Gettin' Ink Done

Prettty Fly by Offspring has a really great section about clueless guys getting tattoos:

Now he's getting a tattoo, yeah
He's gettin' ink done
He asked for a "13" but they drew a "31"
Friends say he's trying too hard
And he's not quite hip
But in his own mind
He's the, he's the dopest trip

I particularly liked the mini sadist thrill of hearing about a guy wanting a 13 to be all cool and goth-like and instead, getting a 31. You didn't know if he was too young or too clueless, but it spoke about his own fail at being cool and at the typical stereotype of tattoo artists fail--imagine the horror of realizing your art has been transposed a la dyslexia this way!

And this pretty much sums up how I used to (and still do) think about young guys getting ink done. I always felt ink, or tattoos, were for older folks, especially war veterans (30s and above). A little pain of a needle bearing ink was nothing compared to the emotional hardship of putting up with the devastation of a war.

I also knew that full sleeve tattoos and more extensive works sometimes encompassing the entire body, were for folks who needed to belong to socially tough groups, who needed to turn off outsiders and who wanted to express their individuality in a rather forceful or obvious way. Either that or masochists hehe.

The X-Files episode featuring Scully's (Jillian Anderson) own poisonous tattoo and wild joy ride with new, pshycologically-off boyfriend in tow, helped reinforce what I thought was a stereotypical and incorrect view of tattoos. However, I began realizing that there were now some awesome tattoo designs possible, and not just the mother, rose, anchor, skull and crossbones, or grave images one might assume predominate.

But it reinforced the negative outlook on tattoos, tattoo artists, and people who get tattoos. Now tattoos are psychogenic and even guilty of mind control! Really?

It wasn't soon after that I started seeing advertisements for tattoo parlor and artists reality shows popping up. And I saw a different side--the personal side. Still a tough side, but another perspective. A peek into the artists' and customers' lives. The richness of creativity, the hard work and patience, the amazing personalities, the amazing sense of style. There were some gorgeous designs that were in complete contrast with the ugly, green-black somber stuff of old times of yore.

My grandfather had a tattoo. His said mother, had a rose, and I think I remember a grave. I'm not sure whether he had a portion done before shipping off with the military--when his other mates were also getting their tats done in honor of shipping off--and later had the grave added.

My grandfather used to tell me that tattoos were not for everyone and not a good idea altogether. As he used to say that, I was prodding him to play tattoo parlor with me. So he used to look at his tattoo wistfully--which always perplexed me. He used to play tattoo parlor with me anyway, because he always was happy to spend time with his wacky grandaughter. He would use a rounded biro (pen) top and make great, accompanying sound effects, to act like he was tattooing me on the outside of the arm. I loved it and used to get goose pimples! It used to be one of my favorite pretend things to do with "daddy"--as we all (my grandmama, my mom, and my dad) called him.

So now I'm researching tattoos. The science of, the practice of, the people who do it, the people who design them, etc. I've always wondered what design I'd like if I should ever get one--and I'm glad to say I've sort of finalized my ideal tattoo.

I began playing around with removable tattoos since the early or mid 1990s. I used to get Tiny Toon and Loony Tunes ones at the beginning, then expanded to flowers with thorns and tribal bracelet styles.

I admired Pam Anderson's wire armlet tattoo--if showing a little confusionat the juxtaposition of her public persona and her decision to express something via a wire design--but mostly, I wondered why she wanted to focus on pain...after all, having wire wrap around your arm is a painful concept. That's when I realized she probably was a lot more complicated and interesting than she seemed.

The more I wondered about tattoos over the years, the more sense tattoo artists and customers made to me. However, I still didn't feel this was something for me. But I began to appreciate how tattoos helped people match their outsides to their insides a little bit more--for those among us who always see a disconnect between inside and outside.

Tattoos speak of something inside that needs to come out--fear, need for control, appreciation for a style or image, obsession, need to belong, need to stick out, etc. It's a side of the personality and aspirations that needs expressing. Of course, no one is a stationary being, so capturing a sense of your deep thoughts and/or self in something as permanent as a tattoo is a tricky thing, because you're trying to catch a moving target! Buyers regret kicks in, followed by expensive and painful laser tattoo removal treatments.

Well, now I've been finalizing my own idea of what a cool tattoo for me would be. I first thought I should be inspired by Alice from Resident Evil, so a biohazard logo would be cool. But it's a bit antisocial isn't it? Then the gradient would have to be between a blood-curdling red and a bright red to make it pop.

I've finally settled on partly sunny image that I developed, put together, and then personalized using MS Office clipart. I used to like the motto: try for sunshine inside and out, but life is a little more complex than that Polyanna outlook. I like the multiple connotations of a partly sunny image...is it partly sunny or partly cloudy? Is the glass half full or half empty? It's up to the eye of the beholder and what informs his or her outlook, isn't it?

So, in addition to tweaking my (un)happy little partly sunny/cloudy design, I've also begun researching different tattoo parlors, the FDA website (and here), and Illinois Department of Health website. As well as checking out as many resources about the process, what to look for in the tattoo parlor hygiene standards, and the aftercare. There's an amazing wealth of resources and information out there, and it pays off to research this even if just for general knowledge. I seem to like the best seeing examples of non-traditional art, but not in sleeve or full-body designs because I find those a bit confusing with so much going on.

One thing's for sure. People like talking about tattoos, be it for or against the practice. Talking about tattoos brings out all sorts of cool conversation time from your friends, family, and coworkers. It's a surefire way to open up a conversation about a meaningful chapter in someone's life, or just get their amazing perspective on the topic. Try it sometime!

Do you have a tattoo or have wondered about getting one?