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.