Friday, August 8, 2008

Tat(tle) Tale

A couple of days ago, while walking to work, I spied an urban mom out with her urban kid having one of those hideous, no-win arguments that are so de rigeur with the under 5 set. I discreetly observed the proceedings from a few feet away, smiling empathetically natch, when something fantastic caught my eye: This woman, dressed unobtrusively for a hot summer day (black tank, shorts and flip flops) was the canvass for a most elegant tattoo. A garland of beautifully rendered tea roses encircled her neck asymmetrically, winding from the collarbone up as if she were a trellis. If only that wretched child had let up slightly on the freak out, no doubt I would have asked her all about it and reported back.

At any rate, this really got me thinking re: tattoos. Though I am endlessly fascinated - and often delighted - by body art, for the following reasons I don't have any (and probably never will):

  • I'm a bit north of the age-span for which tattoo getting is a regular rite of passage. (When I was young, we misspent our youth on dangerous sexual practices...) Furthermore, I was raised conservatively (as far as personal presentation is concerned) and tattoos were considered somewhat blue-collar (forgive the pun). While I don't buy that hype now, it did influence my decisions 20 years ago.
  • In the words of my friend Nicole "What if I don't like it 3 years from now?" Style may be eternal, but I am fickle, and I have serious concerns that the K who chooses something now could be lamenting it later. What can I say; it's the Gemini in me...
  • The process of obtaining said tatoo kind of creeps me out. Don't get me wrong, I've been getting acupuncture regularly since my teens, but those needles are as thin as thread and are not laced with ink. Oh, and they go in once and then you're done. I'm very squeamish about having something pumped into my skin. Something painful. This doesn't bode well for the Botox years :-)
  • And finally (and probably most relevantly), I'm not sure I want to see my body age through the prism of a tattoo. I'm old enough now to see how skin changes, how gravity works. And while I'm optimistic that it's never going to impact me horrendously (what with my defying age and all :-)), the bet-hedger in me is concerned about putting it to the test with indelible ink.

I know that many of you have gorgeous tattoos. I've read about them and seen photos of them and admired them from afar. So today's question is: What do you think of body art (feel free to include piercing if you like)? Do you have some? If no, why not? If yes, what made you choose the design(s) you have. Are you addicted? So intrigued to hear your answers...


  1. I have 2 tattoos... On my inner left ankle I have a rose and heart with the date my dad passed away. I know it sounds typical but my dad loved rosebushes for some reason, so it does have some meaning behind it. On my right hipbone I have a sparrow, just shaded without color. Color tattoos aren't really my thing. I've been contemplating adding something else to it, maybe some flowers, but I'd like to think hard about it since, yeah it's stuck on me.

    I got my first one the day after I turned 18 and the second a few months later. It's been over 2 years for both now and no regrets so far...

  2. I have a small fish that I got in my misspent youth, primarily to convince a very conservative male friend to get one of his own. He did, and has probably regretted it ever since. I don't exactly regret it, but if I were to do it again I'd choose something with more significance to me. The fish was just an impulsive napkin sketch.

  3. I've got no tattoos. I wouldn't want to commit myself to something for the rest of my life. As far as having something that is symbolic, I find I can get the same feeling from jewelry. And just the fact that I know I can always take off the jewelry, put it away and return to it years from now, gives it a longer-term appeal to me than anything permanently inked on my skin would.

  4. I'm too fickle for something like a tattoo. But I'm also scared of pain and needles. I don't even have my ears pierced and to be honest, most piercings give me the heebie jeebies.

  5. I have two tattoos and I regret them both. I thought about them for five years beforehand, and I regret them anyway. I got non-trendy designs that had personal meaning to me, and yes, I still regret them.

  6. Body markings play a role in my scholarship, so I spend a good time thinking about them from an ackademick perspective.

    Personally, as a fellow Gemini, I like change, so while I'd love to do a henna tattoo, I'd never get something permanent.

  7. I, for one, have never been tempted. Yet I lived for some time in a tat capital--Haight Street--where tats were a cultural mark; this was before they became mainstream and purely decorative or mainstream and commemorative. The Haight tats were symbolic of Art with a capital A, and transcended self-expression to become body as canvas for a variety of identifications that branded one a connoisseur of a particular lifestyle; at around the same time tats devolved to a mall-level commodity the "Art" tat fraternity fought back by getting tats in place of beards, and then in place of leggings or pantyhose; oneupsmanship had set in and the beauty became even more relative and incomprehensible. The tats origin as a brand of deviation from the mass culture remained intact, however.

    I had to laugh at the "blue collar" comment. That is absolutely true; do you recall when you were growing up that a tat would signify some kind of Carver-like boozer (the martini glass) or someone who had served in the military and not as an officer (Hula girls, giant anchors, names of ships or campaigns), or someone with an illicit sideline (deck of cards or devil). The image of Popeye firmly attached to this, flexing his bicep.

    Although the origins remain the same (rite of passage, status in a tribe, etc), I find them best left to the natives for whom the ink is part of the collective culture.

  8. Been thinking about a tattoo for my 40th. On my hip maybe or inside wrist. Was actually thinking of getting the little pink starfish I use as a tat'. (my son's design) Or perhaps a celtic,hebrew, maori or hindi design??
    But I think Susanna is right; it isn't part of my culture, in fact the bot filter word verification below is just as relavent.
    Guess it's a pierced nipple for me then.

  9. A pierced nose (thanks Madonna circa Erotica) was all the damage I've done. Although about 8 years ago i was going to have the Arabic symbol for God tattooed on my wrist...wisely I decided against it!

  10. Monique: What a lovely tribute to your father. I'm sorry you lost him at such a young age...

    IHeart: Ooooh, the bad influence tattoo. That's an angle I hadn't considered :-)

    Wendy: I share your love of jewelry - if that's possible. I love how it allows me to take on a new persona and then put it back down again. Symbolic but temporary!

    Y: Secretly I've always wanted to pierce my navel. It creeps me out but seems exotic and sexy. Won't do that either. Too much risk of infection.

    E: That's so honest and not something I've heard many people say. Do they actively upset you or do you just ignore them?

    Miss C: I'd totally do the henna tattoo if only it came in daring colours (does it?) Your thesis must have been fascinating.

    Suzanna: You give good comment!
    I do know a couple of artists who wear their tattoos as art. What's interesting is that they aren't the most "artistic" ones as far as I'm concerned. What a great perspective you have, coming from SF. You totally know what I meant with the blue collar comment!!

    Hammie: I think the star that your son designed would be a great choice. Not only is it gorgeous, but it would have significant symbolism (both of your relatedness to him and to your excellent blog). Seriously, pierced nipples are hot! I couldn't do it because the last thing I need to do is call more attention to my tits. But on a modest rack they can be great.

    Ooooh, IM, you badass! You really made the right call on the tattoo. It's sad that such a spiritual symbol is so misconstrued, these days. But there you have it...

  11. Ahh, navel piercings gross me out! I can't stand looking at them :\

  12. As you may know I do have a tattoo. Actually it could be said that it is two, as the current one covers up a small one I had done at 17.
    I never regretted getting the first tattoo. I did regret my nativity in choosing an artist and not even being aware I didn't have to choose something from their wall. So what I ended up with was far from the sleek, artistic image I wanted. So I chose to have it covered MANY years later, when I finally knew what I wanted.

    I am also not a good one for commitment,the longest I have lasted in a job is 18 months, and constantly change my mind about most everything. But when it comes to tattoos, I wanted to get a major piece for a long time. I was somewhat afraid that it might look hideous in my old age, but then I took this angle. I'd rather spend many happy years WITH the tattoo than reaching my dotage and regretting never having done it. So I chose a place where the skin shouldn't sag too much (hopefully) and also somewhere that doesn't see a lot of sunlight - which is what leads to that nasty green discolouration of images over time.

    And yes, when I got my first tattoo, they still had quite a seedy connotation. My father was convinced that I would end up a drug dealer and die in the streets! And that reaction was for a tattoo that was only about 5 inches long! (You know just how big mine is now).
    I chose to have my current one placed in such a way that it is only revealed to people I chose. Well, and the whole of the internet I guess! But I like having my little secret life.

    Sorry for the dissertation, but you raised some interesting points there. I'll be posting some new pictures of the very nearly completed tattoo on my blog today if you're interested.

  13. No active upset. Today. Maybe tomorrow, depends on what mood I'm in. At least the work is good, and the images and messages are personal.

    Also, I was very careful to place them where they could be covered up, something that is important to me.

  14. Y: I think they're pretty!

    SKM: Dissertation away! I was so hoping you'd weigh in on this, being a tattoo-getter extraordinaire. Of course, I checked out your post today and I love it. What a beautiful tattoo - true body art. I think your reasoning is so sound that I can't imagine you will ever be disappointed in your decision. Thanks for your comment.

    E: I think it's smart to put them in discreet spots, for that very reason. Glad to know it's all good today :-)