Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Warning: a superficial, judgmental post  7

Posted on June 10th, 2006. About Ramblings.

I will openly admit it – I find tattoos ridiculous and somewhat disgusting. Yes, it’s psychological. Yes, it’s my problem. Yes, people have the right to do what they wish with their bodies. Yes, they should remain legal. (I hope that is enough disclaimers for one posting.)

I can pinpoint the exact source of this revulsion. When I was about six years old, my dad took me fishing, and his fishing buddy’s arms were “decorated” with black ink that had once been, I’m sure, an attractive naked woman, but was now nothing but a black splotch with the trace of a nipple. The woman had aged with the man’s arm – she was sagging, drooping. I vowed never to get a tattoo.

Over the years, I have observed as young women tattoo the smalls of their backs or decide that the way to fully express themselves is to find an out-of-the-way body region to place a butterfly. I once saw a woman with five different (visible) butterflies permanently penned, and two thoughts ran across my mind: A) If you love butterflies so much, is it not enough to visit the zoo on a regular basis? and B) Her poor mother probably took folic acid and vitamin E through 40 weeks of pregnancy to bestow upon her daughter the most beautiful skin possible, and I’m sure every day she took those vitamins so that the images of butterflies could arise. The irony here is that tattoos at one point were this very non-conformist thing to do – and now, well, decide for yourself if sticking butterflies all over yourself is the most unique medium for self expression.

Men ink themselves from head to toe with weird figures too – dragons, Chinese characters, and still, naked women seem omnipresent on arms and legs everywhere. Does a 21 year old really say to himself, “You know, when I’m 70 years old and sitting with my wife of 40 years on our porch with the grandkids, it would be so awesome to have my naked high school girlfriend tattooed down my leg”???

Since moving to Seattle I have desperately attempted to accept the tattoos around me as part of the West Coast culture. I love the open-mindedness out here, the respect with which women and homosexuals are treated, the city’s appreciation for foreign cultures – and yet, at 27 years of age, I am still extremely irritated by tattoos. I recognize that this is a very shallow, irrational, and judgmental aspect to my personality, but the harder I try to overcome it the more these figures irritate me. When I see articles like this one about how it’s becoming the hip thing to do to permanently draw all over oneself, I wonder – why does one have to use his or her skin to express who he or she is? Who we are evolves over time, but tattoos are permanent (or leave permanent scars upon removal when you decide maybe you don’t want a huge rising sun on your back). Expressing yourself through what you do and who remembers you – why not try something like this?

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