What is the problem with tattoos?

Updated on January 21, 2016

Why do people get tattoos?

I am old enough (sadly) to remember when only Popeye and other sailors and squaddies got tattoos. Now it seems that most young people have numerous tattoos and it is relatively easy to understand why youngsters get them. They are usually emulating whichever celebrity they are currently idolising, it's seen as cool and if it hacks off your mum and dad too, well then ... result! Three birds stoned with one tattoo.

But there now also seems to be a trend with older people also getting tattoos. Here the reasoning is perhaps more complex ... or is it? Perhaps it is simply something to do with wanting to appear young or cool? Is it the celeb thing again? Inciting parental outrage is most unlikely to be a factor in their decision to decorate their skin so is it one's children one wants to outrage? Even children with tattoos of their own can react badly to their parents getting tattooed. It's a sort of double standard thing.


A new style of body art.

Tattooing has been around since prehistoric times. We know this from the mummified body of Otzi the Iceman, which dates from around 3000 B.C, though his tattoos may be related to some form of early acupuncture for pain relief as they coincided with areas of damage on his skeleton. Many of today's ethnic tribes have, from ancient times, used tattoos to identify and define themselves from others. The Maoris are just one of those whose designs not only have meaning but also have an artistic beauty that uses the human body as its canvas. For evidence of this see: http://www.maori-arts.com

Today this search for beauty and meaning continues as tattoos become ever more creative. Now prospective tattooees require something a little more upmarket than the naked ladies, daggers and snakes beloved by the tattoo artists of old and designs are taken from many cultural influences ranging from Native American through Oriental to Celtic and even on to quotations that have a particular significance to the wearer. Some tattoos however have more sinister connections and are best avoided. The Russian criminal classes have long used tattoos to delineate status within their shadowy society.

Where do you wear your tattoo?

It appears that along with the new ideas for tattoo design comes a new creativity of placement though it must be admitted that some of these placings must be extremely painful. Now tattoos are seen across the lower spine, on the wrists and the tops of ankle bones and even behind the ears as examples of the more viewable areas. The more nerve endings there are in an area the more painful it is going to be but still it seems there is no limit to where this personal message of pain can be displayed.

Tattoos and my children.

Both of my children got small tattoos, without my permission, on their upper arms in their teens. My daughter's was a small swooping bird and my son got a discreet black Ankh logo. I knew that they were testing how far their personal freedom extended, wanting to push the boundaries to see how I would react. I gave it some thought and duly acknowledged their new artwork but without giving too much away. I realised that although they were my children I would soon have to let them make their own decisions. The time was coming to let them start flying solo whilst always being ready with the hidden safety net. In actual fact, despite tattooing becoming an addiction to some, my son has never been tempted to have another tattoo and my daughter waited until she was in her thirties before she decided to have another one.

My shoulder tattoo ...
My shoulder tattoo ... | Source

Tattoos and me.

Tattoos have usually been seen as a form of rebellion and I suppose when I got mine at the ripe old age of 55 it could have been a sign of that. My husband had recently died and I didn't care much about anything anymore. I just felt I would do whatever I wanted with myself. I certainly never gave another thought to that old staple 'you know you can never get rid of them' that people trot out. Why should I care if a nurse saw it whilst she was bathing me in the nursing home when I was incredibly old. What did that matter? To me it was, and still is, only a symbol that I have really lived, that I have experimented during my life and my tattoo represents the least of my regrets.

I learnt a lot the day I impulsively called in at a tattoo parlour. It was the day I found that when you are my age and wear a long black city coat and heavy duty lace-up biker boots the all-male staff think you are from the VAT office and gulp nervously. It was the day that a huge, heavily muscled, Hell's Angel type with a ponytail gave me a lollipop to distract me as he delicately carved our own collaboration of a Celtic design on my shoulder and told me how he managed to pay his mum's mortgage. It was the day I learnt that black tattoos were more painful than coloured ones and that women bore the pain of a tattoo better than men (although I suspect that may be true I think he may just have been trying to get on my good side with that one). It was the day I got a permanent record of an interesting experience and both he and I learnt not to judge a book by its cover.

And maybe it's time that other people too dropped their preconceptions about tattoos and the people that wear them.

Questions & Answers


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      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Many thanks for your point of view, James. I simply think that tattoos have become more acceptable and of course the strata of society you mention do get tattoos, sometimes lots of them. But there are many reasons why people get a tattoo and I don’t think it is always easy to define why. Perhaps it is best not to be too judgemental about them?

      • profile image

        James 3 years ago

        People add tattoos because, not to be rude, they're weak. They know they won't amount to much so to make themselves feel special / unique they get tattooed.

        Or they think they're tough. I love the rednecks in my town (and any small town really, particularly those outside the big cities) that get tattoos as if they're real tough guys. As a person that grew up in major crime ridden cities, I got to laugh like crazy at these clowns.... They'd be chewed up and spit out before they knew what hit them in a major city with real tough guys [gangs].

        It's kind of sad. A little bit funny. And a whole lot of pathetic.

        I say that cause if you look at it, it's a certain sort of society class that gets tattoos. Forgetting the celebs and their sheep [diehard fans] it's almost always people that fall into the category of working class, poor and poorer that get tats. Welfare and that sort.

        I got a tattoo. It's military. It has meaning. Tattooing I love you Mom on your ass [as I saw one wimp] just shows you got some mental problems. Unfortunately given half the chance people would tattoo every tom, dick and harry on their skin that they knew... dated... screwed... and of course keep a few places for the treasured family pet.

        Like I said, pathetic.

        Self expressionism is the BS they spout nowadays for tattooing. Yes well expressionism is also displayed in art work, books, and doing some of the 3D graffiti.

        How about trying something INTERESTING instead of writing on skin that in 50 years will look like someone went at you with a magic marker.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        I am sorry if you did not like this hub, Brooke ... you may have a point. Thank you for your opinion, have a nice day.

      • profile image

        Brooke 4 years ago

        This was so stupid. Have you maybe considered that the wY you throw the word "art" around so loosely is maybe wrong? Your tattoo is garbage because you don't appreciate the true art of tattooing, which is obviously why you're only reasoning for anyone to have a tattoo is to seem like a badass or to emulate a celebrity. People are complete ignorant idiots.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi Sue … I think it does very much depend on what sort of tattoo one has.

        I’m guessing you don’t have an eagle with a mouse in its talons … or a naked sailor or … you get my drift.

        Sorry to hear you have had breast cancer … I wish you well for your continued good health.

      • Sue Bailey profile image

        Susan Bailey 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

        I positively hate tattoos and always said I would never have one. Little did I know that at the age of 58 I would end up with two. They are medical tattoos which I chose to have after a reconstruction following breast cancer. I LIKE these tattoos!

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        ;O ... wot are you like!

      • thost profile image

        thost 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

        Oh Angie,

        Bold and sexy.....I can’t reply for fear of censorship... lol.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi thost ... there is that of course. Though I would have to have my head on backwards to be able to see mine.

        To tell you the truth I rarely remember it is there ... occasionally I get a glimpse of it in a mirror. Its purpose now seems to be as a reminder of

        a) a big-hearted man (my husband),

        b) not to judge people by their looks (the big, hairy biker who inscribed - and embellished - the design I had chosen onto my skin whilst telling me about his mum) and

        c) to make other people wonder what I was thinking. :-)

        Life is nothing without humour.

        Bold and sexy, eh? Yup, that's me alright. Well, it was once ... lol.

        Many thanks for your kindness in commenting and voting up, thost.

      • thost profile image

        thost 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

        Tattoos look good on other people. But they are not for me; I get bored looking at the same thing over and over. Looking at a picture tattooed on my skin for the rest of my life would do my head in. But you gave a view from the other side, which is kind of bold and sexy. Great Hub. Will vote up.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Aw shucks, Mark ... that's kind. Thanks for popping back to add thoughts ...

        It's funny you should reply to my comment today as I was just thinking about tattoos earlier as I was gardening. I was thinking of someone who seemed convinced that everyone who has a tattoo comes to regret it and was wondering why tattoos are such an anathema to them. It's a picture on the skin ... so what? It is just not that important. What kind of person you are is far more important.

        But then, although I have pierced ears (just one on each ear), I cannot bear to see all the metal wear some people have on face and body so I guess I too have double standards.

        And BTW I am still vain enough to appreciate the 'classy' tag :) Not too sure I deserve courageous though :/

      • Alexander Mark profile image

        Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

        You strayed into a hot topic! Well, I have to say that my opinion is partly formed from religious reasons, but I don't know where in the Bible it says you can not alter your body with art - and logically, shouldn't earrings be in the same category as well then? Sometimes people of my belief have a double standard! And in this, I think I need to change my views. You are not only still classy, but now also courageous in my opinion.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Thanks for pitching in with your comment, Mark.

        When I wrote this hub I wrote it because I felt there was too much importance put on the body these days at the expense of the spiritual. Life is about much more than whether or not one has a design on one's skin.

        My tattoo is covered up most of the time, so when I was working it could offend no-one. In summer it sometimes shows. This doesn't bother me one way or the other. It is a memento of an emotional time ... and I honestly don't regret it.

        I must admit that I find myself somewhat bemused by the response to this throw-away hub of mine ...

      • Alexander Mark profile image

        Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

        I have to say I was rather surprised at the ending, but this sure was a fun read.

        I have very very mixed feelings about tattoos. I used to want one, but as I get older, I don't really see the point. Whatever beauty God has given me (mostly internal beauty - ha ha!), I can't see a tattoo topping that.

        More than that, because I see so many of them every single day, they have started to look like a big mess to me. Once in a while, one will stick out as truly unique.

        I have an acquaintance who has beautiful flowers going up her side - and I admire that she went full-bore, did a large tattoo that was great to look at.

        But as for me, I can't see a good reason to deface (NO OFFENSE INTENDED) a part of my body. But I do respect the few who choose to get one because it has personal meaning to them - something beautiful.

        My favorite tattoo was on the calves of a regular guy walking through the airport years ago. On the left calf, it said, "west," and on the right it said, "coast." That appeals to my surfer sense - I assume it had to do with a total dedication to his love for the American west coast beaches. Of course you know what they say about assumptions...

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi guys - sorry for the delay in replying to your comments ... I didn't know you were there! HP didn't tell me!

        Princess Pitt ... thanks for your vote ... and you are right, sometimes we have to think of others. Luckily for me I only had myself to please at the time ...

        maxravi - thanks for stopping by to comment ... your roomy's tattoos of the Buddha sound like a lot of work - that's a lotta pain!

        carolineicke ... thanks for the points you made in this comment. Evidently tattoos are now not as 'down market' as they once were ... they are becoming more acceptable ... but as you say there are still people who object to them. Like you, I wonder why.

      • carolineicke profile image

        carolineicke 6 years ago from United Kingdom

        Great hub, I am twenty and have two tattoos, one on my ankle and one on my wrist - they're quite big too! I have to cover them for work (I work as a waitress), and I too wonder what the problem with tattoos is. Mine are not offensive, they are colourful and reflect my personality. Tattoos aren't for everyone, but I don't see why there is still such a taboo surrounding them in some places! Well done on getting yours - i truly believe that tattoos map out our lives, like artistic memories, and they shouldn't be regretted or covered up :)

      • maxravi profile image

        Ravi Singh 6 years ago from India

        My roomy is so crazy about tattoos . he had it all over his body.I like his lord Buddha tattoos.Thanks for your hub

      • profile image

        Princess Pitt 6 years ago

        whoa?! Your a brave lady ..cOoL .. i thought i was brave but tattoo needles jerks me off..

        But in Behalf of my Father, i have to stay cleaned LOL. I don`t want him suffering a heart attack...

        Voted Awesome!

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi jacqui ... many thanks for your kind comments and enthusiasm for this hub. I am truly amazed at the response it has had!

        There is nothing to be scared of when you have a tattoo ... okay it is painful, granted ... but it is hardly an intolerable pain. And a shooting star does sound super ...

        I was told that the black ones are the most painful - something to do with the depth of colour needed or some such. Strangely, though I rarely remember about mine, I wouldn't be without it. It does represent a moment in time for me ....

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi bwhite - thanks for your comment ... I totally agree that tattoos should be meaningful and I guess even your first one was ... it meant you were rebelling against your parents and starting to make your own decisions. Therefore it represented a rite of passage from child to independent adult.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi Mamadrama ... thank you so much for your kind comment. It made me think. You had the bright idea of having a meaningful date tattooed on you so that should mean that my tattoo, which I had done in state of uncaring after my husband died, will forever remind me of him.

        Nice thought ...

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hi JS - thanks for commenting on this. I was never sure how this piece would be received. A 55 year old woman getting a tattoo ... shock, horror!

        But of course I have had nothing but positivity from my hubbing friends. This is such a special community of wonderful writers ...

        Look forward to hearing more from you ...

      • jacqui2011 profile image

        jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

        Wow what a wonderful hub. Good for you having your tattoo. I have always wanted a small one of a trailing shooting star on my shoulder but am still a bit scared. I am 46 now - I got as far as going in the tattoo parlour, flicking through the art work and running off. My partner has lots of tattoos all over the place. He is often judged to be some sort of Hells Angel, but is the most sweetest, caring man. It's true what you say "never judge a book by its cover." An awesome article which I voted up.

      • bwhite062007 profile image

        Brianna W 6 years ago from East Coast

        This is a powerful hub. I feel there is nothing wrong with tattoo's as long as they mean something to you. I have four altogether and still want a couple more. But I do admit when I got my first one when I was 16, it was more then likely to be cool and because my parents disapproved. But as I got older, I realized that to me it was a form of expressing myself.

      • Mamadrama profile image

        Mamadrama 6 years ago from Upstate NY

        I love this hub. I have 5 and all of them mean something special to me. Most recently I got the date 07 30 08 on my forearm. It is the date that my husband and I found out that our youngest son did not have cancer. I love tattoos, I love to see people of all ages express their life through body art. Good for you for joining the club! Thanks for sharing your experience.

      • J.S.Matthew profile image

        JS Matthew 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Great article Angie! You are probably the only person on HubPages that knows this (other than my nephew who writes here) but I have tattoos too! I have them on my back so people don't know that I have them. For me it's personal-except in the summer when I swim or whatever. Sometimes I forget that I have them, too! I like the photo of your shoulder tat and I enjoyed reading this Hub! Keep up the great work!


      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Hm, thanks for the warning, Ghost ... by the time mine is a faded blob I guess I will be too!

      • The Ghostwriter profile image

        Peter Yexley 7 years ago from UK

        Many many moons ago my tattoos were bright, fine and crisp; now just a mere blur, faded blob ....time and tattoos don't get on!

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Unless you just had a collection ... novel way to display your conquests, eh? You just cross through the last one and enter the new one below ...

        Thanks for the comment, Hypno : )

        PS I don't think shoulders ever wobble - lol.

      • CMHypno profile image

        CMHypno 7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

        Glad that you went for the tattoo Angie! I'm far too chicken, and now that I am older I would have to find a bit that didn't wobble! LOL. The thing I will never understand is having a lover's name tattooed on - could be hard to explain away later on in life

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Whoa, Geisha! Now that really leaves me cold ... but again, go for it. Hair is fine, it'll grow back.

        I do actually like the way this looks on some women ... Sinead O'Connor, the singer, looked better without hair. Probably because she had such a sweet face, huge eyes.

        Thanks for your support, m'dear : )

      • Literary Geisha profile image

        Literary Geisha 7 years ago from Philippines

        i'm with Amanda, i've never been tempted either, although i do look forward to the time when i find the courage to get my head shaved and walk proudly with it. :D

        thanks for sharing!

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        I love the drama of the black designs, though it would be very painful around the ankle as it is such a boney area. I think it is something to do with the depth of blacking needed to fill in or something like that.

        I love the idea of a genie bottle ...

      • Jeannieinabottle profile image

        Jeannie InABottle 7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

        I could probably go with a black design around my ankle. I really like colorful tattoos though. Hmmm. I still want to get a genie bottle tattoo one day. I will make sure it is not pink. : )

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Thanks for commenting, Jeannie - why don't you try black ivy instead? I wonder what is in the pink and green dyes that don't agree with your skin? Perhaps better not to know, eh?

      • Jeannieinabottle profile image

        Jeannie InABottle 7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

        I have two tattoos and I found that pink and green ink are not a good friend to my skin. I did not have any problems with black, white, or yellow, but the brighter stuff made me feel like I was on fire. This was really important information to learn considering I wanted to get ivy all the around my ankle next time. All that green? Nope!

        I am glad you got your tattoo. Tattoos are awesome and anyone that wants one should get it.

      • Angie Jardine profile image

        Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

        Thanks for that Amanda ... it's just a case of personal freedom, I s'pose, and that's something I stoutly defend! Rather too stoutly these days, sadly : )

      • Amanda Severn profile image

        Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

        I've never been tempted, even for a teeny moment, but good for you, for having the courage.


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