Monday, March 31, 2014

COLUMN: Tattoo

My Monday had barely begun when a friend bounded up, shoved a smartphone in my face, and exclaimed, "Wanna see what I did this weekend? Check out the picture!"

Now, I've never pretended to bring my A-game to Monday mornings. After a weekend of late nights and moonlight DJ gigs, I usually survive Mondays on little more than a wing, a prayer, and dangerous levels of caffeine. For those first few hours of the work week, I am 33-1/3 in a 45 rpm world.

But I'm also nozy -- so if there's one thing capable of injecting a little adrenaline into a Monday, it's a good "guess what I did this weekend" story. And if that story comes with visual aids, you KNOW it's got to be good, right? I glanced down at her phone, wondering what sights might await me. Hedonism? Debauchery? Felonies?

Nope. It was flowers.

Tulips, in fact. Wait, maybe they were lilies. Heck, I dunno. They were flowers, and they were pretty. And they were clearly drawn by someone with an artistic hand. But they certainly didn't have the makings of a salacious Monday morning story. No one was cavorting naked on the flowers. No one was being pursued by law enforcement through the flowers. They were just... flowers. Pretty enough, sure, but nothing more than a nice drawing on a polite flesh-colored backdrop.

That's when it hit me. This wasn't a drawing. It was a tattoo, and the flowers I was looking at on my friend's smartphone were now permanently embossed on her person someplace. Whoa.

"Uhhh...," I mustered.

"You hate it, and I knew you would," she said way too cheerfully for a Monday. "But that's okay, 'cause I got it for me and I really like it!"

In a way, it was kind of unfair. I didn't have anything to say, but that owed more to my brain being in the "off" position more than my hatred of the tattoo. But she was also kinda right: I sorta hated it.

I like to consider myself fairly progressive when it comes to our modern world. I might not be the coolest guy on the block, but I'm no fuddy-duddy, either. I stay up late, use swear words with alarming frequency, and listen to music that would probably give you a migraine. I'm proud to have friends from many different walks of life, and I'm fairly accepting of just about everyone and their various eccentricities.

But I will never understand tattoos.

That's not to say I don't appreciate the artform. I know a lot of people with really great ink (these flowers among them.) I'm even friends with some tattoo artists, and I'm in constant awe of their talent and skill. I just don't get why anyone would ever want one.

I suppose I'm slightly biased in that I have a crippling fear of needles. When I had my last childhood immunization, I screamed so loud that it broke all the blood vessels in my face and I walked around purple for a week. I'd like to think I'm a TAD bit more mature now, but I recently made the decision to wear orthotics for the rest of my life vs. having surgery on my broken ankle. I don't think I'll ever find myself in a scenario where I would willingly elect to have a needle stuck in me as long as a non-needle option existed -- and getting poked a kajillion times in order to draw a pretty picture is the closest thing to insanity I can think of.

But even if tattoos were painless and needle-free, I'd still take a raincheck. You know when you go to a club or a concert and they stamp your hand? It drives me mental. How can I enjoy a concert when I know that INK IS ON MY HAND? Whenever possible, I beeline for the nearest bathroom and try to scrub that layer of skin clean off. If I were faced with a picture that NEVER scrubbed off, I'd never sleep again. Maybe I'm just weird.

For the life of me, I can't think of one thing that I'd want etched onto my body for, well, the life of me. That's just WAY too much pressure. If I were to get a tattoo today, hopefully I'd have years and years still to stare at that thing. I just don't trust my own taste when it comes to something that permanent. 25 years ago, I was way into Depeche Mode, rayon shirts, and bolo ties. Clearly THAT didn't work out. What if what I'm into NOW holds as much relevance as rayon shirts in the future? That's a risk I'm not willing to take.

Plus, the gods of fate tend to hate me as a rule. I can pretty much guarantee that the minute I scribed something forever onto my body, it'd backfire in a horrible way. Ever heard of the Welsh band Lostprophets? Search Google right now for "Lostprophets tattoo" and you'll find countless people who have their pics, lyrics, and logo permanently adorned on their bodies. Fine and dandy, until earlier this year, when the band's lead singer got 35 years in jail after pleading guilty to a long list of sickeningly depraved acts. Congrats, you've now got a confessed pedophile on your leg to keep you company for the rest of your life.

I'm not trying to bash tattoos, I'm really not. I'm just explaining why my body will always be a freshly shaken Etch-A-Sketch. If it's your thing, go for it. I won't say a thing, unless you get one of those face tattoos -- which, in accordance with the unspoken divine laws of stupidity, gives me the right to point and call you a weirdo. Some tattoos, though, are true works of art. But so's the Mona Lisa, and I'd just rather check her out in the Louvre than on my thigh.

Even I've got to admit that my friend's new tattoo is pretty great. But even BETTER is what I realized moments later: instead of showing me the tattoo on her body, she showed me a pic of it. That can mean only one thing: said tattoo must be lurking on an area that's generally closed to the public. And if there's a better way to greet a Monday morning than seeing some ALMOST-indecent exposure, I'm all ears.    

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