Three key facts….
I love tattoos.
I love hearing the stories and deep personal tales behind tattoos.
I have no tattoos.
I’m good with pain, I appreciate art and I’ve had plenty recommendations of reliable places to get “inked”. Whats held me back from facing the tattoo parlour and the eventual needle is my lack of well-researched and devoted meaning and attachment to any particular design or image. Of course, I’ve had the lectures from my tattooed friends which usually go along the lines of “you put too much thought into it” or “if you think like that you’ll never get one” and even “it’s just a tattoo”. Nowadays, it seems like almost everyone has a tattoo – whether it’s colourful sleeves or the classic butterfly on the butt-cheek. Those with tattoos are no longer dodgy strangers your mother warned you about, artists with dreadlocks or rebellious teenagers with rings in their nostrils but students, young people, businessmen and women, teachers, parents etc. As a lover of tattoos, I think their popularity and general wider acceptance is to be encouraged. But have tattoos become so commonplace that they’ve lost their need for meaning and personal value? Am I stupid to cling to the idea that if I am to be marked for the rest of my life then I want it to be something which I will always love and which will constantly hold value for me? I think not, yet then again, I’m the one who remains tattoo-less despite saying for years “one of these days…”.
It’s not that I haven’t had design ideas and a key piece of advice I keep hearing is “it should be personal to you, it doesn’t matter what other people think”. But it kinda does. I know personally that when someone tells me they have a tattoo – I wanna see it! I wanna talk about it! And I will form an opinion on it. Yes, if I were to have a tattoo then my own opinion on any image I choose to wear on my body would be the ultimate one, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want said image to have a universal level of attraction or cool. Vain as it may sound, I don’t want to be known as The Girl with the Crappy Tattoo. Let’s face it, for as many marvellous tattoo designs there are, they are just as many, if not more, terrible ones. I want people to admire my tattoo and understand to at least some small extent why I have it. For instance, I am a music lover and can come up with various lyrics which hold some level of meaning and importance to me. But the idea of having any of these lyrics in tattoo form fills me with scepticism. There’s little beauty in having a sentence merely stamped on my body and the tattoo would ultimately lack any relevance to anyone who didn’t know the song or who didn’t like the band. How about an analogy: Is it better to write a book or paint a picture which will have little personal significance to you but which will be enjoyed and admired by others? Or should personal connection overrule the opinions of others even if it means the book or picture will never be admired or attract any interest?
My ultimate question is this: How much thought should go into a tattoo? And in a time when tattoos are perhaps no longer considered special or edgy should we favour aesthetics and universal appeal over deep personal connection? I like to believe that there is some sort of middle ground where tattoos can be admired and understood by others yet can also hold personal meaning and purpose. Yet until I can find something which fits this bill, I’ll keep saying “One of these days…”