A friend of mine recently got a tattoo and it got me thinking, “Ooh, I want one!” Truth be told, I’ve had a mild fascination with them and the people get them done for the last few years of my life. As a 25.667 year old, the age where the highest social pressure to get a ‘tat’ has already passed me. As my peers are increasingly getting married and settling into their respective fields of vocation, it is no longer the ‘thing’ to do; So why do I find myself becoming more and more interested in it?
Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to big purchases, relationships, or long term decisions I am very slow to choose. Like, your elementary aged child might be graduating when I’m ready-slow. Often (but definitely not always) I find that if you wait a bit, you realize you didn’t actually NEED that thing you so wanted, and if you wait things seem to work in your favor. Again, emphasis on the often. All that to say, if, and this is a decently sized if, but if I got a tattoo it would have to adhere to some strict criteria of mine. Here goes:
1. The design/shape/words/meaning/color must hold a significant meaning or value so that 5 let alone 20 years down the road it will be something I still love and appreciate.
2. The design has to fit MY physique. I would think this is a simple one but I’ve seen more than one tattoo that is either too big or too small for the area it was put on.
2a. This is more of a sidenote or preference, but I enjoy it when a piece looks almost as if it’s flowing out of or within a persons natural body lines.
Ok so it wasn’t all that strict but it was in my mind before I wrote it out.
What got me into it you ask? Having done quite a bit of research*, the art or tradition of tattooing one’s body with designs or images stems from many reasons. Some did it as an act of devotion to their god or deity. Some did it to punish. Others did/do it to show that they are part of a certain, often elite, group of people. Many of you I’m sure have heard of ‘Yakuza’. Dubbed by the Japanese Police “Group of Violence”暴力団 but calling themselves “Chivalrous Spirit Group”任侠団体, they are well known for their body-covering tattoos.
While I disagree with many of the things their groups are known for (sex trafficking, prostitution, racketeering, smuggling, etc), the skill and response to seeing a yakuza member’s tattoo is undeniable. I’ll never forget the first and only time to date I met some Yakuza. I lived in a very small rural town in Japan for about 13 months(think Last Samurai but more modern, slightly more) and I would often visit the nearby onsen, which is the Japanese word for natural hot springs or a bathhouse. If you are unfamiliar with how it works, you undress, arm yourself with a 6″ x 14″ towel, wash off with soap and shampoo and after rinsing step into the hot water. The first time will be daunting for any Westerner, but having become so accustomed to it, I’ll say that there are few thing more satisfying than a good onsen. I digress; On a no particular night I and two friends decided to pay a visit to the bathhouse, but were a bit alarmed to find the sauna room crammed full with 20 to 30 something aged men. That many young people was always a rarity in this town. We were respectfully ignored, which was normal, but when the group walked past to the outdoor pool we all were suddenly aware of the images covering the entire upper and lower backs of these guys. We later made some attempts to talk with them, some were successful, some not so much, but we felt that at least having our presence acknowledged was a battle won.
But lets get back to the point. Granted this is my blog, and I reserve the right to stammer, rant, and monologue as much as I wish, but you’re here reading my words and overuse of buts and commas, and that means something to me. Plus you reserve the right to ‘X’ out of this blog as quick as my gas tank seems to be emptying itself these days. For those of you who want more detail on the above event, answers are only a comment away 😉
Tattoos are fascinating, and seemingly very controversial. They are art, expression, polarizing, celebrated, and hated, and I’m sure in many cases misunderstood. In closing I’ll leave you with a few questions:
Do you like or dislike tattoos? Why?
Do you think a person is right or wrong to have them, or is it a non-moral issue for you?
Would you ever get one?
*research involved watching some really cool movies where people who had tattoos had any role whatsoever.