Apr 15, 2009

There's No Tact in Tattoo... Trust Me, I Checked!

This train of thought was prompted by watching a segment on a certain morning show that I prefer not to admit publicly to watching. The topic was tattoos. Evidently, Jessica Alba has had a little bow tattooed above her coccyx, the location of which qualifies it as a so-called "Tramp Stamp". The conversation covered a number of celebrity inkings, the one that stuck out in my memory was Brad Pitt's map of the New Orleans levee system. The stencil of an actual band wagon must not have been to his liking, I guess. Come to think of it, what does a band wagon look like? I digress. The really interesting thing about this piece was the choice of diction. In what is usually a light-hearted and often inconsequential morning show, many of the statements about tattoos were uncharacteristically condemning!

I have a tattoo. Some people might say that I have more than one tattoo, but on the off chance that my parents are reading this, let's leave it in the singular. I, by no means, speak for the tattoo community. I'm not even sure that it necessarily qualifies as a bona fide community. The art of tattooing does, however, represent any number of things, from cultural heritage, to personal history, to the proof of binge-drinking gone awry.

Like any product of disposable income, tattooing is a reflection of our personal preferences and opinions, running the gamut of gaudy to tasteful. However, unlike other representations of personal choice, tattoos have the unique ability to evoke the most vitriolic of comments from people. Normally, when confronted with someone else's poor taste, most people will keep quiet, find anything remotely related that is nice to say, or simply lie their way through a complement. If your friend was showing off his new car, you would never abruptly tell them, "That make of car is just so ghetto!" If your room-mate was displaying the spoils of her most recent shopping trip, you probably wouldn't blurt out, "Mini-skirts are for hookers." It's not the opinion I take exception to; It's the feeling of complete entitlement that people seem to have to blatantly insult your personal taste to your face. In any other situation, people at least remove the derogatory parlance, opting for more of a positive spin in their assessment. For instance, to the fabric-wielding room-mate, you would have probably replace references to the oldest professional with more generic comments about longer skirts bringing out her eyes.

My fiancé and I were chatting with a mutual friend, who asked if he had any tattoos. He didn't so much as flinch before launching into his diatribe about tattoos being dirty and gross, and how he would never abase himself enough to get one! Labouring under the perception that my fiancé has reasonable eyesight, and doesn't suffer from prosopagnosia, I can assume he knew I was within earshot. As I am sometimes a little high-maintenance, this was certainly a departure from his usual routine of toiling to avoid insulting me! I want to be clear on the point that this does not rise above the level of puzzling interest for me. I have not started a Facebook group called "Tattooed Individuals Deserve Better Interpersonal Treatment!" nor I am petitioning congress to add "Tattooed Individuals" to the list of protected characteristics. I just never understand what it is about tattoos that prompts people to set aside their diplomacy. My best guess is that it's the association between tattoos and the seedier elements of society, punk rockers, gang members, Amy Winehouse, etc. etc.

I doubt it's that simple, but nevertheless, let me explain the story behind my tattoo. My best friend, with whom I spent most of my formative years, was celebrating her birthday. We knew that she would be leaving the country, and decided to mark our friendship, and on some level maintain a bond when we were separated by getting the same tattoo of a rose. I am glad I got it, and looking at it reminds me of a wonderful friendship and a great, yet erstwhile, period of my life.

PS. Mom and Dad, if that wasn't the tattoo you knew about, Sorry!

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