pink ribbon

The Body Beautiful?

““She was clean”: no piercings, tattoos, or scarifications. All the kids were now. And who could blame them, Alex thought, after watching three generations of flaccid tattoos droop like moth-eaten upholstery over poorly stuffed biceps and saggy asses?”

— Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad

I (rather foolishly) got into a debate the other night on Facestalk with people far younger than myself on the merits or otherwise of getting a tattoo. Once I stopped shuddering at the heinous spelling and grammar and concentrated on what was being said it was incredibly interesting to see the range of views from very young Gen Ys. Beautiful, ugly, go for it, don't do it - I loved to see the debate, and I also loved that my opinion was taken into account (although the 17 year old boy who said 'you're REALLY old!' is a dead tadpole walking).

I was reminded of this yesterday with someone asking me my opinion of tatts - for a few reasons - and I started thinking about why I really, really have never wanted one, when I have succumbed to pretty much every other trend on the planet and I have the pain threshold of a non-complaining elephant.

I know that people get tattoos for sentimental reasons, not just because they think they look beautiful, and I comprehend this. My friend Lady L has a breast cancer Pink Ribbon tattooed on her foot and as a cancer survivor I don't do anything but applaud that. Others have names or symbols - Angelina Jolie with the latitude and longitude of each of her children's birth places. All this I understand. 

Yes, I see the beauty in them to some extent. David Beckham flexing his abs and running around without a shirt - well, yes. Until he opens his mouth, I will sit and drool like a mindless idiot with the best of them. (Sorry Becks, but the day you started spruiking about 'Pepsay' in that voice, you lost me at 'ullo').  

The beautiful Miss A has them, and they suit her. I know the reasons behind hers, and I can appreciate them. 

And yet. 

The preponderance of meathead footy players with neck to ankle ink and twits like Justin Beiber covering themselves with symbols they don't understand - perhaps this is part of my 'thanks but no thanks'. Mostly though I think it's their permanency and the way they look on ageing skin. Today's proud eagle is tomorrow's sagging chicken after all. And the thought of living with a static image for the next forty years... quoting directly from yesterday's convo 'do I want a picture of Calvin & Hobbes lurking around for the next forty years?' 

Well, no. 

Perhaps the biggest thing for me - and this is very personal I admit - is something that is almost indefinable, and may sound painfully 'here she goes', but it's not intended that way. Judaism strictly speaking forbids the tattooing of the body for non-medical reasons as (this is simplifying it immensely) it breaks the sacred seal of the human body and the covenant with God. Piercings are the same - and yes I see the inherent hypocrisy as I have been there and well and truly done that. But with tattooing - what tool did Hitler use as the ultimate humiliation? What did he and Goebbels know would hit hardest?

And there we are.  

On a very much lighter note, I secretly know what my ultimate objection is.  

I will pick out a wonderful Chinese character, and have it put somewhere strategic for a select individual. One day I will be having a massage, or at the doctor, or wherever, and will be under the scrutiny of a Chinese speaker.

They will snigger, and I will ask them what they are laughing at.  

'Why do you have the character for "arse" on your hip?' 

Several Chinese characters. Exclamation point.