The first time I watched someone get a tattoo in person I was drunk, the “artist” was a guy nicknamed “Rebel” who had just gotten out of county jail and the tattoo-ee was a friend of mine. Rebel worked a converted Bic pen into my buddy’s right arm, but the pen didn’t have any ink so all the very un-hygienic needle could do was raise a scar amidst a show of blood that could have made a Civil War surgeon gag.
     As a matter of fact, that’s the only time I’ve ever actually witnessed anyone get a tattoo in person. I’ve seen loads of people get them on television though. Shows such as “Miami Ink” glorify tattoos to the extreme, and it’s interesting to see what kinds of people agree to let a stranger permanently disfigure their skin.
     You can walk through any mall in America, or every mall in America, and find at least one person with at least one tattoo. These days, it’s not even considered rebellious to get one.
     In 1936 “Life” magazine estimated that about 10 million Americans, or six percent of the population, had tattoos. By the early part of this decade, that number had jumped. In 2006 the Pew Research Center estimated that 40 percent of adults between the ages of 26 and 40 have some form of permanent ink in their skin. An American Academy of Dermatology study in 2006 estimated that 24 percent of adults between 18 and 50 have tattoos. That’s one quarter of the population.
     Tattoos have been around for hundreds of years. Traditionally the province of sailors (Herman Melville specifically references a belief in the 1840s among sailors that a tattoo of a cross on all four limbs would prevent a shark attack, in his book “White Jacket”), and natives the world over, tattoos have somehow morphed into an acceptable form of personal expression. Which is baffling.
      For the life of me I can’t figure out why people need to punch a generic “tribal” pattern into their arm to feel like they’re making a statement. Make a statement with your actions, or your beliefs. Do you really need to make a statement anyway? When did being understated become so lame?
     The only statement you could possibly make with a tattoo is that you’re not that smart. And the only better decision than that is to get the tattoo in a place on your body that’s not easily concealable, like you’re face. And then wonder why nobody takes you seriously.
     Now that’s making a statement we can all understand.

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