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.
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.”