Friday, November 06, 2009

To Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo

I have a very close friend who recently got a tattoo after two years of "deciding".

First there was the task of choosing the tattoo itself. What should I get? Words? A symbol? What will it mean? Does it have to have a meaning? What do I want it to say about me? Should it be who I am or who I want to be? Colorful or simple? Maybe just black and white? What size? Tiny and discreet or big and bold?

Then came the process of deciding on the actual location where the ink would be placed. Where should I put it? On my back? Arm? Breast? My hip? Lower back? Nah, too trashy. Calf? Inner arm? Back of neck? Forearm? Upper arm? Ankle?

Once those two traumatic decision were made, the next thing to cover was deciding on who was going to wield the needle. Who would the actual artist be? Locations from Miami to New York were considered. Portfolios were looked at, tattoo shops were visited and recommendations from friends were vetted.

Then the day finally came. No more thinking. A date and time was picked and a support staff of friends and family were invited. There is no actual documentation because the subject was vehemently against video or photos, but I did try to bribe someone to get me a picture of the blessed event because I couldn't be there. She wouldn't do it. She had been warned by the "tattooee" of her rules and I just couldn't get her to crack. Damn loyal friends.

Now it's done. And just a day after it happened, I got a text message from my newly inked friend saying, "How many tattoos is too many?"

My answer? One. One tattoo is too many, in my opinion.

But that's me. I'm not a big fan of tattoos. I don't get it. I just don't understand why. And I often think the people getting them don't know why either, because I've asked several people, "What made you get a tattoo?" and the response I get most often is, "Because I've always wanted one."

That doesn't seem like a really great reason to me. Because you always wanted one? That's it? There's no real reason? I don't think it's the same as saying you went bungee jumping because you always wanted to. That feeling is fleeting and temporary; a tattoo is permanent. You have something literally inked onto your body permanently because you always wanted one? That I don't get.

I don't really care either way if someone has a tattoo but that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion or judgement, I do. I think a lot of things, based on what kind of tattoo it is to who has it. I wonder if they think having one makes them more of an individual. And then I think, are you not special enough or confident enough in your individuality that you have to get a tattoo to express how "different" or "cool" you are? And if you're so proud of it, why don't you get it somewhere it shows? I mean, what's the point of getting one if you're not going to show it off? I never can seem to get a really good answer to that question. I get a lot of "Well, it's for me, no one else" kind of answers, but not a good answer.

But I would never just nix a person based on the fact that they have tattoos. Of course I'd still talk to them. I might even be their friend. I do have friends and family with tattoos, but with strangers, I have the urge to stare. Those who are all inked up sort of fascinate me. I want to know the story behind each one. Sometimes I ask. Other times, I'm afraid to ask.

But, when I am lucky enough to get an explanation, I find that I want to know more. Although, some explanations are beyond my comprehension. No matter how much depth someone goes into, I'll just never understand why they couldn't just love unicorns in private instead of having a giant one tattooed on their body. I mean, I'd never consider having a picture of eggplant parmigiana with a side of thin spaghetti tattooed on my body, no matter how much I love it.

Some "ink" is easy to decipher; the name of a fallen comrade, perhaps your military unit number (ooh rah!), the names of your wife, kids or girlfriend, a replica of a famous painting, a banner to show how much you really love your mom. Or maybe something that makes you feel like you belong, to show you're part of a group. I had a friend many years ago who had AOII (Alpha Omicron Pi) tattooed on her ankle; just the tiny Greek letters depicting her sorority. I guess it made her feel part of a sisterhood. It might have been a good idea at the time, but after college when she was working at a serious job, in a skirt and heels everyday, that AOII blared from her ankle for all to see. Maybe not such a great idea after all.

But at least she didn't go as far as
The Scary Guy. Eighty-five percent of his body is covered in tattoos, including his head and face; that's a picture of him up there. After he closed down the tattoo parlors he owned, he made it his mission to go on the road to teach others tolerance by giving speeches and talking about his life experience. He lived in my town and I think I even saw him once; I know I read something in the local paper about him, but I never really knew much about him. From what I've read online though, it seems he isn't what you'd think a person tattooed from head to toe would be. I guess that's his whole point.

Even though I don't get the whole tattoo thing, don't have one and will never get one, I think if a person does decide to get one, it should be a significant and meaningful expression of some sort.

So perhaps if you have one, you can tell me why you did it. Tell me what kind of tattoo you have, what it means to you and what you think it says about you. And if you're thinking of getting one, what image do you plan on having tattooed and what does it mean to you or say about you?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sparkle And Glow
I See Sea Scallops
My New Favorite Song
Lazy Sunday


Gil said...

Women are beautiful the way God made them. I don't think you need any tattoos!

Leigh Hutchens Burch said...

I have a tattoo - it's a qurater-sized butterfly on my right ankle. I am not going to tell you why I got it yet. I'll blog about it one day.

Let's just be honest though: as a banker in the occasional skirt and pair of heels, I feel the pain of the AOII gal.

lacy lee said...

I just remember seeing this old guy with a saggy tattoo on his arm and that was enough to decide me against them. They may be cool for a bit, but eventually, that cute dolphin starts to look like it's got type II diabetes.

Ed's mom said...

YEGODS!!! I am so glad you told who this guy is. He looks enough like Eddie,that I thought your nephews got hold of him...Whew!!LOL

Laurar35 said...

I totally agree with you on the tat's. I don't get the facination that people have to get them. I don't have one and never will either so I guess it's as they say "To each is own". BTW I love your blog. I always get a good chuckle out of your posts.

Tug said...

I have 3 tattoos now, & will probably end up with 5. There's always the chance I will work in a 'professional' environment, so I put them where they won't show unless I want them too...they ARE for me anyway. The first one I got is a forget-me-not flower on my toe. I was moving away from Vegas, and my 3 best friends and I all got them. The other 2 I have now are my grandkids' footprints, names, & dates of birth on my lower back. I have one more grandchild on the way...that will be my 4th. I want to get the 'Cross of St. Kevin' on my back (directly behind my heart) brother Kevin was killed when he was 19, and he will always be in my heart. I have a Cross of St. Kevin hanging in every house I've lived in, and make sure it's by my doors...he's my protector, always.

Paul Daniel Ash said...

I have a Hawaiian pattern on my left arm that represents the 12 years I spent in the islands. I'm getting a Staff of Mercury (caduceus) on my back in two weeks. It represents my Greco-Roman heritage as a descendant of the Ancient Greek colony of Italia at the southern tip of Italy. Mercury is the god of writers and travelers, of borders and those who cross them; a trickster god. right up my alley.

Tattooing, like other body modifications, are kind of an expression of selfhood: your permanent, indelible statement on the body you were born with. My Hawaiian pattern was a result of six years of planning and research, and my caduceus is something I've been thinking about for almost five years, and designed a completely unique image myself.

Everyone will have their own reasons. They're as personal as the tattoo itself. Some may be trivial, some may be profound. It's self-expression, and different people have wildly varying attitudes about their own selfhood.

You confused the hell out of me with the "What should I get? Where should I put it?" part. I thought you were talking about getting a tattoo yourself...

Anonymous said...

My first tat was...well for fun. I was with friends who were getting theirs and I thought...why the heck not? Then the second one I decided on (ankle) was a memorial to my brothers that died -two feathers (death) and a bear claw(courage) all my tats have meaning. I placed my son's footprints over the first tat, as it really was a "just for fun" tat. To this date I have 5 and am looking at possibly 2 more. Even at my age it drives my parents nuts…hmmm that could be another reason why I do it! JK!
XOXO Grace