Tattoos appear everywhere and on everyone these days. When I was young, only sailors, Marines, and felons sported tattoos. You had to be tough to get a tattoo. It was a painful – and potentially dangerous – process.
Now, thanks to modern technology, health regulations, and advances in anesthetics, every teenage girl wants butterflies on her butt or a ringlet of flowers around her ankle. And a growing number of men and women want to turn their bodies into a walking art gallery or personal history exhibit.
Which is why I am offering the following five rules for anyone considering permanent body art.
The first rule is simple – don’t get a tattoo. Follow this rule and you can ignore the rest. If you are considering getting a tattoo, stop. Don’t do it. Turn around and walk the other way. Don’t listen to anyone trying to talk you into getting a tattoo. They are not your friend.
If you think turning your body into a canvass for body art will make you more attractive, think again. Take the long view. Take a close look at someone fifty, sixty, or even seventy years old sporting a tattoo.
Bodies change. Tattoos change. Seldom does either look better as a result. Fashions change. Tattoos don’t. What if you couldn’t change your hairstyle and clothes? Look at pictures from 1986. Do you think that tattoo will still work thirty years from now?
The Rest of the Rules
I realize some people get tattoos to prove their “badassness”. These people want to be cutting edge. They cross boundaries. They need to break rules. If you’re this kind of person, make this first rule the one rule you break and follow all the rest. Otherwise, follow this one rule and ignore the rest.
Now for those who, despite the drawbacks and warnings, decide you can’t live without being illustrated. You have something to prove and you want to prove it by having ink permanently injected into your skin. You just need to decide what and where.
2. Remain nameless.
Avoid names of anyone still living. Better yet, avoid names completely. Not even Mom. It might make your mother happy, but what about your girlfriend? What if she wants equal space? What happens when you break up? It’s even more foolish for a woman to get a tattoo with her boyfriend’s – or even a husband’s – name. Men just don’t look at it the same way.
The ban on names includes celebrities. Relationships can go south, and so can a celebrity’s reputation. Think Bill Cosby. The meaning could change as well. Think Bruce Jenner.
3. Location, location, location,
If you must get a tattoo, keep it hidden. Put it some place where you have to show it, not in plain view for everyone to see. This may not fit well with demonstrating your “badassness” and edginess, but a few years from now when you take your future kids or grandkids to the pool, “badass” might not be the message you want to be sending.
4. Make it small
Big tattoos make bold statements. Statements difficult to retract. Remember, the statement you want to make today might not be the statement you want to make five, ten, or twenty years from now, and bigger means more to remove. Besides, if you need to keep it covered – and there will be times when you will want to keep it covered – small is better.
5. Take the long view, make it a selfie
So make it small, in a normally concealed place, and avoid names. Also, take your time. Never get a tattoo on an impulse. If you want to place a permanent image on your body, make sure it is something which reflects you. And not just you right now, but you several years down the road.
If you must get a tattoo, get it for yourself, not to impress someone or with the hope it will make someone like you. You’re the one who has to live with it every minute of every day for the rest of your life.
In a sense, you are marrying your tattoo. The two of you will become one. And just like a real marriage, getting a divorce will be expensive, painful, and leave a nasty scar.
So, would you get a tattoo? If so, what and where?