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Tattoos Then And Now: America, What Happened?

Tattoos Then And Now: America, What Happened?

As an older Conservative, I try not to be a fuddy duddy about all of the things that the “kids” are into nowadays, and when you get as old as me, they’re all kids. (I tuned out of the music scene after Who Left The Dogs Out was released.)

But as a child of the 50s and 60s, my generation didn’t exactly win many gold stars for good behavior, or logical behavior either, for that matter.

However, I don’t understand how and why tattoos have become such a mainstream part of American culture. Yes, it’s true that this tattoo revolution isn’t driven solely by the young, but it sure seems like it.

In the old days, the only tattoos one saw were on the biceps of veterans who sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears in the military, saw their fellow soldiers die, a personal history to be proud of and which they rightfully wanted to boast about. The only other ones I saw, besides at the Coney Island freak shows, were on the forearms of my friends’ parents and grandparents, involuntary tattoos that were a simple series of numbers burned into them as they entered the Nazi concentration camps.

Nowadays, a guy drops his pants and bends over, points to his anus, and tells the tattoo artist, “Put a “B” on either side of it!” Now, I’m up for a good joke as much as the next guy, but 99% of the men asking for this aren’t even named Bob in the first place.

The biggest pain I get from today’s tattoo world is seeing young girls, beautiful young bodies with their whole lives ahead of them, scarred with the Crayon-like image of a human skull, dagger, lightning bolt, or some saying or poem in Korean, Japanese or Chinese that most Anglos can’t read anyway. (And not just one or two, but one on this leg, two on that one, one on this arm, another on the neck. Plus God knows what’s going on under the clothing that I can’t see.)

Tattoos have always been an integral part of native, indigenous cultures the world over, but the style and meaning of that art remained constant throughout the Centuries. An Alaskan native girl doesn’t wake up one day and say, “Instead of that tattoo which represents thousands of years of my forefathers’ culture, can you put a portrait of Justin Bieber on my right butt cheek?” (Well, maybe there are one or two who asked for it, but you hopefully get the point.)

There’s no crime in being young and stupid, we’ve all been there, but why advertise it in such a permanent way? Just do a Google search for “Bad Tattoos,” but make sure your computer doesn’t explode with the thousands of page hits that are going to come up. Hell, I think bad tattoos keep thousands of websites in business all by themselves.

I do believe there are valid reasons to scar one’s body with a tattoo besides just ethnic/cultural history and military service, but who am I to say what’s valid anyway? To each his own. Like, I can totally understand the portrait of a lost loved one, but not if that loved one was a Dachsund. I can understand if you went through a life-threatening medical condition, and something inspires that. But couldn’t you just tell me about it, or hand out a pamphlet, instead of having it inked on your forehead in red and black?

And if your name is Bob, just tell me. Don’t show me.

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  2. Len Hobbs

    I agree. I just don’t get it !! Beautiful young women become ugly with tattoos. I believe ALL tattoos are foolish…and analogous to graffiti…scrawled on a railroad car.

  3. Ghost Rider

    I have a tattoo about a medical condition. I an emergency I want the medical personnel to know what it wrong before they do anything.

  4. Joseph Ward

    Thank you for the plain talk on tattoos. Since my early years in the Marine Corp in the late sixties the concept of scaring the body with indelible ink was a huge NO-NO. It still is to many but for those who still abhor the idea of sullying the human body I say hold fast! It will return to the un-blemished and you will be very much ahead. God Bless and Semper Fidelis. Joseph.

  5. Rita

    I believe it is wrong to deface your body with tattoos. I think they are all ugly and take away the natural beauty of people.

  6. marlene

    My brother got tattoos as a Green Beret. After his stint, he settled in Florida as head chef for a Michelin Star restaurant. Before he could get the job though, he had to go through painful removal of the tattoos on his arms. Peer pressure and tattoo parlors sprouted up everywhere, in cheap stores, even though business was bad, until it became a “thing” to pass one and impulsively enter with curiousity, but leave with a tattoo. Also by the 70’s our youth began feeling the pain of socialist democratic ‘leadership’ and colleges had gone full socialism Students needed a new identity. Remember mohawks? Tashikis? Dreadlocks? Strobes? War? And cheap potent pot was everywhere.

  7. RC

    Being in my 90’s I was under the impression that only sailors who got drunk near a tattoo parlor got tattoos. Now, women, and probably kids have them. They must like feeling like a sign board walking down the street or they either get drunk or smoke some wackey tobacco near a tattoo parlor. I’ve known some men in the past who regretted it. One tried to have one removed but stopped because he felt like he was being skinned alive. Oh well, I guess to each his own.

    • Ray

      In my mind, tattoos on females creates an ugliness that is near stomach turning. probably due that I too am in my 90s However, your reference to a friend who felt like he was “being skinned alive” while having a tattoo removed, recalled the particularly gruesome tale from WW II. That of the wife of a NAZI Concentration camp commander who screened incoming victims with tattooed skin from which to make lamp shades. Should such cruel conditions come about in the future the available selections will please even the most discriminating of hobbyists. .

  8. Tommy Gunn

    I’ve seen thousands of pictures and images in my lifetime, but I can’t recall ever seeing one that I liked so well that I wanted to carry it on my body for the rest of my life.

  9. RE

    The main reason so many people of all ages have tattoos these days is because they’re painless. Back in the days of original types they were very painful and lots of bleeding involved.

  10. Fire21

    The artwork of some tattoos is very impressive. However, it should be put on canvass, not human skin!

  11. Renegade

    I agree that there are a lot of (in my opinion) bad tatts out there, and having them on your face I think is rather stupid but I am not against ink as most people responding here seem to be. I have several pieces inked on my arms that I rather enjoy. Being almost 60 and conservative doesn’t make me think that tatts are a bad thing, just choose them carefully.

  12. Janice

    Tattoos—what a turnoff‼️

  13. RE

    Renegade, just curious. You mentioned having some pieces “inked” on your arms. Is that why there’s no pain involved? I guess I never knew this is how it’s done. Makes more sense to me now. No needles, just artwork? Thanks for the information.

    • Stanley Steamer

      Tattoos use ink. You still need a needle to apply one, as always.

      Being “inked” is the same expression as always.

  14. Rick Collins

    all tattoos become ink blobs in a few years