What Is the Problem With Tattoos?
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 also seems to be a trend now with older people getting tattoos, as well. 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 they want 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 of New Zealand are just one example of a native people whose designs not only have meaning but also have an artistic beauty that uses the human body as its canvas.
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.
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.
- BBC News - Broadcaster David Dimbleby gets first tattoo aged 75
Veteran TV broadcaster David Dimbleby has had a scorpion tattooed onto his shoulder, he reveals in a magazine interview.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.