Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Mainstreaming of Tattoos

This is a dangerous topic for me to write about because I know and love far too many people with tattoos not to offend anyone close to me. But I'm going to write about it anyway.

There are a number of things that annoy me about the proliferation of tattoos. Not all tattoos, mind you. Some people make very clear and very significant statements with their tattoos. These are scary people.

Firstly, tattoos are ugly. Really, really fucking ugly. All of them. Even yours. You may beg to differ, but then this was once the point of tattooing, confrontational ugliness. That's why they were the sole preserve of the violent: the underbelly and the warrior. Maoris and Yakuza have at least had a few hundred years to develop their design ethic, you have a catalogue or at best a third attempt at improving your own scrawl. I don't even have a problem with making ugliness a personal stylistic affectation. In that regard, I actually enjoy the aesthetic variety that results from people shucking conventional taste. The problem is that the fact of their ugliness has failed to dawn on most of their wearers. No, you once-gorgeous leggy gazelle, your left buttock dolphin is not cute. It's a bumper sticker on a Jaguar. It's a graffito on a cathedral. It's fluorescent highlighter on an illuminated manuscript. Feel free to make that choice with your body, but don't expect me not to call it vandalism. No tattoo is as beautiful as the human body and the combination is not the sum of its parts: it's the average.

Secondly? Pretentiousness. You are not Chinese. You don't speak Chinese. Why is a Chinese ideogram that most likely means "fried noodle" more deep and meaningful than the same word (or at leat the word you intended) in your own language? Do you think that inscrutable foreign things are automatically magical? You are conflating being mystified with mystical, you stupid fucking idiot. You are ultimately deeply ordinary. You are a middle class westerner. You have an ordinary job, an ordinary house or apartment and an ordinary retirement plan. What does your tattoo say about you, exactly? That you're so cuh-razy you went out and... got a tattoo? Bravo, you and every other semi-suburban imaginary class warrior wearing long sleeves in summer so as not to rock the office boat. How deeply radical of you to wear the uniform of family-safe radicals everywhere.

Third: poor taste. I don't mind kitsch. Kitsch is a the comfortably trite and nostalgic, and we all need a bit of that from time to time. But your once-favourite ironic-retro cartoon character stretching and fading on your pimpled right deltoid is not comforting. It is the ticking clock of your spiritual and biological doom. Your self-designed tribute to your favourite hobby or animal may, in fact, be art - it's just really bad art. I partly blame the internet-aggravated society of unconditional self-esteem and unwarranted self importance for you surrounding yourself with a clique that only ever echoes your own sentiments and has you convinced that your opinions and tastes are both impeccable, as opposed to being the childish crosshatched line art adorning the back pages of schoolbooks everywhere. And the guy who works the gun, bless him, is Leonardo. That's why he works at a tattoo parlour.

Fourth. Willfully addled, dishonest justifications that do you no credit. You've always wanted a tattoo? Really? You're now what? Thirty? It's not a big coincidence that you're only now getting one and your tamely edgy social echo-box all got tagged over the last year or so.

It's a fad. It'll end. I'll be right and you'll be out the price of the laser therapy you need to remove your distorted pelvic butterfly. The one that appears to be a recently hatched bug flying out of your cunt.

7 comments:

Rob said...

"I partly blame the internet-aggravated society of unconditional self-esteem and unwarranted self importance for you surrounding yourself with a clique that only ever echoes your own sentiments and has you convinced that your opinions and tastes are both impeccable, as opposed to being the childish crosshatched line art adorning the back pages of schoolbooks everywhere."

Skillfully used language is a lost art and a pleasure to read. Thank you.

Ladyfingers said...

Thanks! That's quite a compliment!

Daniel said...

Thankfully, I ignored the fact that I had no idea what Merlin Mann was talking about, and finally clicked the link.

I'm too lazy at the moment to note anything useful, but if it matters, I'll be coming back for more. Excellent (superlatives are such a deflated class of expression, but that laziness is affecting my desire to try harder right now).

Anonymous said...

I think I'll be coming back for more, too


Lola

Anonymous said...

ahhhh, yours is the first "blog" I've ever bookmarked. Well done, please keep up the piss & vinegar, and as often as possible thanks, it is most entertaining. You will have a small audience now, I'll be sure to pass around this URL.

Anonymous said...

cry me a river..what shall i do...i have a disgusting tattoo on my sacred temple..everyone hates me...im so trashy...im just a fad...

no seriously...i do have a tat..the reason for it is another story...

trying to get your attention to www.sa2oz.org ..lots of hot stupid women that will be really impressed by your use of the queen's english...see you there...hopefully!!..mmmwa!

Writer X said...

Well said, Ladyfingers. And I couldn't agree with you more. There's one girl I know at the gym covered in them. Covered. You can't help but stare and then she gets offended when she catches you staring. Like it's all perfectly normal to be covered in paisley colors.