Friendly Reasons to Sorta Kinda Not Get a Tattoo

Let people live their lives! If it’s not hurting you, what do you care? How dare you challenge someone’s right to do with their bodies what they want?

Valid thoughts. Have I gotten all of the typical talking points defending modern youth culture in 2013 out of the way? Good. Let’s begin.

I’m an open-minded progressive New Yorker. My approach to how I view your life is simple:  your bedroom, your body, your life, your business. I’m only slightly interested in what you’re doing but, 90 percent of the time, not enough to talk about.  But I have eyes and I have thoughts. And I care. At some point, someone needs to put a metaphorically friendly hand on your shoulder before you embrace the needle and ask you to consider your motivations behind getting a tattoo.

Here’s the problem. The same people who would never put a sticker on the back of their Macbook Pro enthusiastically put an Irish Cross on their backs. Aesthetically, we agree, the Mac computer is a beautifully designed piece of hardware, one that deserves better than being tagged with “Meat is Murder”. Which isn’t to say “Meat is Murder” is a statement people can’t feel passionately about. We just feel their passion can be generated in a way that doesn’t tarnish the legacy of Mr. Steve Jobs.

Ignoring the idea that your “body is a temple” the fact remains: your body is infinitely more beautiful than a Macbook Pro. It is the product of a million years of random mutations that have worked out in your favor, unlike 99 percent of every other species that has ever existed on this planet.  That’s important. Many can see the innate value of a laptop made in a Chinese factory while ignoring the innate value of your body. That’s a problem.

Every day I take the subway I’m blown away by the thought process of getting tattoos. Which is the point. There is no way to know. The motivation for getting a tattoo  is deeply personal and in that way, so is the gratification.

At their best, they are a reflection of the artist. No one walks into the Museum of Modern Art and says, “These curators definitely have great taste in art.” If you want to let your body be the canvas for another artist, feel free. But rarely do you get credit for the tattoo. At their worst, they distract from the elements of your body that do deserve praise. Not that you ought aspire for it. But you deny yourself a pleasure you might actually not hate getting

There are so many better ways to express yourself than getting a tattoo. For the price of a little flower on your ankle, you could buy a cheap guitar on Craigslist. Having a tattoo is personally gratifying. But making music can be both gratifying to both the creator and the observer. Unlike the fading pink as you get older, your skills with the guitar will never get worse.  At the very least, get a Twitter and retweet all the Fray lyrics you want.

Here’s the thing. Secretly, I want a tattoo. I’m probably as stiff as this article suggests I’d be. I’d love use a tattoo as a validation of an edge the Sarah Mclachlan music on my iTunes suggests different. But at the end of the day, if I really wanted you to know my passions or my values, seeing “I Will Remember You” on a forearm isn’t the best way to know those things.

Tattoos are very American. Their appeal is in their permanence. That permanence is a sacrifice – an indelible surrendering to the choice of taking it back.  Our idea is that, when we sacrifice for something we care about, it becomes more valuable. For a lot of things, that might be true. But for a tatto, that’s a myth. Nothing has to last forever to mean that it matters. Whether it be your family or your lover or your favorite sports team, immortalizing something forever isn’t your way of proving that you really care. Just as you’re allowed to care about anything you want and support it however you’d like, that doesn’t mean you must do so forever to prove you ever did at all. Besides. Anything worth tattooing could never communicate it to the degree you ultimately care about it.

Here’s what I’d suggest. Save up for a silkscreen press and get into the t-shirt making business. Your sense of style still comes through. Print lyrics one day to a picture of a parakeet the nevet.  Every day you get the choice of deciding what message the world ought to see, not a memory from Cabo you’re forced to remind yourself of just because.

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