In a conversation I would say I dreaded, to say the least, I asked my one of my sons to consider not getting a tattoo.
To me, frankly, tattoos still reek of wild Navy weekends at Subic Bay, people with questionable dental work, and a fun way to show people you survived a few years in prison. But that's me. Plus, I am not a fan of asymmetry; it makes me uncomfortable to see a design on side of someone's body and nothing on the other.
I am aware, of course, that way more people are getting tattoos now than they used to; I think I read that about 35 percent of people under 30 have them, and I know more than one person my age or older who has at least one. When I was growing up, tattoos only had five inscriptions:
Never miss a local story.
4. The name of a particularly dangerous motorcycle club.
5. The name of a particularly dangerous woman.
They also had five different pieces of artwork to choose from:
1. An anchor.
2. A heart.
3. A dagger.
4. A rose.
5. A battleship.
Now, of course, many of them are like visible acid trips on someone's body. A 26-year-old woman who used to cut my hair had a tattoo of Fred Flintstone. Why? I mean, I could see Top Cat, of course. But Fred Flintstone? And why would someone who was born in 1985 have a tattoo of Fred Flintstone? Should it have been Strawberry Shortcake or the Care Bears?
In fact, I once did a temporary tattoo on the arm of one of my daughter's Knox College friends. She requested Abraham Lincoln, which makes sense, since Knox College was where one of the first Lincoln-Douglas debates was held. I executed it with malice toward none.
This brings me to the point of my original musing about why someone would get a tat. I always associate tattoos with dessicated , blotchy flesh, alcohol breath, and the lingering aroma of stale Pall Malls. But to this generation, they represent a language. I think they say one thing:
My wingnut isn't tight, and I'm cool, or trying to be.
I vowed I would never say, "Kids today, I swear to God," because that means you're old. And I am not going to say that now, particularly as I am now exactly the same age as Lincoln when he became president. So I won't say it. And I won't say anything if you change your mind and have a tattoo removed, which is a process that involves a laser and a backhoe.
Today, a friend at lunch noted that she wouldn't be comfortable wearing the same shoes for a year, let alone a tattoo design for life. I thought, geez, I won't tell her I have 200 ties, because that's a sure sign I shouldn't get one.
In the same conversation, I managed to recall three moments of my life when I considered getting a tattoo, and I won't tell you what those moments were, or what the designs were. The only thing that prevented from getting the last one was that I was reliably informed by the artist that the location I wanted would be painful (ankle). So I didn't get it. I am glad about it.
So having thought about this tat thing for a few weeks, I just have one bit of advice for my son, or anyone getting a tattoo:
Don't let a cartoonist do it.