Tattoos and Body Piercing

[Caveat: All of my observations, or essays, however dubbed, are simply reflections on lessons that life has taught me, which I here pass along to my loved ones and to any others who choose to read them. I make no claim to prescience, wisdom.  They're simply thoughts based on many observations.]

Few things, about the last generation or two, have stunned me more than the growing fad of tattoos and body piercings among the young.

The body has been called “a temple”, our personal temple to life. Each of us only has one, and it is difficult, under the best of circumstances to keep strong and to delay, to the extent possible, the ravages of age, sagging, wrinkled and discolored skin.  No matter how hard we try, through diet, exercise and good doctors, the scars of time leave indelible and unattractive marks. As such, I have often wondered why anyone would willingly deface their only temple, their body, with permanent ink and holes? To those of us (the 99% of the population) who have no tattoos, each tattoo speaks volumes about its wearer, unfortunately all negatively. Tattoos infer “a damaged person”, physically and mentally.   A masochist, someone in desperate need of attention, who, who else would permanently deface his/her body?

When I was young, the only people who had tattoos were convicts, military personnel and circus performers. The only ones with such marks whom I knew personally were from the military, who explained their tattoo as the result of drunken weekend to their eternal regret. As they aged, every one of them tried to have their tattoo removed, and each and every time, it left scars that looked much like burns, shiny, wrinkled, pinkish or otherwise discolored, and, in all cases, ugly, but at least the ludicrous tattoo (a girl’s name, a phrase, an insignia, etc.) was small and was removed. All of them preferred the ugly burned vestiges to the well-inked tattoo.  Today's tattoos are much larger, huge designs, long philosophical sayings, "art" of myriad forms, mostly undecipherable and uniformly ghastly blemishes, all of which these misguided souls will wear to their graves, ultimately ruing the idiocy of youth that permitted such emasculations of their once beautiful flesh.  Tragedies, all.

So, with the current fad, what can the youth be thinking? I can only assume that they are not thinking at all, at least not about the consequences of permanently scarring their bodies. If what is past is prologue, those with brains will grow sick and tired of seeing the same tattoo or piercing, day after day after week after month after year after decade, until the day arrives when they scream with disgust at the ghastly vestige, and then they’ll welcome the twisted scar it takes to rid them of the sickening, deformed, sagging, wrinkled, distended and discolored mess that no longer conveys a message or image that is discernable to anyone. No one would like to wear the same garment every day for the rest of their lives, and virtually none will want to see the same graphic, words or holes, every day of their lives. History indicates that, among thinking people, virtually all of the victims of this fad will eventually chose removal of the tattoos, if they can afford it and can stand the pain, but, as with the smokers of my generation, the damage will have been done. Ugly remnants will always be on display.

Even today, there are more tattoos and body piercings among convicts, particularly in American and Russian prisons, and among African tribes (who first administered tattoos to sailors), not to overlook street gangs and street walkers. Surprisingly, however, this fad has spread to professional athletes, primarily among the toughest street-types in the NFL and certain Hollywood types have joined the fad, as they have embraced odd cults of myriad types. This combination of athletes and “stars” seems to be making tattoos and body piercings “acceptable” among certain parts of America’s middle class, those who are given to following “prominent” others, regardless how aberrant and illogical the conduct. Sadly, these followers will grow to loathe these disfigurations of their only “temple”.

In sum, like it or not, the Thinking Majority (including a healthy percentage of prospective employers, would-be spouses, friends and the like) will not share any appreciation of these permanent degradations and will likely view those with tattoos and body piercings as one or more of the following:

* signs of the tough, hard, cheap and ignorant * the work of those having no respect for their own bodies * evidence of some level of self-loathing * indicative of a desperate need to be, or look like, someone else, * a willingness to be identified with society’s lowest elements, * a willingness to bear permanent ugly scars for temporary gratification, * a short term thinker, and * a significant deficiency of common sense, at some critical level.

Sadly, when the time comes for liposuction, face lifts, extensive weight loss, and other repairs that age dictates, and skin loses all elasticity, these tattoos and piercings will be the bane of the body. They will estop many forms of reparative surgery and they will accelerate and compound the aging process. It’s hard enough to age; it’s insane to exacerbate the process for a few months of pleasure, after which the monotony of the sameness of those affectations will surely become sickening.  It's understandable, sadly, among those with limited IQ's, but it is unforgivable in those not so disadvantaged.

These bodily abrasions bring to mind the quatrains of Scotland's favorite bard, Robert Burns (1759-1796):

Oh would some Power the giftie give us to see ourselves as others see us. It would from many a blunder free us.