Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on tattoos?

Leah asks:

What are your thoughts on tattoos?

#1:  I don’t have tattoos but I think lots of tattoos are really cool.  I watch art shows about tattoos.

#2:  I guess now is my time to talk about whatever undiagnosed psychological problem it is that I have about body ornamentation.  I have never had pierced ears or any other piercings.  I do not have tattoos.  I’m fine with other people’s tattoos and earrings.  I get feelings of revulsion thinking about permanent or even semi-permanent body modification of my own body.  I don’t wear jewelry except my wedding ring and watch and then only when I’m out and about.  I take things off as soon as I can.  I think I would be pretty comfortable in a nudist colony assuming my allergy problems didn’t keep me permanently covered in hives.

When I was little I always assumed I’d eventually get pierced ears, probably around age 14 which was when one of my friend’s moms said she could get them.  But then in middle school when other girls started getting pierced ears, one of the girls in my gym class had a dangly earring torn out of her ear (thankfully not in my gym class– possibly at home, possibly as child abuse) and it never healed up right.  Then a couple years later in middle school a bunch of other girls got horrific infections and… just… no.

And on top of that when I was younger, tattoo inks weren’t as good as they are now and there were so many older people at the grocery store with sagging skin and ugly blue tattoos that no longer fit their bodies because they’d been different shapes decades before when they first got them.  And I just … didn’t want to get something as a teen or 20 year old that would look terrible when I turned 70.

And then I went to the field museum and saw an exhibit on body modification…possibly set up to thrill and disgust, but it made me realize that in the Western world we do the exact same things– if you find the neck lengthening necklaces problematic or the bumpy tattoos like they showed in Black Panther, well, it’s not really different in the US.  What’s culturally accepted seems normal while something only slightly different elsewhere seems bizarre.  But really, body modification is kind of bizarre no matter what or where it is.  (See also: circumcision– most men in our generation in the US are circumcized.)

That said, I was in support of my other high school roommate when she got her first tattoo– it was a pretty cool rose (on her breast) and the inks were good and could be updated.  Lots of millennials have fascinating or adorable tattoos these days and more power to them.  And it’s easier to get them removed if one has second thoughts or one’s body type changes.  I can appreciate other people’s adorable earrings.  But… not for me.  Do Not Want.  No piercings, no tattoos.

14 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on tattoos?”

  1. CG Says:

    I feel neutral about them for other people. I don’t find them attractive but they generally don’t bother me. But for myself, I don’t think there’s any design I could put on my body that I could be sure I’d want forever. And yes I know they’re now sort of removable, but it’s not easy. So not for me, thanks.

  2. Alice Says:

    I don’t talk it, but I don’t like tattoos. I don’t have any, and I have yet to see a person who I thought looked better with a tattoo. I suppose it’s possible, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    I also think that my opinion is pretty irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter what I think looks better in terms of tattoo vs. non, any more than it matters if I thought someone’s yard would look better if they planted a tree or more flowers or whatever.

  3. Debbie M Says:

    Wow, #2, those are some scary stories! I have not seen anything like that except for one person who wore heavy earrings that had their ear holes getting bigger and bigger.

    I admire a lot of other people’s tattoos, but don’t want one myself. Of course I used to think I didn’t want my ears pierced, but by the time I got to the age when my parents allowed me (18) I suddenly did want that, even knowing that I would then have to (get to) deal with earrings every day. (And now I wear only studs–not too heavy–except for occasionally at parties.)

    I admire the full-body beautiful tattoos. I really admire tattoos that are used like Girl Scout badges or therapy awards or something, basically celebrating some kind of personal growth or other achievement. And I like the ones that make disfiguring scars into art.

    If I were getting one, it would be a small one that I could easily cover up for work because why ask for discrimination? But things change (what’s acceptable in culture, what symbols and phrases mean). And I don’t like pain. And so I’d rather do less permanent decorations (even though I can also see tattoos as thrifty decorations).

    I like my mom’s idea of not allowing piercings or tattoos until age 18 (though she changed it to a younger age for my little sister), so if I had kids, I’d start with the same rule, though I would be open to negotiation and of course childless people don’t really know what would actually happen.

  4. Miser Mom Says:

    My sister and dad had this conversation one summer when she was home from college.

    Sister: What do you think about tattoos?
    Dad: Not much.
    Sister: What you think if I were to get a tattoo?
    Dad: Probably wouldn’t like it.
    Sister: . . . want to see it anyway?

    She got a dragon tattoo, standing on its hind feet shooting flames. My mom said she was sad the dragon wasn’t carrying a blade that said “mom”. Also, my mom wished my sister could have had the dragon flap its wings when she flexed her muscles.

  5. middle_class Says:

    Same as #2! I also knew of girls who got infected ear piercings and saw old people with faded tattoos on sagging skin. Turned me off completely.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for a long time; I love body art in principle and modern body art is just gorgeous. However, I am somewhat reluctant, because it also feels like a cliché middle-aged-suburban-mom thing to do these days. But I think I will ultimately get one, discrete and somewhere I can cover with clothes, so it’s not visible at work.

    Then my eldest son (21) went and got one a couple of months ago, and it’s wonderful. It’s small, on the inner forearm, of the model organism he works with in his lab. It’s just gorgeous and he’s very happy with it. The awesomeness of his tattoo further emphasizes how lame the uncool old me is for wanting to get something as cool as a tattoo, but also how much I really love tattoos and genuinely want to get one.

    Hubs is anti tattoos, so he’s definitely not cheering for me to get one.

    Btw, I had my ears pierces as a little girl and wore studs and similar till puberty or so. Haven’t worn earrings in probably 30 years. I’m pretty sure the holes are completely closed.


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