Instant Hipster: Just Add Ink

About twelve years ago, I was sitting in my mother's living room watching television with my mom and my sister. I scratched my arm, revealing a glimpse of one of my tattoos to my sister. Now nobody in my family except for my brother knew about the encre, since getting inked would invariably piss my old school Venezuelan mother off.

Needless to say that my sister Zilt, Queen of Subtlety, outed me to my mom with a shrilling, "Oh my GAAAAAAAWD!!!! Is that a tattoo????!"

My mother immediately shot a stare in my direction with a look of horror and disappointment.


I had to hem and haw à la Ralph Cramden and began to appease my mom, who was lamenting in Spanish that I did not love her.

"¡Tù no me quieres!"

I had to reveal the tattoos to her, one by one while she asked me why I would do such a thing (followed by a derisive "pendejo.")

The real reason, of course, was to get chicks. When you're an average to dorky looking twenty-something, you pull out all the stops in your endless quest for tail (not that it worked...).

"I'm sorry ma, I do love you. I just thought they'd look cool, that's all."

Though my mom still wasn't happy about it, she soon forgot about them altogether. I had the foresight to get them done above the "unemployment line" (above the short sleeve of a t-shirt), so it's not like they were always in her face.

Now I'm not mentioning this to portray myself as a trendsetter or anything... Nor am I claiming to have put the 'ooh' in cool, but judging by the f*cking Rorschach tests that abound on the haunches, limbs and ankles of our youngsters, I'd say that the ink-fest has run its course.

No longer the mark of a convict, biker, stripper or general ne'er-do-well, tattoos dot the fleshy landscape like barnacles on a cruise ship. Hell, even one of my kid's teachers has a non-descript sh*tty ink job all over her neck. (Something tells me she'll be donning a turtle-neck type gown at her daughter's wedding some day)

Scholars and dolts alike decide to decorate themselves with a myriad of designs. I was DJ'ing at a bar a few years back when some dipsh*t enters the booth, showing off his fresh one.

"Uh, can you play some Black Flag in my honor?" he says as he demonstrates the logo of the punk rock band on his bicep.

"I didn't bring any, bro."

I lied. But I knew if I reached for Damaged or Slip it In I'd be tempted to jam it in his ass sideways. That's one rule for the guys: You don't tattoo a rock band anywhere on your body unless you were in it. There is no guarantee that a Hoobastank, Blink One-Eighty-Crap or Queens of the Stone Age tat will bring back sweet memories.

There's really no way to regulate them. It'd be tough to put together a Tattoo Commission or Review Board:

"Ms. Van Doren, we're happy to approve your request for a caduceus on your shoulder. We realize you're very excited to get into medical school. Congratulations."


"John, I'm getting pretty f*cking sick of these requests for 'tribal' sh*t on the small of the back. I'm denying this one."

Perhaps if this was in existence, I'd have been spared the sight of a water-buffalo pulling up her shirt to reveal, in addition to about 42 lbs of flab hanging over her belt, a crappy tribal job about nine inches above the crack of her ass. This, while she's puffing on a dangling cigarette, dropping her daughter off for kindergarten.

Those ubiquitous and tacky tribal jibbers creep up along with thong shot on our more svelte young ladies, but on occasion you get treated to a tattooed breast. Yeah, that's appealing.

Ladies, it just might be the old-fashioned in me, but the nipple is decoration enough for that titty. Pink, brown... small or the size of a stop sign, we don't care - just tweeze the hairs out. It's good enough. You don't need that jailhouse rose on it.

Maybe I just have to get with the times and be a little more open minded. I suppose I'll also have to stop cringing at those horrid looking facial piercings. You know the ones... where the marginally unattractive decide to make matters worse with a nice stud connecting their upper lip to their nostril.

I must be getting old... or not?

Have we actually changed our collective attitudes on tattoos?


Sophie T. Mishap said...

I never wanted to get a tattoo, but I don't mind them. The reason, you ask? Well, any place I might be thinking of getting a tattoo would totally end up old and wrinkly (ass, boob, etc.). Then I'd have to pull my skin taught and explain the tattoo rather than the tattoo just explaining itself.

Instead, I got a tongue stud. It rocked. I had it for 3 months before anyone found out. I must mumble a lot or something. Anyway, me and the stud had to part ways 2 years later when I couldn't land a job in New York. As soon as it came out, I got hired. Amazing.

Sophie T. Mishap said...

'Taut' too. This thing needs an asstard check.

Incurable Insomniac said...

Back in the 80s I considered a celtic knot, or a crescent moon. Now I'm glad I didn't do it. I can't commit to anything that lasts that long.

Deni said...

Mostly I think tattoos are silly. But I don't tell my inked friends that. If it makes them happy, who am I to put the damper on what they like? I have several friends who wax poetic about the symbolism of their body ink. I usually just smile and think about something else until they change the subject.

I have a little more problem ignoring multiple facial piercings. There are some people whose piercings literally cause me to retch and I have to look away or I'll lose my lunch.

tiff said...

I got a tat a little over a year ago, when I thought the trend had run its course and I could make good on something I'd wanted to do since I was 16 (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth).

It's a celtic knotwork heart on my ankle, a place that's pretty much guaranteed to NOT go wrinkly or saggy. I LOVE it, and would get more, but I'm sure my lovely Irish mother would sprain her tongue with all the "tut-tutting" she'd do. Plus, my husband thinks they're stupid......

Maybe I'll just get my eyebrow pierced instead.

Incurable Insomniac said...

What's funny is when men get them on their pecs when they're young and firm, and then time makes them look all sad and saggy.

I think the Japanese body art is beautiful because they use a lot of color and they tell a continuous story, but just an unconnected collection of tatts covering the body, neck, arms, etc., as well as facial piercings, makes my skin crawl.

John Sadowski said...

Walkman motor + toothbrush + empty bic pen + paper clip + batteries + duct tape + thread = home made tattoo gun.

Sadly, me and 5 art school chums have some really (really) horrible home-made tattoos. Well actually one guy's turned out pretty cool. He had it professionally re-done though.

Basically the rest of us have indecipherable little greenish-black blobs in various places.

Joe said...

Like Deni, I've got no real issue with tattoos on other people, but I never had any real desire to get one myself. There was never anything I really wanted to have on my body forever. I guess I once sort of quasi-considered getting Evan Dorkin's character "Cheese" tattooed someplace on myself. But it went no further than a fleeting thought.

Just keep the damn things off your neck and face, people. Unless you're Maori, you're co-opting someone else's culture.

the beige one said...

"Merv Griffin!" I once considered having a panel from that M&C placed somewhere on my body...

I don't mind them on others...I better not, at least, considering I have one. And I'm sure I've had Deni rolling his eyes after he asked me why I got one, but I put an illustration of Groucho behind my right ear in commemoration of a particularly daunting self-produced theatrical endeavor. Also, he's a hero of mine.

It's out of the way, and mostly un-noticeable...

Beyond that, I don't mind most forms of body alteration, but, yeah, facial tattoos, to me, say "I have given up on the promise of this mundane life of mine."

It must be said, however, the endorphin rush is highly addictive, which is how a lot of people end up getting so many.

Atul said...

Tattoos were a way to rebel and the ante keeps getting upped as tattoos become more common. Now it's body piercings in weird places that are "cool". What's funny is that some people don't think about the long term ramifications of having a tattoo, such as wrinkly tattoos, faded color, a design that goes out of style or becomes obsolete, (like your ex-girlfriend's name).

I for one can't stand tattoos on a woman. I consider them a turn-off. I agree with Prego. Why mess up the beautiful female form with artificial ornamentation?

The only thing I like, (depending on the woman), is a tiny nose ring, not a big ring, but a tiny dome. It must be my Indian heritage showing. For some reason I find it to be more of a turn-on on a non-Indian woman.

RW said...

My tattoo is the result of a drunken night in Corpus Christi, TX in 1972. And it looks it. I regret it feverishly.

sage said...

I must be a Puritan. I have no tattoos and no holes and don't plan to get one. I once, out of curiousity, went into a tattoo place, but wasn't even thinking about getting one, just wanted to see what it was like. And although I like a good stiff drink occassionally, I can't imagine how many of them it'd take for me to allow someone to start drawing on me. That said, I don't really have a problem with tattoos on other folks, except for those who seem to want to cover their hold bodies with ink. Interesting post.

Prego said...

Sophie - Tongue studs only bother me when the newly studded decide to play around with it in their mouths. Nothing creased me more than watching those things go back and forth across someone's yap.

Deni - Tattoos generally signified some monumental event in someone's life. Mine have a couple of stories behind them, but yeah... they'd pretty much bore everyone.

Tiff - My wife always jokes about getting one, but fortunately she wouldn't. I don't think I'd like it.

SK - My friend Chris has an elaborate Japanese body art tattoo. He can pull it off. I can't. I agree with your 'unconnected collection' - If I were to get another, that's just what it'd be.

John - An old friend of mine had a homemade, sh*tty looking grim reaper on his pec. I don't suppose that was your handiwork?

Joe - I don't regret what I've had inked... though some of my considerations might have been regretful. I don't know how I'd feel about that shadowy Don Giovanni character from "Amadeus" right now.

Beige - What's up with the PR chicks around here and those cursive names on their necks?

Atul - Fully agree with the 'tattoo on women' thing. It's a horrible double standard, but I just dig the unadorned female form. It's good enough for me.

The nose ring? Not as much of a turn on as a nice clavicle a soft arm pit or that area on the jeans' waist - you know... that little gap that you find between the belly and the pelvic bone? Growwwwlll...

RW - Serves you right for getting drunk in Texas.

Sage - You bring up an interersting point. There has to be complete trust in the tattooist. There is a lot of sub-par work out there. I can't imagine letting a hack draw on me permanently, but people do all the time to save a few bucks.

John Sadowski said...

hey you guys, just be glad you didn't wake up one morning with this tattoo!!!

Kevin J. Hosey said...

Nope, no ink, although I've thought of it a couple of times (map of Ireland), so I must not be too big on it.

I am closing in on a quarter-century of ear piercings, which seem to have blazed the trail for tattoos in losing their alleged cache. I liked the first, then second, then third piercing and they are second nature now.

But I no longer wear the skull and crossbones, scimitar or similar "angry young man" earrings.

the beige one said...

Man, I wish I knew, except there ain't many PR girl out here...seems to be a latina thing, and I really don't understand it.

Anonymous said...

J.S. -- THAT is horrifying...

InterstellarLass said...

I've always wanted one, but I never knew what or where. I don't want the typical tramp stamp or some generic flower or whatever. It needs to mean something. And now I finally know what I want, and I know where I want it. Now it's just getting it done. That's where I'm still chicken.

Carrie said...

I'm a tattoo virgin. I got a little into the piercing thing but quickly burned out. My boyfriend has a complete sock on his right leg. It doesn't bother me unless he is in shorts and we go out to dinner. People stare all the time.

Sereena X said...

I like tattoos in moderation. One, maybe two, per customer. Same as piercings.

Pickalish said...

Yes, we have. And that is why I stopped getting them. Who wants to be cookie cutter? And, yes, tattoos are getting cookie cutter.

Karianna said...

I have a large scar on my thigh that looks like a bruise. Someone once remarked that perhaps I should get a tat to cover it up, or at least incorporate the scar into something more worth people's attention than just "hey, looks like you hurt yourself..."