Tattoos interest me. They always have. And I’m not talking about acquiring the addiction to get a collection of them myself…but wondering about what drives people to do it in the first place. There are going to be no judgments here about them, or the desire to have ink indelibly injected into the skin. Just an examination of them and how they relate to our modern world, through my perspective.
The first one I saw was on a man that lived next to us when I was a kid. He was a great guy. He had been in the navy during WWII. Well, that would explain it …back then. He had one of the common navy ones…a poorly rendered pin-up blond overlaid on an anchor and rope. A sailor’s tattoo. It was excusable, and on his shoulder…so rarely seen.
After a neighborhood kid’s jaw would finally become functional again after close scrutiny of this little skin picture, the inevitable question would come: :”did it hurt?”. “Nah, I was drunk as I remember”, always came the reply from my neighbor. Nice memory, that. Although this introduction for me to the odd ritual of art on skin remains in my memory, there was one question I never asked him (for I knew better than to question anything an adult did, in that, a different time)…was…why? Well, I later came to understand that when you are blitzed out of your gourd, just about anything can sound like a good idea at the moment. I’m sure millions of tats have been etched on inebriated skin throughout Western history. Some regretted, some painfully removed…most just forgotten and covered.
But it has become a different ritual recently. It has morphed into something other than a military right of passage. Now it is seen as an extension of identity. You are what you have needled on your skin.
From the sublime to the ridiculous…the beautiful to the misspellings, they have captured the imagination of everyone it seems. They are still acquired however, by paying some guy with a pony-tail and gloves without fingers, that will, as one once told me: ” … tattoo anything anyplace on anyone”.
Also something that interests me is the fact that traditional jewish law dictates that no jew that has been tattooed, shall be buried in a jewish cemetery. Well, even that is changing as judaism morphs to fit their lusts. I think it comes from this: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). But that about had to change considering that the evil nazis inked numbers on their yiddish prey, just before they killed them(now that makes a lot of sense…couldn’t be that the tats were really to control those in a forced labor program?). I even have a reader that is marketing temp-tats that are Auschwitz copies…gotta get one of those.
Anyway. I could go on and on about that, but in this meandering post I wanted to pose some questions about the very nature of this new-found/old-tech form of permanent expression. Of course along with the fashion of tattoos also came extreme piercings as kind of an entire body modification package, but piercings can be hidden by simply not wearing jewelry in them. So to address the phenomenon of tattoos only…
Why now? Why, in some 10-15 years has something so permanent become so popular? Tramp-stamps are being paraded as normal. Sleeves no longer deter one from securing employment…probably because if the truth be known, the person hiring them has a cute little butterfly on her ankle. This is strange. If these were temporary images that we are talking about, it would make more sense. A fad. Something to discard when popular culture moves on to something different. But these are virtually immutable marks on the human body. Perhaps at a certain age, beyond the time when it can be expected for a person to display their skin surface publicly…and if it is doubly hidden by being in a private area of the body, I think it could be explained as more or less a harmless experiment. Just some fun that offends no one. But it has become much more than that in our current world culture. Its very nature of permanence and visibility removes it from the arena of a passing popular caprice. Or do these younger folks that have no compunction about such artwork on the epidermis, even understand its durability. I don’t know. Maybe “just for fun” should be a of a more enduring aesthetic.
I only know that I’m getting this one just as soon as I get enough money!