any confusion. And I mean never, ever, ever.”

Exactly! That’s the problem with tattoos: They’re so permanent! Why would anyone want to mark their body with a symbol of something or someone (“Billy Bob”) they might not care about in two decades or even two months?

The young believe that who and what they are now, they will stay forever, and the tattoo is evidence of a superstitious belief that making a permanent mark will create a permanent condition. Or at least that’s what studies show.

What’s with the Asian symbol thing? Why would a kid who’s not Asian, has no desire to travel through Thailand or Mongolia, and can barely write and read English choose to put a Chinese character on his shoulder or forearm?

As with so much else, it’s Angelina’s fault. Right, Jen?

Won’t having a tattoo make it hard to get a good job? Look terrible if you want to wear a strapless wedding gown? Be difficult and painful to remove if you change your mind when you’re 35?

Yes! That’s what I keep telling them! But nobody listens!

But you’re so intelligent! So right! Why won’t they listen?

Because they think I’m old and out of it and that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that they’re never going to feel the way I feel or be the way I am. And my only consolation is knowing for sure what a 50-year-old butt looks like, and why a fat red rose would not add anything to the picture.

What to do if confronted with a young tattooed person? “Don’t try to look “kewl” and “hip” by asking said kid where they “got their ink done” or comment on their “nice tats”. Eew,” says Denise Garratt, aka The Internet Research Geek. “Just stop staring, take your book or coffee and walk quickly and quietly to your Volvo and don’t look back.”



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6 responses to “#64: Don’t Fear The Tat

  1. Lex

    I have one tattoo, which I got by sneaking to a parlor the day I turned eighteen. Very young of me! :p But actually, it’s an excerpt from The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. You know, that hyacinth garden scene. I don’t think I will be as I now am forever, but I am pretty sure I won’t ever be embarassed by having a piece of a Nobel prize winner’s foremost literary contribution on me. (Between my shoulder blades, to be exact.) At the very least, it’s an interesting social experiment. Education and tattoos are often seen as being at odds.

    I am annoyed by most tattoos though. Butterflies (they mean freedom to everyone, you who are about to get one on your ankle! It’s not special and personal!), Chinese/Japanese words (it isn’t more deep and philosophical just because it’s in a different writing system), roses (even real ones are tired to look at), and the list goes on…

  2. Two friends and I thought we might get a tattoo when we all reach 60. We’re currently waiting on the young one. I am not sure we will ever do it, though, as we can’t decide on what or where. My suggestion was a little band around the pinky finger to look like a ring. Nixed by all! We do agree that flowers, bugs and foreign words are out. Maybe it’s just fun talking about it.

  3. Nicki

    I have a tattoo. I waited until I was 21 years old to get it. It is a tribal heart on my calf. I am very happy with it and do not regret it at all. Just because you are one person who thinks tats are dumb don’t force your stereotypes off on the world. Tattoos are just a way to express yourself they are not a sign of trailer trash or gangs. it wouldn’t kill you to be more tolerant.

  4. Anina

    Along the lines of a tattoo (which were not in style when I was young enough to care what was in style) I almost got a nose ring when I was in high school. I am still thankful to my best male friend who told me it was a gross idea. That was all I needed to hear. Gross to boys is not cool to a girl.

  5. jay

    you dont really know what youre talking about.. i have tattoos because i like them.. if you really believe that tattoos are acquired to stand out from “old people”, then you’re interviewing retards.. tattoo is an ancient artform.. do your research

  6. jay

    people with tattoos shouldnt be judged based on looks.. if you turn around and walk away because of that, then you’re ignorant

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