Tattoo You?
by: Mike Gries

The number of people getting tattoos has risen sharply in the last five years. The increased levels in the aggregate are mostly the result of the changing perception of tattoos within the conservative social and affluent economic strata that used to consider getting a tattoo a severe act. (Of course, I have found absolutely no empirical data to support my scientific sounding declarations here -- but just go with me on this one -- Iím probably mostly right anyway.) Itís not as if a rich person never got a tattoo before, but when one did, it was a statement of non-conformity. Thatís not the case anymore. While tattoos will always carry a cache of rebelliousness, its no longer the rebelliousness of a biker in a leather skullcap rolling down to Sturgis high on basement made crank. Itís more the rebelliousness of your father wearing the leather jacket mom got him on his 40th birthday. Not to put too fine a point on it, but basically, getting a tattoo is now your run-of-the-mill right of passage, less akin to trying smack or coke, and more like a high school kid sneaking a six pack from the fridge to split with his buddy.

Despite the fact that tattoos are becoming commonplace itís still a terrible idea to get one. No, that doesnít state it strongly enough. My girlfriend using one of those boxes to dye her hair because Heather Locklear is in their commercial and her hair looks good, was a terrible idea. Consistently deluding myself into thinking that I should just get the shoes, because theyíll eventually wear in, is consistently a terrible idea. Whereas getting a tattoo is an egregiously bad move. First of all, if anyone sees that you have one, he or she wonít take you as seriously professionally. Iíve heard people with tattoos bellyache that this is unfair. Be that as it may, itís the reality. Oh, and it is fair. Tattoos are stupid. So itís a good assumption that at one point in his or her life the person sporting one, was a profoundly stupid person. You canít spend the time to give everyone a fair shot; life is short and innocuous prejudice saves us all precious time. Also, the same people who claim that people prejudge them for their "body art" will just as quickly pick out someone dressed like a dork and in their minds that person exists as "dork." So why would they begrudge that dork the same right to make snap judgements? The second reason not to get a tattoo is that you might not want it later. Third, theyíre aesthetically depreciatory to the human body. Fourth, theyíre dumb. Fifth, theyíre really dumb.

Nevertheless, you have your reasons for getting one you say? Iím sure you do. However, before you try to convince me that youíve made a good decision, please check the below list of common weak excuses for screwing up oneís body, and see if one is close to yours:

"Itís the Chinese symbol for (insert positive quality here)"
Are you exceptionally "brave," Are you super "loving?" (For instance if I was to get a Chinese symbol on my arm, I think "Lazy," "Pompous," or "Craven" would be more appropriate choices than "Life" or "Strength.") More importantly, are you Chinese? Even if you are, thatís no excuse. If youíre not Chinese, why didnít you just spell "Courage" out in English? Then you wouldnít have to tell me what the hell you had written on your arm. And why Chinese? Why not Arabic? They have bitchiní letters too. Or Sanskrit? Cuneiform would be good too. What do we have against the simple understated triangular stylus marks of Cuneiform? I guess Cuneiform isnít quite Eastern enough to have bestowed upon it the curious reverence that we Westerners assign to all things Eastern. (An aside for all tattoo "artists" out there: Just put down any you marks you want. If you donít know Chinese then just slap some random lines down. If you do, then put down something like "chubby white chick.")

"Itís my own design."
This is somehow supposed to be a iron-clad defense for taking a doodle and transplanting it permanently onto your body. Iíve filled entire notebooks with simple line drawings when I should have been listening to my professor lecture on stuff like Chaucerís imagery in the Prologue. Doesnít mean I ever felt the compulsion to transfer them to my body. Whatís annoying is when the little scribbling that the tattooee has permanently placed on his or her body is "just a design" and has no significance what so ever. Whatís worse is when it does.

Me: "So thatís you own design, huh? Have any significance?"
Her: "Yes! You see the 3 concentric circles represent my friends from College, and the four areas where they overlap represent. . ."
ME: (Now why the hell did I ask her again? I wonder if I could just walk away now?)

No amount of explanation is going to make me think a Venn diagram 6 inches above your Mounds Venus is cool.

"Itís a Celtic Cross (or Aztec Eagle, or picture of Sitting Bull, or an ankh, or a pink triangle, or. . .)"
Again, the fact that it relates to the personís specific cultural, religious, or sexual orientation is supposed to make criticism of a big mess of ink on a persons body indefensible. Nope. Still ugly. Also, the fact that youíve gone ahead and reminded everyone to see you as an Indian, or as a black person, or as a homosexual, or whatever, gives them the right to label you first and foremost in that way. Why not tattoo "human" or "person" on yourself? That seems like a better idea to me.

"I got it when my mother died."
I tread lightly here . . .but still . . . You sure that wasnít just an excuse to . . .ok, actually, nevermind. Forget I said anything.

When to be on Guard:

There are times when you may be particularly at risk of besmirching your skin. Here are a few textbook cases for which to be on watch:

If youíre one of a group of junior girls going down to spring break.
Just get a few of those really thin braids to show everyone you had a good time in the Bahamas. Or if this isnít enough, then flash some guys who do NOT HAVE video cameras. Just donít get drunk and get a tattoo on the small of your back.

When youíre 24ish and you feel your youth slipping away.
Once you get old enough that you start get those first shadowy inclinations that the long slow fade is just around the corner, you may be prone to doing something grand to capitalize on your youth one last time. You might do this with a symbolically impetuous (though in reality, a subconsciously well thought out) act like getting a tattoo. Donít. When you get the feeling that your youth is slipping away, rest comfortably in the fact that this fear is groundless. Your youth isnít slipping away. Itís already long gone. Now cut the shit.

Youíre on a college sports team.
Tell the boys, "thanks, but no thanks." Do you really want a Yosemite Sam lining up for a face off on your ankle 3 years down the line? No. Will you want your school mascot on your biceps? No, you went to Colgate for Chrissakes! Its not like youíre a starting linebacker for the Florida State Seminoles.

You defied all the laws of probability and actually toned up.
This is a dangerous time because you find yourself checking your body out more than Adonis and you might feel compelled to do something more to it. Donít worry, guys, thoseíll turn into man tits in no time, and girls, those arms will be jiggling again inside 6 months. So no ink, k?

"Fuck You, dick. Iím still getting one."
Kudos to you for your resolve! Well if youíre dead set on getting one, at least consider some of these suggestions:

Girls: No really DONíT get one. Ok. . .Ok. . .Girls, if youíre going to get one. Get only ONE, and get a small one. The least terrible places you can put one would be on a shoulder blade or on the inside of your ankle, or. . .no thatís about it. Stay away from "boy areas": nothing wrapped around a biceps, nothing on the chest. If you go for the belly button area, the guy putting it on will never quite get the spacing right in relation to the hip lines, belly button, and pubic region and it will invariably look somewhat askew. Smack dab on your ass just means that your ass wonít look as good as it did immediately before you put it on. So if you must get one. . .no really just donít get one.

Guys: Unless youíre really really huge. I mean Human Growth Hormone, juiced out of your gills big, no barbed wire or thorns around your arm. And. . . actually, what do I care. Guys, do what ever the hell you want.

If everything Iíve written on this subject seems sanctimonious and preachy, keep in mind that Iím a reformed idiot, and I speak from experience. I only want to help others steer clear of mistakes similar to ones Iíve made in not respecting my body. Like many people I experimented with substances in the 80ís. My family did their best to intervene, but ultimately I had to make the decision to stop myself. It was just too easy to get. Everyone was doing it, and I felt like I couldnít stop. One day, I just made the decision that things had gone too far. I didnít like the person staring back at me in the mirror anymore. Thatís when I threw away my Studio by LíOreal Mega-Hold pump spray gel, and my can of Vidal Sassoon mouse. It was the most liberating day of my life.