Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Subtext of All Tattoos

Oversimplified, but I suspect that there is some truth to it for many young people:


  1. I asked my neighbor, who is a practicing psychologist with a PHd and who teaches graduate classes at a state university, what the motivation is for so many people to mark themselves up with tattoos. His short answer "They are seeking attention."

  2. Which sort of goes with the subtext above, doesn't it? I can't particularly blame kids who are angry about their parents putting themselves first doing something like this.

    Some years ago, I saw a young woman (maybe 16 or 17) in the local library using to search for what to my mind should have returned zero matches: "sexy chest tattoos." If she had lost about 25 pounds, she would not have needed a tattoo to be noticed.

  3. As a lifelong motorcycle rider (without tattoos) I know many people, men and women, with tattoos. The reasons for getting them are quite varied. Regardless, and in keeping with your comment, I have never seen anyone who's appearance I thought was improved by a tattoo. But if you say that to someone with "tats" they will usually say "I could give a .... what you think." Tattoos are in fact a very personal and touchy subject to those who chose to get them. I'll be surprised if you don't get at least one hostile comment here from a tatoo defender.

  4. Doug: I have not received a single one! Perhaps tattooed sorts aren't partial to a blog as straight-laced as mine.

  5. As someone who's parents divorced when I was a teenager I've never had the desire to get a "tat." Now I'm almost 50 so maybe it's also a generational thing. However I've also noticed that increasingly there are people over 50 also now getting tattoos though not at anywhere near the rate of the under 40 crowd.

    I suspect it comes down more to trying to stand out from the crowd than anything.

    Perhaps some of it can be blamed on them finding a form of expression that gets attention and since the baby boomers did some pretty crazy stuff in the 60's and 70's these kids feel compelled to go even crazier.

    What really surprises me is how many "tats" some of these kids are getting and all over the place in conspicuous places. Of course there is the gang banger types but I see kids working in stores and in public that look solid middle class to me and have tats. Been seeing a lot more of that even in the major retailers/restaurants lately.

    Always surprised when otherwise attractive kids do it as well. Seen some otherwise pretty girls IMHO ruining themselves with all the body "art." Always wonder if these girls know they make themselves look like outlaw biker chicks and what a girl has to do to join one of those gangs!

    Then there is all the piercings and other surgeries. Believe it or not I've seen quite a few of those in Idaho even.

    As they grow older and skin wrinkles, etc those tats move from looking good (which you have to admit some of the work is well done art) to looking terrible.

    Removal has become a profitable industry for cosmetic doctors.

    Why not print transfer inks that would look just as good and would at least last for a short time instead of permanent alterations.

    Someday genetic alteration might become the next youth fad!

  6. Middle class and above, because tats are expensive! I like to remind people: you can't resell a tattoo. I hope that you are rich, and never regret spending that money on something so useless that makes you look stupid.

  7. Tattoos are common among Millennials, even very educated ones who don't come from broken homes. There is no stigma to it in that generation. None.

    (Incidentally, they found the one thing that will make me get all old man on them. I am not a fan of tats unless you were in the military, and I really dislike them on women)

    I tend to agree with the above poster, when you tell a whole generation they're nothing but a special snowflake, it's not surprising when they start expressing it.

    Though, I don't have enough give-a-shit about tats to get really worked up about it. It's an aesthetic difference. I'm not sure society is going to crumble because millennials like tats.

  8. I've noticed some of these girls want to try every kind of body modification possible to make themselves "Sexy" except one.... losing weight.

  9. The focus on tats and body modification isn't going to make a society crumble. It's a sign of the crumble.

  10. What Sebastian said. It's a generational thing; Doug's "I've never seen it improve someone's looks" indicates more about him than about them (not a negative thing about him, as such - just that his aesthetic sense is purely his; I think the "beauty mark" is typically hideous, but it was the Height Of Aesthetics in the past, no?).

    I also see no reason to believe - contra Clayton - that it's a sign of a crumbling society.

    (I am baffled by the very idea, if it's any more than the aforementioned generational thing where a sign that used to signify a Dangerous, possibly Degenerate Other, now has no such signification for its participants, but does for people used to the old signification.

    Did changes in hairstyles over generations for the past 200+ years signal constant social decay? I don't think so - nor do I see any significant difference here.)

    (Full disclosure: I have zero tattoos ... and I know a fair number of people with them, mostly quite aesthetically pleasing, and in no way marking them as Needing Attention or Crying For Help or Being Broken People.

    Mostly they're Professionals with Real Jobs and significant education.

    Oh, some people are any of those forms of broken ... and they would have been without tattooing being mainstream-acceptable. We shouldn't confuse the two, or think that because X uses Y to "act out", that Y is a sign of "acting out" in not-X.

    So I'll grant "some truth to it for many young people", if we remember that "many" is not even close to "a majority".)

  11. My nephew just posted a picture of the tattoo he wants to get on Facebook. It's a zombie soldier carrying an unconscious Lady Liberty, who is rather scantily clad in what appears to be the tattered remnants of an American flag. His parents? Divorced.

  12. Stupid hairstyles come and go. (I have pictures of myself from the 1970s that prove this.) Tattoos are close to permanent.

    The need for attention -- and a need so dramatic that you are prepared to make it permanent -- that is not a good sign.

  13. Sigivald is correct, my sense of aesthetics is my own, somewhat dated now, and I'm as comfortable with it as my biker friends are with their tattoos but I can update it more easily.

    And as with Clayton, I have some pictures of myself in clothes or hair that make me cringe now but I never needed to have clothes or a bad haircut removed by a doctor and when the clothes faded and the wrinkles became permanent. Can't do that with tattoos, no matter how sincerely they were acquired. Sadly, the hair didn't stay around to go out of fashion but bald become hip so I'm good there, at least.

  14. No doubt tats can be very expensive costing thousands in some cases, but the poor/gang types do find ways to get them. Maybe by selling drugs or worse or finding the less expensive back alley amateur "artists."

    Do you recall the Powerball winner in Boise of a few years back. Probably 6-8 years ago--he was well covered in the news. Won something like 50-100 mill. In interviews he said the first things on his list to use the winnings on was a $100K+ Jesse James chopper and to finish his full body tattoo work! He already had thousands from his low wage job invested in that.

    Then over a period of a year or so afterwards he made the news for DUI's and drunk in public. I forget his name but haven't heard anymore about him since.

  15. Perhaps tattooed sorts aren't partial to a blog as straight-laced as mine.

    Parents never divorced, I have a BA in history, I read your blog and I have two tattoos. You know who I am Clayton. Not sure where you were going with this, but there are other pressing matters you could blog about.

  16. As I said at the beginning, "oversimplified" but I think there is some truth to it. Oversimplified means that there are going to be multiple reasons why people get tatted.