In the past there was one reason, and one reason only, to ink up: A tattoo confirmed your status as a scary outsider rebel carny outlaw sociopath. “Don’t mess with me because I am insane,” was the intended message. And it worked. Remember Robert Mitchum in Night of The Hunter? When he cuts Shelley Winters’ throat we are hardly surprised: We knew trouble was on the horizon as soon as we saw the words LOVE and HATE inked across his knuckles. Tattoos meant mayhem.
Cut to today: Having a tattoo has lost its original meaning. Having a tattoo now has no meaning. Having a tattoo means that you have a tattoo.While there is no longer any compelling reason to get a tattoo, there are several reasons not to:
Tempus fugit. Sitting around for hours while some dude enlivens your back with lotus blossoms, ghouls, and moonbeams is a colossal waste of time. You could be learning to tap dance or play the accordion.
Money fugit, too. Most tat artists charge about $150 per hour. A full sleeve can take 40 hours. Bingo! $6,000, plus another $6,000 for laser removal when you hit late middle age and it’s gone all crepey and is no longer recognizable as a dragon but looks more like a squashed squirrel. You went from being the girl with the dragon tattoo to the old hag with the squashed-squirrel tattoo, and it only cost you $12K and hours of agony.
Wilkommen, bienvenue Hep C. There seems to be no limit to the horrid medical conditions which are associated with tats. Aside from all the usual blood-born suspects, new research suggests that certain inks do horrid things to your lymph nodes.
Pain. Even the hardened psychopathic death row inmates on Lock-Up—because I am not wasting time in tat parlors, I am able to watch endless episodes of this incredible MSNBC docu-series about life in America’s prisons—admit that it hurts. Among the tattoo-related highlights on this must-see show: two blokes who tattoo the whites of each other’s eyes and, even more shockingly, some dude who proudly flaunts the word FRESNO across his throat in gothic script.