Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tattoos: In your face (and everywhere else)
Then, I returned to the Northwest as it hosted the second annual Jet City Tattoo Expo, a convention aptly located, as it seems nearly every local barista is well pierced and often tattooed. The Pew Research Center reported this month that 36% of all "millenials" aged 18-25 have a tattoo, while 40% of those aged 26-40 sport at least one.
I respect each person's decision to "decorate" his or her body as desired, but this new popularity has me puzzled. Even as tattoo parlors proliferate, publicity about "tattoo regret" abounds, and new techniques for removing them are profitably burgeoning.
A 2006 study in the American Academy of Dermatology journal, found that a quarter of those who did go under the needle want its evidence removed. But most people don't have the money or tolerance to attempt the arduous process of lasering or otherwise erasing the injected ink, with little chance of obliterating the original tattoo anyway. It takes several treatments to remove a tattoo--as many as 20 with colored ink, just to annul the original art, but it's impossible to completely restore skin.
While in Hawaii this time, I saw lots of scapulae sprouting drawn-on wings of varying sizes. I saw enough complex swirls and detailed designs swooping from neck to elbow to consider this a real trend. Of course, when the temperature never dips below 70 degrees, people remain in a state of partial undress that allows observation. That's how I was able to note the change from just a year before.
Given that everyone knows tattoos are basically permanent, and that humans tend to change their minds and their bodies over time, what fuels this recent surge in tattooing? It's been popular with an edgy segment of the population for a long time, definitely, but the number seems to have swelled. Please explain.
I'll admit that even with so much exposure, I haven't gotten used to seeing anyone's body--especially young women--marked with dark or colored ink. I sincerely try to ignore people's externals and focus on their words and deeds. But even though I don't want to dwell on another's tatoos (or piercings), just forcing myself to not look or not think about them when they're right in front of me distracts from the content of the moment.
That's why tattos are in your face, no matter where they're visibly located. Could that be part of the reason to get one (or more)?
I understand a desire to express oneself, but for me, what I want to express changes with my moods, location, situation and people surrounding me. Expression with fashion or non-permanent adornments like nail polish, hair style or jewelry makes sense because these can represent a moment, a whimsy, or even a philosophy, and wearers can vary it or not. But your skin? I just can't understand why skin is a canvas rather than a protective organ of the body that should be preserved and respected for its health-sustaining and life-enabling qualities. Isn't the body in its God-designed natural, healthy form beautiful?
I've heard arguments that a tattoo was a personal remembrance of a significant event, person, anniversary or accomplishment. That doesn't explain to me why trusting someone else to permanently etch the skin should be that remembrance. Why not plant a tree? Why not wear a special necklace? How about making a donation to a charity that will help others?
I appreciate the artistry of people who can draw. But to dig one's "pen" into another person's skin? Wouldn't those artistic talents affect the world more if used in a medium that could be displayed, and appreciated by many?
So I have three questions: Why would people want to be tattooed--and why is this phenomenon becoming more prevalent? And, aren't today's tattoos likely to be viewed differently by their owners and society in another 50 years?
I have to look at them. So I'd like to understand them. Thanks for any insight you can provide.