Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

Tat's All, Folks: My tattoo odyssey...

08/21/2013 6:30 AM

08/23/2013 4:21 PM

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:

1. Mom.

2. U.S.M.C.

3. U.S.N.

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.  

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


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