Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo?

Is it just me, or does he look familiar to you too?  (Image from 6 abc dot com)

Math class is sooo boring!  Is that bell ever gonna ring? (Image from 6 abc dot com)

I saw this guy’s mug shot in the news a few months back.  He looked familiar to me.  I couldn’t imagine that I could have met a guy with all those tatts and not recalled him.  I figured that perhaps I knew him long ago, and tried to picture him sans artwork.  Even then, I couldn’t place him.  I gave up on trying to figure it out and resumed my humdrum life of working for a living and writing blog posts for the amusement of my seventeen loyal followers.

A few days ago, my wife and I were trying to clean some junk out of the basement.  After fifteen minutes though, we were hopelessly frozen in our pursuits, as we had each become stuck looking at crap artifacts from our past.  Throwing stuff away is tough when there’s even a glimmer of emotional attachment.  I pulled out a spiral bound notebook of one of my grown children from what might have been 5th or 6th grade.  I didn’t bother flipping it open to see the scribbled notes, but stared instead at the mural of doodles on the cover.

In a flash, it hit me.  The tattooed mugshot was not of anyone I knew, but his artwork bore a striking similarity to the notebook covers of middle-schoolers everywhere.  Old timers like me may also find a certain resemblance to the walls adjacent to payphones in college dorms of the late 70′s and early 80′s.

As I just admitted, I’m no spring chicken.  Back in the halcyon days of my youth, tattoos were for guys in the Navy and Hell’s Angels.  I suppose prison inmates had them too, but I lead a sheltered life back then, which limited my exposure to only the tattoos of sailors and bikers.

Obviously times have changed.  The future has arrived, and it’s not entirely pretty.  We have wristwatch phones and cars that park themselves.  We also have morbidly obese exhibitionists twerking on YouTube and scores of people who flaunt their God-given right to cover themselves with as many tattoos as they desire.

That's either Darth Vader or a very poor representation of a black pug in a rose bush.  (Image from geekology dot com)

That’s either Darth Vader or a very poor representation of a black pug in a rose bush.  By the way fella, you’re rockin’ that beard.  (Image from geekology dot com)

Back in my college days, I had an acquaintance who was going to get a tattoo of a lightning bolt on his hip. At the time, he was a freshman who played attack on the lacrosse team, and the image had a degree of legitimacy.  Of course, now he’s likely a pudgy investment banker in his mid-fifties, and the bolt may be over-shadowed by a nearby hip replacement scar.  Before going for the ink, he tried to get many of his teammates to join him.  I recalled considering it for a few seconds.  At that time in my life, I was lucky to be able to scrape together enough loose change for a six pack, so paying for a tattoo was out of the question.  Still, I considered what image I’d choose.  I politely declined, but the thought of the Zig Zag Man on my arm did stick in my head.

That's not a zit; Zig Zag Man's spleef is all sparked up.  (Image from hellnbak at deviantart dot com)

That’s not a zit; Zig Zag Man’s spliff is all sparked up. (Image from hellnbak at deviantart dot com)

A few years later, I put my fine arts degree to use tending bar.  One of my fellow mixologists was a Jewish kid from Cherry Hill, NJ.  I was under the impression that tattoos were against his religion, but he was crazy about inking himself up.  He had a bunch of body art and was constantly looking ahead to the next one.  Like the lacrosse player, he was always trying to convince people to join him.  Newly married to a woman who abhorred tattoos, I didn’t consider it for more than a fraction of a second.  I did think about what image I’d pick though, and briefly recalled the one I’d considered in college.  I shuddered at how horrible my former choice was, and said a silent prayer of thanks that I had avoided going through with it.

So I was in a tough place emotionally, you know?  I was frustrated with my inability to move up the corporate ladder and finally get out of the mailroom.  I just said, you know, what the hell, I'll get a picture of a big penis tattooed on the side of my face, and then, you know, to give it that special zing, I'll pierce my cheek.  So then Monday I show up to work and the supervisor tells me I don't have a job anymore.  I've put some resumes out, but I can't seem to get past the first interview.  I wonder if I need some breath mints of something.  (Image from moosiemoose dot tumblr dot com)

So I was in a tough place emotionally, you know? I was frustrated with my inability to move up the corporate ladder and finally get out of the mailroom. I just said, you know, what the hell, I’ll spend my rent money on getting a picture of a big penis tattooed on the side of my face.  Then, to give it that special zing, I’ll pierce my cheek. So Monday I show up to work and the supervisor tells me I don’t have a job anymore. I’ve put some resumes out, but I can’t seem to get past the first interview. I wonder if I need some breath mints of something. (Image from moosiemoose dot tumblr dot com)

The cycle has repeated itself every so often throughout my life, where I think of what tattoo I would get and where I would put it, but each time, I recall the images I’d considered the previous times and realize how awful and obsolete they’d look on my body in the present day.

I have tons of friends and colleagues now who have tattoos.  For the most part, their choices of tattoos strike me as somehow appropriate for each of them .  I don’t shake my head and wonder what they were thinking when they chose what they chose.  In my defense, I don’t have any friends with tattoos of Mickey Mouse, Captain Kirk or bedazzled shlongs on their faces.

Like most people, I tend to be far more critical of my own decisions than those of others.  Lord knows I’ve done my share of things which I realized were mistakes.  The prospect of living with my bad decisions is a fact of life, I don’t need illustrations.

49 responses

  1. Tattoos are a weird thing. I have a few and I like to think they are tasteful and suit me. I really don’t (and never will) understand joke tattoos (see penis on face man) a joke is funny for a little while, a tattoo is for life.

  2. I, too, have considered a tattoo every few years for the past 15 years. Just like you, it wasn’t a priority and the ‘what’ and ‘where’ are big decisions. In the end, I have no regrets. Not quite what the penis-face man is going to think, well, maybe, well, you hope so? Geesh!
    Enjoyed your post!

    • Thanks T-Buns! Back in the old days, I used to enjoy walking on the beach and smoking a cigar. These days public smoking is no longer in vogue, so I spend my beach walks looking at tattoos, and either marveling or smirking at the wonder of it all.

  3. Before joining the Church I considered getting more “religious” tattoos, like for all the different world religions. I’m glad I didn’t, but I wouldn’t have regretted it, at least I don’t think so.

    • I have a few of my more involved things framed, – etchings and drawings, etc. The nice thing is I get to change which walls they’re from time to time. As for the Easter Bunny in repose or the pig in a dress, I would really want to be able to change the wall frequently.

  4. I told my mom that she and I should go out and get some fake tattoos to freak out my sister. But I have no interest in the real thing. If I did, it would surely be an image of a Boston Terrier. And then that would confirm to everyone that I’m just a crazy dog lady. To each his or her own, but I’m frankly horrified by those tats in your pics.

  5. A friend of mine once got the Greek letters of the ICHTHUS tattooed on her wrist. That’s seriously the only one I’ve ever seen that I liked, considered classy, or would ever think of getting on myself! It was small and tasteful, and in a place that likely was never gonna sag. ;)

  6. They’re definitely not for everyone, and if you’re not 100% certain then they’re not for you – at least not yet. But no matter how many I get, I will never have them on my neck or face – that just totally limits your options for careers.

  7. Tattoos are definitely a personal choice, one you live with forever. Some people get them just because, others are commemorating something in their life. I got my first tat when I was 17 (a very long time ago) I have since covered it with some else. All together I have 15, my most recent I had inked just last Friday. Every single one of my can easily be covered by clothing, if I want someone to see them I will show. All of mine are custom art, not flash (meaning out of some book).

    Both of my sons have tattoos as well. They followed the same rule, be able to cover them with clothing. No hands, no face, no neck.

    Personally, I love body art if it is tasteful. But that is just me.

    • Glad to have a new reader! The thing with tattoos, like any other sort of expression is that it comes down to a matter of personal taste. Some people have different taste than others, and a few just seem to have none at all. I’m sure your body art is tasteful and meaningful to you, as it should be. Personally, I haven’t found the tatt which will compliment my liver spots and eczema.

  8. I don’t know how I missed this gem! I figure facial tattoos are a really smart career move, if your ambition is to be either assistant manager at the Hot Topic in the mall or someone’s bitch in the slammer.

    By the way, that’s not that guy’s beard -his roses have fungus.

  9. Pingback: Tickling The Ribs | The Nudge Wink Report

  10. I am late to this post party. Advice to future doctors: Become a dermatologist. You will work only four days a week, have a loaded practice, and make a mother lode of $ removing tattoos who regret personal illustration.

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