Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tattoo You, Revisited

I don't think there's anything wrong with getting a tattoo. Tats can look good, and I think there's a sense of beauty to them, even if my parents think otherwise. Some friends of mine have tats all up and down their arms and in various spots on their back and legs. These tattoos can be covered up by long-sleeve shirts and pants, so they can still work regular jobs and not be hassled.

But in the last few years, and something that really stuck out to me when I was at South by Southwest this year, it's surprising to see how many twentysomethings have not only a ton of ink on their bodies already, but in places that are very hard to cover up. In particular, the neck and throat area.

I've seen a lot of neck and throat tats on people in Warped Tour bands. A lot of these guys are younger than me, and I don't know if they think they're going to play in bands forever and be on tour forever, but not everybody filled with ink can work at a tattoo parlor or work construction. I know we must all give the youth of America room to be young and stupid, but the permanent nature of neck and throat tattoos is going a little too far beyond the point of no return. Are these things you want to carry into adulthood? Seriously?

I have yet to talk to someone who has one, but seeing one on anybody comes across to me as, "look at this." There's a sense of boldness in getting one and especially claiming to be cool with having this for the rest of your life. You may feel youthful your entire life, but you can't fight the trappings of adulthood and society at large. It's one thing to say "I'll never get married" for years and then eat your words when you get married. This is a whole other thing.

I remember talking with a friend of mine who has an uncle who got a lot of ink when he was younger. He got a ton of tats all up and down his body, including one on his leg featuring a nun with a gun to her head. The guy is not a crusty punk living in a squat or anything like that now: he's a responsible husband and father who lives in the suburbs. I'm sure he gets plenty of odd stares and glances when he goes to the neighborhood pool, but he isn't some deviant to society. Those tats are a reflection of his past life and I'm sure he has a healthy perspective on things. Yet he has to live with these every day of his life now.

This is not a call to people to become lemmings or fall in line. Rather, I just can't wrap my head around doing something so permanently irreversible and impossible to tone down or hide. As common as tattoos are, I highly doubt there will be a time when they are completely accepted by society at large. Seeing somebody with a neck or throat tattoo comes across as a declaration of how far you want to present yourself, society norms be damned. Well, it's one thing to think and speak in your own voice and it's another thing to be judged and dismissed by people before you ever say a word. Face it: not everybody can be like Tommy Lee.


HeyJade said...

So, you don't have any? =)

I have two, one on my ankle and one on the top of my foot. You can see them if I wear flipflops with shorts/capris....OR if I dress up (duh, didn't really think that out, 'cause I don't dress up much). I still want one on my wrist, and I figure...I don't want to work at a place that isn't accepting of that. But still, I totally see where you're coming from...a little design or what not on a wrist (or an ankle or a shoulder) is quite different from something on a neck that you can't help BUT see.

Eric said...

Neck tats are a bit extreme. I 100% agree with you. But that being said, I want to get a full sleeve on my left arm. Just planning exactly what I want. BTW, how the heck are ya?