Sunday Queries: Tattoo You

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145 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    There is a commandant in Leviticus that prohibited mutilating the flesh.

    Well, with one fairly well-known exception.Report

  2. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    I will say that tattoos are common among my coworkers. I would say well over half have them, especially among the younger and low-class set.

    It has gotten to the point where I have to be defensive about NOT having tattoos. Furthermore, I have to be careful with my words, lest I offend any of my inked brethren.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I heard that the number of 20 and 30 somethings with tattoos is only 30 percent. Sometimes it feels much higher though. SF probably has a overwhelming number of tattooed younger people though.

      I also get defensive sometimes. People have told me that my reasons for not getting a tattoo are so thoughtful that they think I would get a really amazing and thoughtful tattoo instead of a cliche. Then they get upset because they realize I won’t get a tattoo.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I once got thrashed online for writing that I don’t find tattoos particularly attractive.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        Generally speaking, I think tattoos detract from a woman’s natural attractiveness.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @leeesq — Who were you talking to and how did you say it? Many tattooed women are very proud of their work, and they find it very meaningful. Also, as feminists they will be quick to point out they are not doing this for you.

        Which then plays into the general narrative of male entitlement. When I dress sexy, by and large it is not for men, certainly not for some rando on the subway. (If you are wondering, it is for me first, how I feel about my own body. Second it is for other women, who I rather like more than men.)

        Anyway, depending on the tone, the forum, the context, a woman could hear you say that and connect you to all the entitled, shitty men she has to deal with day to day.

        Anyway, take it in stride.

        (If you want further reading, Google “tattoos and feminism.”)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        It was online and the topic was about what we considered attractive or not. I offhandedly wrote that I don’t find tattoos that attractive. Nothing more or less and got pounced by people with tattoos who couldn’t quite understand why somebody might find them not sexy.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        And no, I don’t have to take it in stride. I’m allowed to have opinions on what I find attractive and unattractive and express them just like anybody else. If women want to gush over what they find sexy or criticize what they find unsexy than I should be afforded the same right.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I think @veronica-d is saying fuck those fuckers. They are anonymous people on the internet that don’t know you and will never meet you. You shouldn’t let such people beat you down.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Well, right. If they were being unfair just get on with your life.

        But I am trying to show the broader context. For example, if your comments came shortly after this article appeared

        [warning: hate site]

        well, you might have got caught up in that discourse. Which is not your fault and the-spearhead is a shitty place for shitty people. But it is the distilled essence of much misogyny, and if you want to talk to women, particularly well informed feminist women, you should make some effort to be aware of our issues, what is bothering us at the present.

        Anyway, myself, I think it is wise to couch your language when discussing things like this, where there is an ongoing conversation. Like, say, “Personally I don’t care for tattoos, but I respect a person’s freedom to choose their own expression. Their tattoos are for them, not me.”

        Adding that little bit goes a long way.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        @leeesq And no, I don’t have to take it in stride. I’m allowed to have opinions on what I find attractive and unattractive and express them just like anybody else.

        You don’t have to take it in stride, but you should. Not because you don’t have a right to your opinion, but because you don’t need anyone else’s permission. If a bunch of self-righteous feminists want to man-shame you for having standards of attractiveness, screw ’em.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Though it is an interesting point and tattoos could be one of the many ways hipsters appropriate white working class culture along with PBR and Trucker Hats.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        ach…no this has nothing to do with hipsters whatever that word might mean. Tat’s are just plain fashionable. Lots of military peeps have them, plenty of conservative types and liberal types. It is not attached to any specific part of the culture other then young people.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        My other theory is a Thomas Frank variant of tattoos as representing the one last way to rebel against corporations and/or upper-middle class buorgeois notions of respectability. If there is one thing that sometimes united the left and the far right, it is a desire to sneer against upper-middle bourgeois definitions of respectability. Massive body modification is still one of the few things that will bar you from office work in many locations probably. You can find attorneys with tattoos but never neck tattoos and I have yet to see an attorney or any other white collar professional with severe piercings like massive ear gauges even in tech. Tech is actually fairly squeaky clean and preppy looking in SF now. Tech 2.0 people tend to be people without tattoos or piercings.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I think there is a dab of rebelliousness or taboo about ink. However people like them because it is very safe rebellion. It’s like wearing Harley clothing; all fashionable naughtiness. The fashion is the key part. Being naughty has long had cachet in fashion and style.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @saul-degraw Completely off the point but i’m reading ( well listening to the audiobook) that you would dig. The Hare with Amber Eyes

        It’s about art, a particular kind of Japanese art, art appreciation, the history of one wealthy jewish family form the 1800’s until after ww2 and more. Very good book.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Re: Dad of rebelliousness.

        I think that depends on the tattoo. If you are talking about something that could easily be hidden by clothing than yes.

        If you are talking about a neck tattoo that can only be hid by a turtleneck or facial tattoos that could only be covered by a ski mask than no. That is beyond playfullness and conveying as glyph said in a Linky Friday or somehwere else recently that you are telling the world “I just don’t give a fuck about your viewpoints or any desire for a white-collar job.”Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @saul-degraw But very few people get neck tatoos. Most are far more discreet; ankles, back of the neck, top of the feet, back, etc.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I see a damn lot of neck tattoos in San Francisco.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @saul-degraw biased sample.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Unfortunately, the Pew survey falls short of good information on the change of tattoo conspicuousness over time.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Someone should make a cell phone/ google glass app to scan for visible ink.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I think they might be more becoming more visible/obvious as public attire becomes more casual. It is easier to spot tattoos when it is acceptable to wear a t-shirt and shorts in public.

        I once read on Andrew Sullivan that the British upper-classes used to have tattoos that they loved showing off to each other. Allegedly Winston Churchill’s mom had several. My off-hand research tells me that other than that, tattoos were the providence of the working class and roughs. Also with strong overtures towards sailor, merchant marines, and bikers like this guy:

        I do think tattoos are supposed to represent a toughness and rebelliousness against middle class life because as I noted before, we seem to get uneasy with the idea of too much comfort. Middle class life seems to be breed rebellion via anti-consumerism and wanting to be a rough-it bohemian in a Greenwich Village which no longer exists (if it ever did exist). I also think this is partially why roller derby survival seems to be a thing which was a working class sport from the 1970s complete with weirdly punny tough names and a pseudo-rockabilly/working class look. Pola dot mini dresses with bandanas instead and Harleys of capri pants and subrarus.

        I think there is a thesis/PhD project in exploring why middle-class life which allegedly promised the most comfort to the most people possible also produced a huge rebellion and gets seen as mindless and soulless conformism.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Never mind. Such a book already exists:

  3. Avatar Michelle says:

    I’m a Jewish woman in my mid-fifties and I certainly don’t get the whole tattoo craze. While I can appreciate a small well-placed tattoo, I always wonder what those 20 and 30 something with major work are going to look like once they hit my age. Will they have second thoughts? Or is this just a sub-culture I don’t understand and likely never will.

    I do know folks my age (not Jewish) who have small, easily hidden tattoos but they’re relatively uncommon in my demographic.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      To be fair, I had a Jewish Studies professor in college who was on the Board of Trustees for an Orthodox Burial Society. He said that they buried people who had tattoos in their cemetery and I suspect he was not just talking about Holocaust survivors. There were always Jews who got tattoos probably. I know plenty of Jewish people with tattoos and their reasoning is that they are atheist cultural Jews.

      I am with you on this probably being a subculture I will never understand especially when people get tattoos and piercings that can not be covered up easily or at all especially massive ear gauges. Why would you want to stretch your ears like that?

      I suspect I might have just absorbed too much bouregoisness from my suburb and concepts of respectability and being able to do office work.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I’m wondering about this to. All these things seem like really good ideas* when your young but what happens when you get older. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gone into dermatology or plastic surgery instead of law in hopes that there would be great drive to eliminate tattoos once my generation gets a bit older. Maybe not though. Maybe we are on the cusp of a great change and soon it will be acceptable to be a doctor and have radical piercings and tattoos.

      *Except I can’t think of why anybody would want to ruin the flesh.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m rather ambivalent on tattoos. I see some pieces that I think look awesome and some that I think look looney. They’re rather like any other aesthetic thing that way. However, as you note, the permanence makes them different. Sometimes I see a guy with a well-done sleeve tattoo and I think, “That looks awesome. I want that!” But odds are by the end of the week I’d wish I had my other arm done instead or I’d want the dragon instead of the panther or I’d be ready to wash it off… only you can’t do that. There is nothing I feel particularly passionate about to get tattooed on my body FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I’ve dabbled with the idea of doing something with my son’s name or initials (something much more minor and discrete than a sleeve) but still haven’t landed on something that makes me say, “YES!” Which I feel is the bare minimum when we’re talking about something that will be on me FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

      But I have no general issue with tattoos. I might think particular tattoos are stupid. Or that someone might have gotten a particular tattoo for a stupid reason. But otherwise, I very much take a live-and-let-live attitude.

      Plus, Zazzy has one she got in a minor fit of rebellion at 18 (as rebellious as anything involving a blue unicorn can be, I suppose), so even if I did hate them, I’d have to pretend otherwise.Report

  4. Avatar veronica d says:

    You can reclaim something that was put onto your culture. So to me a jew reclaiming the tattoo makes sense.

    Of course, whether that is in good taste and how other jews will feel about that — ain’t my place to say. My guess as a non-jew is that it seems a bit sketchy.

    Tattoos — I don’t have any, but I’m just past the generation where they became ubiquitous. My wife on the other hand has a few quite prominent ones. She likes them, so I accept them. They look cool enough. I have a few friends who are pretty heavily tattooed from tip to tail. Done well they can be nice, and at least two of the girls I am thinking of are really quite mega. So yay them.

    My own body modifications (planned and actual) are quite a bit beyond tattoos.

    (So when the tattoo-piercing types ever get all haughty around me I can just bring up the ins-and-outs of the neo-vagina.)Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I strongly dissent on being the concept of reclaiming something that was put upon you but I suspect I am in the minority here.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Well, the more well-known reclamation (nigger/nigga) was something put upon black folk.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Perhaps your issue is with the word “reclaiming”, which semantically does not seem the best descriptor. But the idea of taking something once used to harm you and using it to empower yourself doesn’t seem on its face to be inherently illogical.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I don’t know. The nazis clearly wanted to break their victims psychologically besides killing them and the tattoos and other identifying marks were a purpose of that. Jews in European history were long required to wear identifying marks. You don’t see anyone making a fashion statemen/reclaiming statement by going around wearing a yellow star on their clothing like or a pointy hat on their head like many Jews were required to do for centuries of European history by the force of law.

        I did cover Heeb magazine in your post.

        I am still startled when Judaism/Jewishness is considered exotic. I was watching a video of an, er….. adult nature* the other day and one of the very non-Jewish looking actresses** was wearing a Chai necklace. Chai is Jewish for 18 and life. Many Jews wear them along with or instead of Stars of David.

        It was intriguing and a bit startling to me that this would be something of a purposeful choice for exoticism for arousal purposes. I guess I should not be surprised by this though. Considering that sexual desire and othering is probably something that almost everyone is guilty of in one way or another.

        *Oh how hard it is to talk about porn when trying to be serious sometimes.

        **Jews can generally tell other tribes people from a mile away.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Are you sure the Chai necklace was part of the porn and not just something the woman wore regularly? And it is still possible the woman is Jewish. I’d bet dollars to donuts you’d consider Zazzy to be “very non-Jewish looking” — what with her red hair and freckles — yet she was bat mitzvahed and all that. She actually presents an interesting case in that she is the product of an interfaith marriage and at this point identifies as an atheist, but she could just as easily have retained her Jewish faith and heritage and rocked a chai.

        I understand your point about reclaiming. Beyond their history, tattoos are cool and trendy in a way that yellow stars and hats aren’t. I’m sure for every Jewish person who makes an intentional and thoughtful decision to get a tattoo in a legitimate effort to reclaim, there are a bunch more who get them because they’re cool and fall back on reclamation when pressed about their violation of Jewish law.

        Again, this is difficult for me to comment on because neither I nor my ancestors suffered dehumanization like Jews did during the Holocaust (and elsewhere) or blacks during slavery/Jim Crow/etc. Sure, Italians had a bit of a rough go of it when they first started coming to Americas and Poles were also victims of the Nazis, but I won’t even pretend any of that compares. But I can think of many ways in which people or individuals take something that was intended to be an insult and turned it around, owning the word and thereby disempowering their abuser. Obviously individuals and groups will need to ultimately make that determination for themselves, but it doesn’t strike me as inherently illogical is what I’m saying.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I had to look up “chai”, as the more familiar meaning was making no sense to me.

        Also, thanks to this: Jewish for 18 and life

        I have had this monstrosity stuck in my head all morning:

        And this: Oh how hard it is to talk about porn when trying to be serious sometimes.

        Does anyone else ever think to themselves, “Maybe, just maybe…it’s possible I know just a little TOO MUCH about porn?”

        Because I had that thought the other day.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        My friends and I host a porn summit every year. It started during a bachelor party when the conversation turned to favorite porn stars and 3 hours later we were still going. Whenever we find ourselves together (usually at a bachelor party), we catch each other up on our year in porn. If anyone knows too much about porn, it’s probably me.

        I have to stop myself when talking with Zazzy, who literally has no context for what is normal with regards to pornography or masturbation. Recently, we were talking about tattoos and there is a tattooed porn star who I am a big fan of and I almost referred to her by name. That would have been… curious.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        “Maybe, just maybe…it’s possible I know just a little TOO MUCH about porn?”

        You have no idea…Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Hmmm….can I suggest some Resolutions for the next P-8 Summit?

        There’s a particular performer with only a couple minor tats. One in particular is a hyper-minimalist geometric graphic (so to speak) that I find quite fetching. So much so that I wouldn’t mind having one myself, though in a different location.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I actually think the porn summit is very valuable. There is too much damn shame around all things sex. We masturbate. So what? We’re not hurting anyone*. It’s perfectly normal and healthy. We should be free to talk about it.

        Who is the performer you are thinking of?

        * I recognize that masturbation can become unhealthy and/or harmful, both to the masturbator and to those around him (especially the person he is in a relationship with), but I don’t think any of us fall into that category.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Polish Jews tend to be red-haired and freckled. This girl was a pert looking WASP or WASC but it is still possible. I know there are Jewsih porn stars but she did not look Jewish at all.

        There is a long history of fetishizing the other with sex and sexuality. To be fair, Jews do this because they are human and all humans can be prone to fantaizing about the other. I read an article a few years ago that interviewed sex workers in NYC and many black, Asian, and Latina sex workers said their lunch time customers with Ultra-Orhtodox Jewsish men who would then go home to their Jewish wives.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Kazzy and Chris,
        Just feel glad that you don’t have to watch it for your job…Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      @veronica-d, the reason why Jews aren’t supposed to get tattoos is because it says so in the Torah.

      “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:28.

      Self-mutilation is considered a sin in Judaism. Your supposed to take care of the body and leave it unmodified, with the exception of circumcision, because its seen as a gift from God. Tattooing is considered a form of self-mutilation. Heck, Jewish women of a certain generation would considered ear piercing self-mutilation.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I want the (clichéd) tattoo of the barcode on the back of my neck, right at the base of my skull.

    Sadly, I’ve yet to find a barcode that sings to me.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Well, you experienced a clear demographic shift. Is your hometown filled with tattooed bohemians? Or did you simply move to an area already inhabited by tattooed bohemians? I dare say you are comparing apples and oranges.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      What I think Saul meant was that tattoos used to rare among most people our age or younger but the percentage of people with them seemed to have exploded in recent years.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        So he’s comparing 30-year-olds in 2014 to 30-year-olds in 1994? And 2004? How many of those did he knew? I knew very few 30-year-olds before my friends and I started to hit that age.

        I accept that tattoos now are more popular than probably ever before. But the numbers suggest that Saul’s perception is rather off.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        There hasn’t been an explosion, but it does appear (from the Pew study cited above) that there has been an uptick. I would guess – though this is more speculative – they have become more conspicuous in the past. Though even then, according to Pew, most of them are hidden with clothing even among the tattooed. Which demonstrates that my perception, like Saul’s, are skewed. Most likely bringing us back to counting the positives and ignoring the negatives.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    If you don’t find tats attractive, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just live and let live.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Interestingly I think people have a very hard time with live and let live.

      I wrote this this above. People find my reasons for not getting tattoos to be thoughtful. They think this same thoughtfulness could translate into getting some very awesome tattoos. Hence my refusal to get tattoos means less awesome tattoos and this makes them feel sad.

      People always comment about how unfriendly NYC is and how everyone seems to be in their own zone on the subway. What people don’t realize is that this silence is a very strong but unofficial agreement between having a lot of different cultures that really disagree with each other in close proximity. Sometimes the cultural fights spill over. The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn is one of the birthplaces of NYC hipsterification and gentrification. For most of the neighborhood’s history, it was a very poor immigrant neighborhood and before hipsters and bourgeois-bohomeians moved in it was filled with Hispanic immigrants and Hassidic Jews. Now you hear about fights between Hispanics and bougie parents about what and how the public schools should teach. You see Haredi Jews freak out about immodestly dressed hipsters because they are used to Williamsburg being their own enclave. In Greenepoint, the church going Eastern Europeans dislike dealing with drunken Sunday hipster brunches.Report

      • People always comment about how unfriendly NYC is and how everyone seems to be in their own zone on the subway.

        I have my criticisms of the “NYC is the center of the universe” mindset, but the one time I visited (I stayed with a friend and her family), all the people I met were friendly and nice and welcoming. There are differences. In Denver, it’s not unusual, even for someone as shy as I, to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger at a bus stop. I doubt this happens as often in NYC (or Chicago), but I still find New Yorkers to be friendly, kind people.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Or another way to phrase it.

      Lee said above that he got yelled at for not finding tattoos attractive. In a live and let live world people would just listen, nod, and move on instead of jumping on him for expressing an opinion that they felt differently on. According to @veronica-d, he might have been inadvertently going against a subfaction in feminism.

      Now this could just be a problem of ideology as the enemy or the problem of making the personal the political. But it seems to me that people are prone to saying that the good life consists of X, Y, and Z and then going against anyone who has a vision of the good life which is different.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Other people aren’t doing the live and let live thing, so your response should be…what?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Live and Let DieReport

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Well, I think it is more than that given the nature of tattoos. Like, they are different from clothing styles or haircuts because they become a permanent part of the body. So when you say you find tattoos unattractive you are saying you find those people unattractive.

        No, really, you kinda are. And maybe you do not mean to do that, and maybe tattoos don’t register in your mind the same way that height or facial structure does (or whatever), but to the person who has tattoos it probably feels about the same.

        Maybe it feels worse, ’cause the shape of your nose is just the shape of your nose, but the tattoo is full-on body and soul. It was deliberate.

        So, okay, you get to have your opinion, and you get to state your opinion, but do they not get to have their opinion right back at you?

        “I think your skin is ugly.”

        “I think your attitude sucks.”

        Round and round it goes.


        So anyway, I don’t know what to do about this. Folks get to feel how they want about tattoos. But the onus is not 100% on tattoo folks to accept whatever your opinion is and however you state it, where you have zero onus to show them any regard or to take the time to understand what bugs them or to couch your words in a way that validates them as people.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Of course the reverse is also true. If someone says “Jim or Jane is so attractive and sexy because of their tattoos”, they are at least strongly implying that someone is unattractive for choosing not to have tattoos.

        They are also disrespecting a different cultural practice and history that goes against their own cultural practice and history. If someone can acknowledge that my reasons for not getting tattoos are thoughtful, this shouldn’t upset them even if it means one less tattooed person in the world.

        Tattoos are not a sign of ultimate freedom and creativity. Some are cool, others mundane. In my mind there is nothing cooler about spending thousand of dollars on tattoos over spending thousands of dollars on a painting, a Saville Row suit, bespoken shoes, or furniture.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The deliberateness kind of works both ways. That it is deliberate makes it a choice in the way that skin color (for example) isn’t, and different even from second-order “choices” like obesity. Which makes it more susceptible to criticism.

        In that sense, it’s like my extreme aversion to nail polish.

        But it’s permanent in a way that nail polish isn’t. So if I made a comment about nail polish to a potential female love interest, for example, she could choose to stop wearing it. That’s harder with tattoos, which in that sense, of course, does make it like other things.

        My own take is that, generally speaking, how one talks about it makes a great deal of difference. Like, treating the people with different tastes respectfully and not as though they have some sort of obligation to conform to your own tastes. A lot of people speak of such things with that sort of implication. Less “I do not like tattoos” and more “I hate it when people get tattoos” which conveys a greater degree of judgment. (It’s a distinction that I struggle with, but when I fail, it’s fair for people to call me out on it.)Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        So when you say you find tattoos unattractive you are saying you find those people unattractive.

        So you do. So what?

        Really, the live and let live thing still applies here. As you point out above, if you dress sexy, you’re not doing it for other people. So some people might not find what you’re wearing sexy.

        So they do. So what?

        I’m a part of the Adult Nerdfighters group on Facebook and it can get emo in there. I understand the thing about nerds is a lot of them have had problems with social adaption due to personality quirks and whatnot, but fundamentally a real live and let live attitude doesn’t stop at the first set of interactions between people. “Eh, I don’t care if you don’t find me attractive”.

        Being attractive or not attractive has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not you’re a good person.

        The flip side, of course, is that people who offer unsolicited observations* about what you look like, to anybody… those folks are usually engaging in some degree of assholishness. But whatever, live and let live. We’re all assholish every once in a while, it doesn’t mean we’re bad people.

        It’s the frequency that’s a problem.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @will-truman — Right. I agree totally.

        And to @saul-degraw , I don’t really encounter much of the too-cool-for-you attitude from the tattooed crowd, but I’m sure it exists. I mean, it’s kinda human nature.

        (Or course, I totally wouldn’t get that from them even if they tried, since, you know, I kinda beat them hands down on the social transgression ladder! I’d just give them a side-eye and say, “Whatevs, hipster boy.”)

        But, anyway, yeah, smug “oh look how much I am than you” types are pretty much the worst (she says haughtily).

        @patrick — On the “so what?” part of this, I’m pretty much where @will-truman is. Yeah, it can be a “so what?”, but how you say it, to whom you say it (in what context), what someone else said to them yesterday in a way that sounds like what you just said, on and on all of that — these things make a difference.

        My big point is this: the onus ain’t all on them and none on you.

        And “live and let live” works until it doesn’t. But maybe that’s not a good topic for this thread.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I also never said I found tattoos unattractive. I said why I would never get one and was just meandering about how they became a thing. There are times I do find an alt-rocker look deeply attractive because it is the opposite of my culture both Jewish and my seemingly engrained upper-middle class mores as Chris calls them. My views and complicated relationship with tattoos are not meant to apply to anyone but me.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @saul-degraw — Right. I guess it wasn’t you who said that, but others here have. Anyway, I’m not calling you out or anything. And I don’t have any tattoos, nor do I plan to get any. But there is a discourse around “Yuck, gross, tattoos,” especially when it intersects gender, that I was calling out.

        Which does not mean I was calling you out. See? 🙂

        Plus I was (above) pointing out that @leeesq might have been caught in a crossfire he was not aware of. Which, I think when that happens it is wise to learn about the contours of the fight and decide where you want to fit in.

        ’Cause sometimes the crossfire you find yourself in is part of a real fight that matters. It’s one of those “opportunities to learn stuff” things.

        Anyway, yeah, you’re fine without tattoos.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “So when you say you find tattoos unattractive you are saying you find those people unattractive.
        No, really, you kinda are.”

        Really? That’s news to me.

        I have known a lot of people* in my life who I’ve thought were beautiful/gorgeous/totally hot who had tattoos that I found unattractive, or even downright ugly. Just like sometimes someone has a hairstyle I find unattractive, or a shirt that I think has a godawful floral print, and yet can still find those people stunning — even on just a physical level.

        * Hey, I live in PDX.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        My big point is this: the onus ain’t all on them and none on you.

        Generally speaking, if I offer you unsolicited observations about stuff that I really don’t have any business caring about, your proper response can very well be that I ought to go get stuffed. In most cases, actually, the world might be a better place if everyone felt empowered to tell people that they’re opinion is not particularly solicited nor wanted, as bluntly as possible.

        On the other hand, if someone posts a picture of themselves with the caption, “How do I look in this dress” and someone responds honestly with “I think that dress doesn’t flatter you”, that’s a trifle blunt for my taste… but if you don’t want to know someone’s honest opinion, don’t ask for it, instead post the picture with, “Tell me I’m pretty!” (someone who responds to the second with a “no” is a jerk).

        I really don’t have too much patience with social encoding of triply-buried meanings and the tacitly tacit request for external validation masked as a question for feedback. We’re supposed to grow out of that sort of emo shit in high school.

        And “live and let live” works until it doesn’t. But maybe that’s not a good topic for this thread.

        It usually stops working when people want it to, which is kinda the antithesis of the idea, iff’n you ask me.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @tod-kelly — Well, this is not black and white. Nor is this about your private psychological state. It is about the discourse. I’m trying to help people understand why a comment such as “I find tattoos unattractive,” while not the worst thing you might say, is still going to land poorly among those with tattoos. And saying, “Just my opinion, yo!” does not end the conversation.

        Heh, which reminds me of a funny story. I was at the sleazy drag club the other night, and there was this middle-aged, very loud, very pushy gay man. (If you’ve been in the gay scene at all, you’ve met this guy. He’s a type.) Anyway, I was hanging out and being my normal enormous and awkward veronica self, silly and fun, and he took it on himself to teach me “grace” and “elegance.”

        Ha! As if!

        Anyway, there he was and I was just being goofy and dancing around and shit. Then he said, “You really should get a better wig.”


        So, yeah. I’m like, “This ain’t a wig, sweetie.”

        Then I stopped holding back and started hot-dancing in front of him, and I think he forgot my relative lack of elegance. He asked me not to stop.

        I laughed at him and went to a different club. Fucker.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        [tw: rape, incest]

        @patrick — Do you apply “live and let live” to things like creepshots or upskirts? How ’bout doxing? Revenge porn? Rape jokes? I mean, do you have a limit? And what you call “emo” might be describing someone with real PTSD or other mental disability. Some of us had a hard time “growing out of it” because while we were supposed to do that our dad kept raping us. (Not me. But I know people and I keep their issues in mind.)

        Too blunt? This is real life.

        The 4chan style of discourse is really pretty awful. There are better ways.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Do you apply “live and let live” to things like creepshots or upskirts?


        How ’bout doxing?


        Revenge porn?


        All of those things are specifically attempts to use someone’s reaction for your own psychic feeding, or using someone as an object when you yourself would object to a similar treatment.

        It’s pretty much the opposite of living and let living, it’s fucking with people to get your own jazz on. That’s messed up.

        Rape jokes?

        This one’s tougher. I’ve played Cards Against Humanity, I’ve made rape jokes. If you’re playing Cards Against Humanity with folks who have issues with rape, you’ve both made a bad decision. Probably making rape jokes without knowing your audience is a terrible idea.

        And what you call “emo” might be describing someone with real PTSD or other mental disability.

        That’s certainly a possibility, sure, which is why I don’t generally respond to those sorts of posts with “you’re being emo”, because I don’t know enough about the person in question to say whether they have an issue or if they’re just looking for a pity party. But – in my experience, anyway – the frequency of the pity party request is more common than people with specific issues. I have a lot of sympathy for people with problems, I don’t have a ton for people who are making their own problems up as they go (empathy, still have, but not so much sympathy). It can be hard to tell which is which at first glance, which is why you need to be careful about how you get involved and respond.

        That doesn’t mean that I’m prejudging any particular incidence of it, to be sure. It just means that – as a method of interacting with social media – my criticism, if it were appropriate for me to offer one – would be that they’re trying to solve the wrong problem, or trying to solve problems in the wrong order.

        Some of us had a hard time “growing out of it” because while we were supposed to do that our dad kept raping us. (Not me. But I know people and I keep their issues in mind.)

        Sure. Constructively, though, that’s the thing to work on, right?

        Say my wife and I are having sexual compatibility issues. They’re real and important and they’re having side effects on my general life and things kinda suck and we’re not working it out well between us (this is a hypothetical!)

        It might be useful for me to get ideas or work it out by talking to someone who isn’t my wife for a “not me, not her” perspective, absolutely.

        Posting about it on Facebook is maybe not the most constructive way to do that.

        Posting about all sorts of other things on Facebook to feed into my own insecurities about this actual real issue is probably less than constructive… if my self-image is damaged by this, seeking some external validation about something else entirely is an entirely human coping mechanism, but it sure as hell isn’t going to help me get over the issues or problems I’m actively facing.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @patrick — Well, fine. But those examples are the sorts of things I mean when I talk about “live and let live” hitting its limits. So I guess we kinda agree.

        On rape jokes, I suggest you follow some of the links I posted in the recent rape threads. These jokes serve multiple functions, and the predators use this kind of humor as a tool.

        If a man makes jokes about fucking drunk women, and you laugh along, keep in mind there is a non-trivial chance he does exactly what he is talking about and you just told him it is cool.

        There is almost certainly a rapist in your wider social circle, some dude you chat with from time to time, and probably at least once you laughed at a joke about something he has actually done.

        I mean, maybe. There is a decent chance.

        On a public Internet forum with a dudely-dude culture. Yes. Definitely. Among all of you reading this, yep. You all know someone. You just don’t know who he is.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Well, when I said, “Probably making rape jokes without knowing your audience is a terrible idea”, I would say that some random dudebro making a rape joke around me would raise all sorts of gigantic red flags. Rape jokes on the Internet are kinda the poster child for not knowing your audience.

        If a man makes jokes about fucking drunk women, and you laugh along

        Not since I was fourteen. I don’t really expect fourteen-year-olds to grok that. On the flip side, I don’t expect twenty-year-old guys to find it particularly funny to make that joke, so that would raise some red flags as well.

        There is almost certainly a rapist in your wider social circle, some dude you chat with from time to time, and probably at least once you laughed at a joke about something he has actually done.

        I think I’ve culled out most of these sorts of folks in the last twenty years. It’s probable, still, that I have a rapist in my wider social circle, yeah. But I’ve almost definitely gotten rid of the ones that would also make a joke about something that they’d actually done where I’m going to hear it.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        oh, come on. you’re posting on a forum with a bunch of computer professionals. Betcha at least one knows who the rapist is — they may even watch.
        [Note: of course, rape is not okay. Do I look like I post guides on how to rape people around here? Do I advert for folks who make money off of publishing that sort of shit?]Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @patrick — Well, good 🙂

        I don’t think we really disagree about much of substance. Maybe we can find something else to argue about. Let’s see… What is your favorite TV show? Anyone who doesn’t say “Veronica Mars” is a terrible person!

        The sticks hit the ice! The gloves come off!Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Oh, and speaking of Cards Against Humanity, once I was playing with my wife and her cis friends, so of course I got the “Passible Transvestite” card.

        I mean, I played it — I wanted to win!Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Once I was playing with my wife and her cis friends, so of course I got the “Passible Transvestite” card.

        I always seem to get the “A micropig wearing a tiny raincoat and booties” card.

        I am a Pig (born in the Year of, that is). Maybe I should try and find the outfit.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        last time we played that, everyone saved their worst/best cards to play to the hostess — she’s an elementary school principle, so basically everyone wanted to hear her read them aloud.

        What was particularly funny is she was often stumped as to what the more..obscure…cards meant, wherein she would turn to my wife (a teacher) who could promptly sum up the most obscene card in less than three words and had no compunctions about doing so.

        Admittedly, the 8 or so people in the room constituted 95% of EVERYONE I would play that card game with.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Welcome to my life, tattoo
    We’ve a long time together, me and you
    I expect I’ll regret you
    But the skin graft man won’t get you
    You’ll be there when I die

  9. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Saul, I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the craze for Chinese/Japanese character tattoos. How in the world anyone could permanently mark their body with a language that neither they nor the tattooist know is an enduring and hilarious mystery to me. I mean, we English speakers snicker at comical English on Asian T-shirts and product packaging, but I’ve never seen a Japanese person strutting around with the word “URINE” tattooed at the base of his neck.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I swear I saw an article on FB a few months ago about an Asian woman with a random English word tattoo. Probably from a source like gawker but I can’t google for it now.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      “no, no, I’m told that the word symbolizes both water and recycling”Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      I have not to my knowledge seen a Chinese/Japanese tattoo on a non-Chinese/Japanese person that did not look completely ridiculous for one reason or another. Even if it is somehow not written incorrectly, the characters are often copied from a typeset font that makes it look like they were tattooed with a $75 Epson printer.

      That said, I met a Thai woman recently with an ornate and fascinating tattoo that looked smashing on her. It didn’t hurt that she was a knockout, I’m sure. On the other hand, I can’t read Thai, so for all I know it read “Hangon to You’re Dreamz!!”Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t disagree. A Kanji tattoo is usually a way of some trying to show they are “deep” and having it backfire.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        Saul – If its OK for you to make that assumption, is it OK for me to assume anyone wearing one of these [insert link to ridiculous $500 shirt that Saul likes] is trying to show they are “fashionable” and having it backfire.

        To be clear, I think the answer is no, because its not ok for you to make that assumption.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        @switters, I’ve met too many perfectly nice people with unintentionally hilarious Hanzi/Kanji tattoos to automatically assume anything bad about them. It’s always surprised me how people take it in stride when they learn that their “I walk alone” Japanese tattoo turns out to mean “bottle rabbit insurance,” but I can’t help but wonder how anyone decides to ink a foreign language that they don’t understand onto their own body.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        I hear ya Krogerfoot. And usually I’d be right there with ya laughing along. Especially considering that what was for years my favorite t-shirt likely suffered from the affliction you described. At least I could take that off.

        I’m really just busting Saul’s chops. He seems to be ultra sensitive to being judged, whether as a jew, a theatre guy, a connoisseur of fine arts, a coastal elite, a fashionista, an urbanist, hell, here he is feeling judged for being un-tattooed, yet also one of the only writers around hear who consistently sets off my alarm bells for sneering condescension. So I just figured i’d point it out.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @krogerfoot bottle rabbit insurance

        Somewhere, a lightbulb goes on over the Fading Captain’s head.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        You’ve clearly been paying attention this semester and I think you’re going to do very well on the final.Report

  10. As with Saul, the appeal of tattoos is a mystery to me, and unlike the Jewish tradition, my cultural tradition doesn’t have any strong injunctions against them. I do try the live and let live thing, although I confess sometimes I do find myself judging people with very obvious, difficult-to-hide tattoos. But then, I just remind myself that they’re not hurting anybody and I should just chill.

    As to whether tattoos are more ubiquitous now than before? I don’t know. I’m 40, and a sizeable number of people who have talked about the issue with me have told me they have tattoos (I don’t know the numbers, and it’s all anecdote anyway). For what it’s worth, one of my bosses is probably in her 50s, and she has some modest, but still difficult to hide tattoos.

    I’ve never really felt defensive for not having one. Those who do have them haven’t really tried at all to sell me on them. I think they just take me at my word that tattoos are just not my thing.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      I think the judging thing is human. If I see someone with a face tattoo, it is hard for me not to think, “That dude’s crazy.” And while I suppose it would be better to not think that than to think that, I can only get so worked up about having that response. However, what I try not to do is then treat that person like he’s crazy. I think if I can manage to treat him the same as anyone else regardless of the presence or absence of a face tattoo, then all is well.Report

  11. Avatar J. Otto Pohl says:

    I remember lots of people in their 20s and 30s with tattoos when I lived in mid-town Sacramento. In fact I often thought I was the only guy between 25 and 40 with no tattoos. Judging from my alumni FB group most people I went to college with have tattoos and they are all in their early 40s now. In other countries it is different although lots of English people have tattoos. I don’t see too many tattoos among students at the University of Ghana. Most of the tattoos I have seen in Bishkek look like old Soviet camp or military tattoos and seem limited to the Russian minority. Sometime in the early 1990s tattoos became mainstream in the US. In the 1970s when I was a kid only former prisoners, active members of criminal gangs, and some ex-military (non-officers) had tattoos. Also like those with tattoos in Bishkek almost all of these people were white.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    A few years ago (4, maybe 5), during a summer visit to my parents’ Stepford planned community on the edge of the city that has replaced my hometown, I took my son to the community pool where there were maybe 150 people, all white, mostly under the age of 40. After swimming for a while, I was sitting on a beach chair next to a table, reading a book, when I noticed that the girl on the other side of the table, maybe 10-12 years old, was just staring at me. When she saw that I’d noticed her staring, she asked me, “Did they hurt?” At first I didn’t know what she meant, but after a few seconds I realized she was staring at my tattoos. Then I looked around and noticed that only one other guy at the pool had any tattoos at all, and his was a military. It was a surreal moment, because the place was so white, and so tattoo-less, while where I lived in Austin at the time was decidedly neither. Hell, if I went to the community pool in my old Austin neighborhood (where I lived at the time), I would likely be the only white person, and even the 14-year old kids would have tattoos.

    It sounds like your upper middle class cohort is finally joining the rest of the urban world. If only the tattoos and work shirts changed other things about the way they think and act.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I first became aware of tattoo mainstreaming in the early 90’s. It was a serious thing by Lollapalooza 1 amongst that same crowd; probably carried along the same mixing subcultural currents as Jane’s themselves, a band that brought metalheads (long tattoo friendly, via biker connections) and hippies (all about the significant tribal markings, man) and goths (Body mods! Taboo! Transgress!) all together.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That was about the same time that I became aware of tattoos on anyone who wasn’t a sailor or an ex-con. It’s also about the time that I got my first.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I have a theory that hipsterdom is in many ways indistinct a continuation of grunge/Lollapalooza/Gen X from the early 90s. I am not the only person to argue this. Kurt Anderson wrote an article about this for Vanity Fair a few years ago about how their were fewer cultural changes between 1992 and 2012 in terms of fashion and music as compared to 1972 to 1992 or any other 20 year time period.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        hipsterdom is in many ways indistinct a continuation of grunge/Lollapalooza/Gen X from the early 90s

        Oh, you’d get no argument from me on that. Like I said, that’s when several musical/fashion/lifestyle subcultures kind of entered the U.S. mainstream consciousness. Which is why when I mock hipsters, I do so from a place of love.

        Then, the internet came along and froze us into a long pop-cultural “now”.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      the place was so white, and so tattoo-less

      Sounds like heavenReport

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That would probably explain why I felt so uncomfortable there. I’m not really the heaven type. It’s boring there, and the people are extremely limited and judgmental.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        the people are extremely limited and judgmental

        Sort of like people who use the word “Stepford”.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Dude, if you saw this place, you’d know how accurate that word is.

        Also, if you went to one of the restaurants and listened to the conversations. Or read the community message board, which is disturbing in its combination of pettiness (so and so has a shrub that is .06 inches taller than the allowed height, off with her head!) and radical banality.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I always saw you more as a Ragnorak type.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      So I am partially right in the cultural appropriation answer unlike what greginak said.

      I am not keen on the idea of 14 year olds getting tattoos.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The first time I saw kids who were in middle school with my son sporting tattoos, I admit it freaked me out.

        And yeah, I think part of it is cultural appropriation: rebelling against upper middle class white mores by adopting working class/minority/counter culture signifiers. It’s a cheap way of expressing a dissatisfaction with a way of life without actually rejecting that way of life in any meaningful way. Though of course, like all such signifiers, it eventually just becomes fashion and fetish: what was once a symbol of the rejection of a culture becomes an easily recognizable symbol of that culture. Which is probably where it is by the time there are more people in your cohort with tattoos than withoutReport

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Apart from aesthetic tastes, I’ve always assumed that it was a really bad idea to get a tattoo when you’re still growing. Like, it wouldn’t necessarily grow with you in entirely proportional ways. Is this wrong?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        From what I’ve seen tattoos don’t react well to aging skin either and it doesn’t stop people. Growth shouldn’t be much different.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        A not insignificant portion of your cohort is probably less upper-middle-class in their roots than they are in their current trappings.

        Part of the reason for my tattoo is that I remember my grandfather’s tattoo fondly; and he got it when he was in the Navy, which he joined at 16 straight out of the village where he grew up without a whole lot of money.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I am pretty sure that if I got a tattoo when I was 14, I’d regret the hell out of it now.

        Alf fighting Darth Vader under a giant Van Halen symbol or something.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Alf fighting Darth Vader under a giant Van Halen symbol or something.

        Dude, when did you see my tattoos?!Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      Yes, this. While there are many reasons for my tattoo, and this is not the primary one, I was definitely getting tired of people guessing which side of an “us / them” divide I was on, and guessing wrong. (I’d rather fewer divides, but given that people do that, I’d rather my signals put me on the right side.)

      I try to show it in airports, especially if I’ll be traveling a long time. I end up having fewer conversations with people I find scary and more conversations with people I find interesting.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        To be really clear – I don’t use tattoos as a criterion myself, for talking to people. But then, as I said, I would rather there were fewer divides.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @maribou — Out of sheer curiosity (and do not feel obligated to answer), what sort of us/them divide are you talking about?Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’d also venture to guess there is a feedback loop between the ubiquitousness of tattoos (especially visible tattoos) and society’s acceptance of them. It used to be that you most jobs wouldn’t hire you with visible tattoos. As such, there were probably many people who wanted tattoos but didn’t get them for fear of social stigmatization. But somewhere somehow that started to change and snowballed from there. Nowadays, I can think of at least three teachers I work with (all white, all female… though all the teachers save for one are white in my school… sigh…) with tattoos that are routinely visible plus another guy whose tattoos is visible on the rare occasions he can wear shorts. No one bats an eye. This would have been unthinkable not long ago.

    All in all, I consider this a good thing. If people want to get tattoos, good for them. If people don’t, good for them. Folks should be free to explore this form of self-expression however they see fit.Report

  14. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Once upon a time, I toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo. Then I got into my motorcycle wreck.

    I have enough permanent marks on my body now, thank you.

    (Although when my scars are not hidden by clothing, they do tend to be effective conversation starters. Not that I disrobe to break the ice or anything)Report

  15. Avatar Johanna says:

    In the Bay Area tats have been popular for over two decades. While I was attending the San Francisco Art Institute it was already rare if you didn’t have some sort of tattoo or piercing as was the case with the folks I worked with at Tower Records. Even my co-worker a Jewish man in his 50’s had a tattoo. Shortly after, I realized that far more people in all walks of life were sporting tattoos as well. Lots of people have them in areas that are regularly covered so knowing who does or doesn’t have a tattoo is a guessing game unless they tell you. I think it just took time for you to notice the prevalence and popularity of them until now. Although I have a tattoo, I have never thought anyone odd for not having or wanting one. I think of it as a personal choice and nothing more. Also, it is pain to cover up tattoos in theatre so maybe your crowd was less apt to get them and thus it was less popular?Report

  16. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    When I was growing up, having a tattoo was a serious and permanent opt-out of society. Unless you were a returning veteran, tattoos marked you as a biker or a jailbird. I had friends whose parents fell into one or both of those camps, so I saw a lot of jailhouse-style tattoos on people I knew as Virgil’s mom and Dwayne’s Uncle Tim.

    I can’t really have this conversation in real life, because you never know who’s going to have a big hidden tattoo and get their feelings hurt, but this is what I don’t get about tattoos: They are almost always terrible, but why? Even my artist friends, with serious chops and an impeccable eye for beauty—they get tattoos that look like they came out of Gary Gygax’s Monster Manual. I’m 45 and have been around tattooed people all my life, from back when only circus carnies had them, to now, when every sorority girl has one. I’ve seen so few that really seemed worth having, much less showing off.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      a tattoo was a serious and permanent opt-out of society.

      Some still are (face or neck particularly, regardless of content; other locations depend on visibility and content), for certain values of “society”.

      I’ve in the past speculated that in some cases this may reduce existential ennui (resulting from choice overload/”road not taken” anxiety) in the bearer.

      Whereas I’ll go to my grave thinking “Hmmm…maybe I shoulda been a lawyer/doctor/etc.”, people that go the full-face tattoo route don’t have to wonder.

      They intentionally closed off certain life paths forever, and don’t have to wonder “what if” about all those pruned hypothetical branches.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Thats an interesting explanation and it might be partly right but its not entirely convicing. Four or so years ago, I was waiting for my barber to open on a hot summer morning on the weekend. While people watching, an amazingly conventionally attractive woman passed by with the exception that she had a tattoo of a feather that wrapped around her neck. She was dressed in fashionable and elegant clothing rather than the type of clothing that one would associate with people who drop out of society. Her hair was also coiffed rather traditionally. I’m still wondering what her story is.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Neck tattoos are still more common outside of the middle and upper middle class, here, but the neck tattoo class disparity has been shrinking rapidly. I see neck tattoos, and behind-the-ear tattoos, pretty much everywhere now.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are many people that find fantasy illustrations more aesthetically pleasing than more traditional fine art. You might find them not that great but they might find them beautiful.

      If I had to guess a reason why many tattoos go into the Monster Manual territory rather than something more artistic, its because of the nature of the canvas and the precision involved. Its probably much easier to do something fairly uncreative than an innovative, art noveau design on flesh.Report

  17. Avatar Damon says:

    I thought about getting a tatoo, but never found one that really was meaningfull to me. And I dispise the who “non conformist conformist” tone of things like that that end up getting mainstreamed and popular. While I do find small, tastefull tats on a gal interesting and sometimes attractive, sleeves, large tats, etc. I find a turn off. And the barbed wire and “tramp stamps” just get my eyes rolling.

    My overall response is this to tats on guys: “Did you get this done via needle in a strip mall and not the traditional method using bamboo needles and a hand hammered application?” Yawn. Not impressed.Report

  18. Avatar ktward says:

    I am wondering … why do you care so much about a fashion trend amongst our 20/30-somethings? I mean, enough to write a lengthy, judgmental post about it?

    Tattooing has at least a millennium of cultural and artistic history behind it: themes of tribal identity and personal expression. I’m not at all clear why you’re so invested in whatever our youngsters are doing today, in terms of tats. Seriously, your post sort of sounds a lot like the old man down the street ranting about boys needing to pull their pants up. Is that what you intended?

    If it matters, I myself have no tats because I’m not a fan of tats for moi–the pain thing and the permanence thing–but that doesn’t keep me from appreciating tattooing as a high art form.

    Btw, given the ubiquity of tattoos today, it’s hard for me to imagine they’re a real barrier to employment, including white collar jobs. I’d need to see some recent supporting data to buy into the notion that a visible tat or two hinders an applicant’s chances- at least outside the Bibliest parts of the Bible belt where they still measure a girl’s skirt length and a dude’s … I dunno. What do they measure on dudes?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Because I am an unrepentant Freudian who thinks everything has a subtext and unconscious and the philosophy and changes in aesthetic across generations, cultures, regions, geography, whatever, is especially interesting to me.

      Plus I think you are reading a bit much into my feelings on tattoos. See above response to Veronica.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      @ktward — “What do they measure on dudes?”

      I think they still use ego.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I think it depends on various factors like industry and region. As recently as 2006 I know someone who was fired for having a tattoo. In 2012 I was at a high school assembly where the speaker – who ran a bunch of Quiznos – talked about turning away a nice young lady for employment because of the tattoo that she had. (That was actually an interesting to me story in itself, that I considered writing about.)Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      @ktward, can a person appreciate something as a high art form, yet not be judgmental about it? I get that Saul is being judgmental without the appreciative part, but if a form of self-expression is worth appreciating as art, is it possible to not also have aesthetic preferences about it?

      To be clear, the idea of treating someone unkindly because they have a tattoo is hideous—bar, square dance, job interview, whatever—and I’m not saying that to advertise my diploma in Advanced Tolerance Studies. I grew up around adults with jailhouse and biker tattoos, so they were just part of the landscape. Once a person has a tattoo, barring expensive removal procedures, it’s there forever, so little good can come from critiquing the art. But still, it’s possible to think, in your heart of hearts, that a tattoo can look cool, beautiful, or ridiculous on a given person, isn’t it?Report

  19. I am tattooed. I don’t think there’s any great answer for its sudden surge in popularity, although widespread exposure, a relaxation of anti-tattooing laws, and the increasing beauty of what’s available probably contribute to various degrees. And it is also a relatively safe mechanism of outward expression/modification/control.

    As for the idea of them insulting the memory of those that have passed under horrifying circumstances: it seems a shame to damn the entirety of a thing with a long cultural history.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @sam-wilkinson @ktward

      Tattooing is part of many cultures. I am not arguing that it should disappear from the cultures where it exists because of the Holocaust. I am merely saying that it was not, is not, and never has been part of Jewish history and culture.* The Nazis knew this and added tattooing as one of the many insults to Jews during the Holocaust.

      This is not saying that people from a Polynesian culture should abandon tattoos. Or any other culture that had tattooing. Jewish culture also has thousands of years of history. I am making a very specific and personal and cultural argument. I might say thought that I am making a specific argument about what I think the Jewish relationship to tattoos should be which should be cognizant and thinking at least.

      *Of course there are Jews who get tattoos and there always are and always were. Very culture and society has its dissenters and rebels but that does not make dissenters and rebels correct. Whether someone from a tattooing culture who does not want tattoos or vice-versa.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @saul-degraw — “Of course there are Jews who get tattoos and there always are and always were.”

        Right. Taboos don’t exist because no one ever does the thing. They exist because some people do the thing.Report

  20. Avatar zic says:

    I just have a hard time getting worked up about tattoo’s as a problem.

    I know too many people who’ve gotten tattoos (and piercings) as a way of reclaiming their bodies from bad self-images; they can be very therapeutic that way. As to aging, people get old. They get wrinkles and flab and gray hairs growing out of places we don’t think hair should grow. As they get old, they gain scars and markings and stretch marks. These are not flaws, they do not mar, they are the badges of life lived.

    So I’d higher the dude with tattoos who was kind over the dude without who had a bad ‘tude any day. Because we put way to much emphasis on looks; this results in a tremendous number of people feeling horrid about themselves, the contagion of hideous cosmetic surgery going round, and ageism.

    Just not a big deal to me; because it’s the content of your character. . .Report

  21. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    As the proud owner of multiple tattoos (with plans for more) I will say that tattooing seems to be more popular than ever if the number of shops in my city are any indication. When I was getting mine in the mid-90s there were two shops in the whole city. Now there must be at least 20. I would say they are definitely more popular but what I have also noticed is how much less people seem to care about placement.

    I see a lot more neck tattoos, lower arm tattoos, etc these days. Around here it’s very popular with the lower-class, female, white crowd to get someone’s name tattooed in cursive across the top of their forearm. As soon as I see those it’s a huge signal about that person. In similar ways the old butterfly on the ankle thing used to mean the same thing.

    When I got all of mine the intent was to be able to cover them all with a shirt and long pants. My company is extremely conservative and managers cannot have any visible tattoos. A lot of companies are like that which is why I tried to be smart about placement. I would love, love, love to have a sleeve but that won’t happen until I make the best seller list and cash that $1 million royalty check or I retire from my day job. In the meantime there is still plenty of real estate I can ink up if I want to.

    I don’t regret any of my tattoos but I will say that tribal stuff was really popular 20 years ago. I maybe wouldn’t get the same ones now. Anything newer I am getting is definitely more personal and more unique (I hope).Report