Dear People Getting Tattoos

Dear People Getting Tattoos,

In my early adolescence, I remember being in the Kmart electronics department, and they had a movie playing on all the TVs simultaneously. During the thirty seconds while my dad was buying batteries, a mother and her adolescent daughter in the movie had a very intimate moment together. I always feel awkward when I walk in on moments like that, but I remember one line that the mother said to the daughter.

"Having sex for the first time is like crossing a bridge... and you can never cross back over."

It's been well over a decade now, and sometimes I still wonder what the hell that mother was talking about. Unless you die mid-thrust... or get stuck, I think you're going to cross back over. I typically come trotting back over the bridge about thirty seconds after I've crossed, wearing an expression that could be described as "ashamed... but satisfied."

Rather than discarding this confusing piece of parental advice, I've decided to reassign it; utilizing its fine metaphor for finality to admonish people like yourselves- people who are about to exercise the latter of their newly won rights to smoke cigarettes, vote, enter into legal contracts, and get tattoos. For those of you who are older; if you already have shitty tattoos then you might as well keep running with it. No one likes a quitter.

Seeing as tattoos are becoming ever more mainstream, I figured it was time to set out some guidelines to help youngsters through the decision making process. There are a lot of mistakes that people make, and these mistakes are painfully permanent.

Tasmanian Devil, colloquially known as "Taz". Using various dating techniques, Sociologists have been able to date this particular specimen to c. 1993 A.D.

A classic early to mid 2000's piece. I'm not sure what Asiatic language this is, but I'm betting the person it's on doesn't either.

Leo Zulueta- what hast thou wrought?

The barbed-wire armband is a classic. And I mean that in the worst possible way. While it has seen many re-inventions, the simple double strands of the individual at right suggest mid to late nineties.

There were many reactions to 9/11. Some people gave blood or reconnected with neighbors. Others realized that they had been handed a golden opportunity to get garish, border-line jingoist tattoos.

I imagine it's hard enough being ugly in a society that obsesses over physical beauty... the last thing you want to do is draw a sharp contrast.

You will find a common thread running through all these tragic displays of poor judgement- they were all popular tattoos to get at one time. That's why rule #1 is "Popular Taste Will Nearly Always Lead You Astray". If it's the cool thing to get, avoid it like the plague. Not only can you be 99% sure it will make you look like an ass clown a few short years down the line, but your poor taste will also mock you for the rest of your life because you've unwittingly dated yourself with a cliche'. "Taz tattoo, huh? I'm guessing late eighties. What an idiot."

While popular tattoos and regular shitty tattoos often converge, they are two distinct genres. 

People do love Google... which makes it all the more surprising that this design never quite caught on.

A joke may be funny the first few times you hear it. But after twenty years that same joke, repeated daily, may lead the listener to wander into the kitchen, locate a pairing knife, and with trembling hands, repeatedly stab his own eardrums until the blessed silence finally comes.

I'm sure this pizza tattoo will give Randy's friends a few good laughs... the first couple times they see it.

As far as positive advice- I suggest aesthetically-pleasing images based on (perhaps metaphorically) things about you that won't change- lineage, family members other than your spouse, ethnicity, important events in your life, etc. Purely aesthetic designs aren't a bad option, if "meaning" isn't necessarily your thing. Ideological core concepts like religion are a little dicier, but still better choices than... well almost any corporate logo (I'm looking at you, Chevy, Ford and Harley Davidson).

And after you get a tattoo, please don't go out of your way to show it off. It comes off as desperate and trashy. If you got a tattoo in the center of your back, you should have gotten it with the knowledge that the only time it's going to be seen is when you are naked, or possibly at the beach/pool. Don't not wear a bra and then cut slits into the back of your t-shirt so I can see that you have a tattoo on your back while I'm trying to pick up batteries and a twenty-volt fuse at Radio Shack.

"Getting a tattoo for the first time, is like crossing a bridge... and you can never cross back over... without hours of expensive, painful, laser removal."

Sebastian Braff


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