Why I’ll always love my tattoos

My Kasteel Well memorial tattoo. Always remember Kasteel Well Spring 2012. AKA: The time I lived in a castle.

My Kasteel Well memorial tattoo. Always remember Kasteel Well Spring 2012. AKA: The time I lived in a castle.

I recently got a new tattoo. I have four now, and won’t be adding any time soon. I need to forget how painful it is, so I can convince myself “it just sorta stings a bit.” And I need a real job, that pays me real money. Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good, yo.

For reference here are my tattoos. The most recent is the marching band drummer from some My Chemical Romance album art.

This made me think about something people say about tattoos a lot: “I would get a tattoo, but I just worry that I’ll regret it.”

Which, to me, makes absolutely no sense. Mainly because I pick and choose very carefully what gets tattooed on my body. It is my body, I only have one, and I want it to look as good as it can. It should reflect who I am on the inside. You know, all that stuff people tell you about having self esteem. (Sometimes, I actually have it.)

Tattoos date back to the Bronze age (roughly 7,000 years ago) so they’re not exactly new. Just new to the western world. Some historians and researchers believe early tattoos were done to relieve joint pain. Egyptian mummies were found with tattoos, only the women however, and their tattoos appeared to form a protective net over a pregnant belly.

For thousands of years tattoos were used in rituals in Africa, Asia, and Latin and South America. In the Victorian era aristocrats, and later even Royalty, would take journeys by boat (which lasted months, plus they weren’t on a cool Disney cruise and had no indoor plumbing) to Japan to get tattooed by their artists. One of those royals happened to be King George V, who was tattooed in Tokyo and Kyoto years before he became king.

Tattooing fell out of fashion for a while and resurged with sailors and, basically everyone from “the wrong side of the tracks.” Recently, with the advancement of technology and the shift in cultural ideals, tattoos have moved back into fashion. More and more people are seen sporting tattoos, and less and less employers care about them on their employees. If you would like to learn more there’s a great podcast about tattoos at Stuff You Should Know.

Now that you have a general idea of where tattoos started and how they eventually evolved into what they are today we can get into the idea of not wanting one.

Like how people say to me, “I would get a tattoo, but I just worry that I’ll regret it.”

So I thought about it for a bit, why would I regret any of my tattoos? Maybe I’ll stop liking that thing. Maybe I’ll think the art isn’t good anymore. Maybe it will age strangely.  And that was about it. I couldn’t think of any other reasons.

For example, my most recent tattoo is of art from a My Chemical Romance album. I thought back to when I began liking My Chemical Romance, and if I ever stopped liking them. I first heard them in the seventh grade, I wrote my college application essay about how they changed my life, I saw them in concert 7 times in about as many years. Yes, I really like My Chemical Romance. Why would I ever stop liking them? They broke up, so I can’t claim a new album ruining it. Over all they meant so much to me at the time, it changed my life. There’s no denying it. Even if I stopped liking them, that wouldn’t change how they affected me as a person. You still cherish those childhood t-shirts that inevitably fall out of fashion, or have a Powerpuff Girls logo across the front. That doesn’t mean they don’t still mean a great deal to you. 

My other tattoos represent a time in my life, or an ideal I hold close. They’re more than just art. They mean a lot to me, and they remind me of who I was. They’re about who I am becoming, and they tell the story of how I became this awesome person. 

Now, let me just say, there’s nothing wrong with getting tattoos for the sake of getting tattoos. Some people just want to cover their body in interesting images, or they get drunk and decide it would be a great idea to get a tattoo of Homer Simpson riding a unicorn, or something. I’m saying that’s not what I want of my tattoos. 

I’m saying my tattoos are more than just things I like. There are a few tattoos, which I’ve planned out but have yet to get inked. Some of them are things I really like, a Batman logo, Peter Pan, a skull and crossbones. But those things also mean more to me than just enjoyment. They’ve all helped me discover who I am, and who I want to become. 

“I would get a tattoo, but I just worry that I’ll regret it.”

My next thought, maybe I’ll think the art isn’t good anymore. This answer ties into the first slightly, in the sense that, even if I don’t like that image anymore it doesn’t mean that image doesn’t represent something more. 

I thought about this one a lot more. Mainly because the images are the big important part of the tattoo. The meaning can be conveyed in a lot of ways, it’s the execution that everyone sees. But I also realized: I’ve liked pretty much all the same stuff since I was in middle school. Now, I’m not sure what that says about me. For the purposes of getting tattoos it’s a very important thing though.

My tastes have obviously changed a great deal. I no longer dress in all black Tripp clothing, or take hyper angled MySpace style photos of my intense black eye liner and Good Charlotte sweatshirts. But I still listen to old Good Charlotte albums, and I still crave an item or two of Tripp clothing, and I still wear black eyeliner (just not as much.) My tastes shifted, but the imagery has always stayed the same.

So asking yourself if you’ll stop enjoying the artwork is like asking yourself if you’ll stop enjoying any artwork. Will you wake up one day and decide you think Monet’s Water Lilies? Do you also worry maybe you’ll wake up and stop loving your significant other? No. Because you love them, and why would you ever stop? That’s how I feel about tattoos. 

If I wake up one day and look down at the artwork that is my skin and think “I don’t like this anymore” it might be because I’ve switched bodies with someone in a Freaky Friday like scenario. They’re a part of me, they came from my (and the tattoo artists) mind, and they’ll stick with me forever. Again, the artwork is the most important part. If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t have sat down for hours at a time and let someone send a needle into my skin thousands of times a minute. 

“I would get a tattoo, but I just worry that I’ll regret it.”

The third and final argument I came up with was: maybe they’ll age weird. To be perfectly honest, I’m still a tad worried about this one. 

I know, I have 4 tattoos! I plan on getting about a dozen more (sorry mom and dad!) and I’m worried about how they’ll age. But, I’ve talked to tattoo artists about this, and done some research. The needle and tattoo technology now is leagues ahead of the tattoo guns from the 1940s and even the 1980s. The needles are smaller, and the machines move quicker, giving you very clean, crisp lines. 

There’s always going to be some blurriness over time. That’s expected with anything, as you age it ages. Almost like going grey. Even if my tattoos end up all wrinkled and saggy, and you can’t entirely tell what they once were, I’ll be fine with it. I have pictures of what they looked like in their youth. And they’ll be a great reminder of how bad ass I was as a youth. These are, after all, the best years of my life. 

(Because who actually enjoyed high school? Life doesn’t start until you can get day drunk at the Getty and write for two hours.)

“I would get a tattoo, but I just worry that I’ll regret it.”

The short answer to all these questions and concerns is this: if you have the confidence, passion, and connection to whatever you’re getting tattooed then none of these questions will ever cross your mind. I thought of them because people frequently ask, or say something like that to me when discussing tattoos. But never once have I regretted getting any of my tattoos.

It’s always someone who doesn’t have any, and it’s always someone who probably never will. But that’s their decision, and I’m delighted with the decisions I’ve made about my body.

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