According to the infallible oracle that we call ‘the internet’, you are statistically most likely to have a tattoo if you are (a) female and (b) in the 30-39 age group.
Being a male and – in my head at any rate – only in my early twenties (although my birth certificate implacably adds about forty years to this inner truth) it’s therefore not too surprising that a straightforward ‘no’ is my response to the first part of the latest of ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ “Do you have a tattoo?”.
When I was growing up in the sixties and early seventies, tattoos were comparatively rare and vaguely menacing. They were mostly to be found on the knuckles (L-O-V-E H-A-T-E) or biceps (‘Mother’; ‘Gertie’) of ex-servicemen, and had probably been acquired during a drunken bit of shore-leave in Port Said.
“What might you consider getting emblazoned on your skin?” WordPress persists. Another easy answer: ‘nothing’. It has honestly never occurred to me to get a tattoo. Look, if you want a tat, go ahead dear; it’s your body and your life. It’s just that I don’t – ahem – see the point. And there is no combination of circumstances that I can envisage where I would actually want one.
A perusal of the relevant pages of about.com only confirmed me in this view. Listed there are four of the most common reasons why people acquire a tattoo. Absolutely none of them apply to me.
To identify themselves: Like anyone of my age, I sometimes go into a room and have no idea what I’ve come for, but I can still remember my own bloody name, thank you very much. Do I want a tattoo to mark a significant aspect of myself or my life? No, not really. My zodiac sign? Nah, I know when my birthday is and I’ve already expressed a degree of scepticism about the whole astrology thing. A favourite movie or character? Hmm. And what message exactly would a crudely inked caricature of Wile E Coyote either do for me or say about me?
Honor (sic) loved ones: The honouring – in the sense of paying due respect, or tribute, to – loved ones may be a worthy end in itself, but I don’t think my own loved ones would get any kind of roseate glow from the knowledge that I’ve got their name written about my person [note to relatives reading this: should I be wrong, do let me know. Not that it’ll make any difference. Oh, and thank you for your sense of duty].
For style: Style? Me? Now you are having a laugh. Express your own unique and individual style with a tattoo, suggests whoever wrote this piece on about.com (and a cynic might suggest that a professional tattooist was involved). It’s always struck me that this kind of argument is fundamentally flawed. If nobody else – and especially none of your mates – had a tattoo then there might be some merit to getting one yourself if that’s what you actually want. Realistically, though, I suspect that the great majority of people who get tattoos do so largely because their pals have them.
Sorry, but you do not assert your individuality by trying to look like everyone else. Although to be fair, let’s make it quite clear that this is not at all tattoo-specific. It’s just human nature. Punks and mohican hair-cuts. Teddy boys and winkle-pickers. Even wannabe old hippies and tie-dye….Guilty, m’lud.
Prisons and gangs: Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have never been to jail and I have never belonged to a gang. Nor do I wish to pretend that I have, Consequently it would be, at best, inappropriate for me to have any tattoos which implied that I had.
Being a grumpy, but fundamentally honest and law-abiding, old man I would have to say that this is one aspect of the tattoo fashion which I find simultaneously difficult to comprehend and lip-curlingly pathetic. You are not in a gang, you little squirt and you’re not particularly a tough guy. And even if you have the full set of ‘street’ uniform – tats, low-slung jeans and on-backwards baseball cap – all it tells me is that you really need to grow up. Or that you are this truly fine citizen.