A few days ago, I was watching the first game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the Pacers lost by a single point. Nevertheless, I was struck by one player’s appearance. His arms, shoulders, hands, neck, and all the way up to his ears were covered with tattoos. His head was shaved except for a sort of spiked Mohawk. Doing a little checking, I found out that the player is Chris Andersen. His nickname is “Birdman.” He’s 6’10” tall and weighs 228 pounds and attended a school called Blinn Junior College someplace in Texas. He has been playing in the NBA for 10 years, although he was suspended for a couple of years for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. The website Wikipedia reports that, “Andersen is known for brightly colored tattoos on his arms, chest, neck, back, hands and legs.” I wonder what he’ll do when he retires from the NBA? I’m sure he could get a job with a carnival or in a circus side show.
What’s the point of describing the tattooed body of a 6’10” backup player for an NBA team? Well, it’s to illustrate the growing popularity of tattoos among younger and younger people and to discuss body art as a fashion trend. Just a few days ago, I saw a couple of local teenage girls with multiple tattoos on their arms and backs. The problem, of course, is that fashions change; and what’s popular and fashionable today may well be out of style tomorrow.
So what, you ask?
How many women today would wear a hoop-skirt with a bustle? Or how many men would wear a top hat and spats? The point is fashions and styles change. What’s cool today is likely to be outdated rather quickly. A tattoo, however, is pretty much with you forever. It is possible to have a tattoo removed, but it’s an expensive and painful process.
On the other hand, people have every right to decorate their own bodies anyway they see fit. My point is simply to suggest that it might be a good idea to think twice about getting a permanent decoration because, again, what may be stylish today will probably be out of style not too far in the future. But, unlike a pair of bell-bottom jeans or a tie-dyed T-shirt that can be thrown in the back of the closet, a tattoo, assuming it’s visible, isn’t going away when the popularity of body art goes away.
As I have gotten older, I’ve found that I really don’t care what people do with regard to things like body art or piercings; if you want a metal thing sticking through your nose, hey, go for it.
Another NBA player comes to mind when I think of body piercing: Dennis Rodman. He has so much stuff hanging from his body that I’ll bet he really has trouble going through airport metal detectors! But there’s still a difference between ear piercing, for instance, and a tattoo on one’s ear. You can always remove the ring in your ear, but if there’s a tattoo on your ear it’s probably not going anyplace, ever. For most people, that tattoo is there permanently, so think about whether you’re going to want that snazzy body art visible for all the world to see 30 or 40 years from now when the tattoo has faded and become fuzzy and it’s hard to tell what it was supposed to be because skin tends to sag a little over time.
Does all this mean people shouldn’t get tattoos? No, of course not. People are free to do exactly as they please with regard to body art and piercings.
I believe there are three types of tattoos.
First are the types that are intended to be seen only by the owner or a very close loved one. Second are the types that are specifically intended to be seen by others. The third type is the one that neither the owner nor anyone else can ordinarily see, such as a tattoo on one’s back. The first type usually is on parts of the body covered by clothing. The second type usually is on an arm or leg, which can be seen most of the time. Sometimes they’re even on the neck, but not all the way around the neck like Mr. Andersen’s continuous display of an uninterrupted mural of body art.
The best example I can think of to illustrate the difference in the permanence of personal self-expression is making the decision to grow a mustache versus the decision to get a tattoo. There was a period in our history when beards and mustaches for men were all the rage. When one looks at some of the early photographs taken around the time of the Civil War, nearly every male had either a beard or a mustache because that was the style at the time.
A century later, long hair was the rage when The Beatles took the music world by storm (the irony was that as appalled as the flat-top crowd was, The Beatles had relatively short hair compared to later shoulder-length styles). I can remember when I was no longer part of the armed forces I let my hair grow sort of long, not because I necessarily wanted long hair, but because I finally had the right, after six years, to grow it as long as I wanted! But, when I started going for job interviews I cut it to an acceptable length. I also had a mustache once, until Connie couldn’t stand it any longer.
What I’m getting at is I could shave the mustache. I could get a haircut. If I’d had a tattoo on my neck or the back of my hand, or in some other visible spot, there would have been nothing I could do about it except perhaps put makeup over it.
So, for those of you who are thinking about getting a tattoo, go right ahead, but think about it twice and imagine how you might feel about it 20 or 30 years from now (‘cause it will still be there!).
That’s -30- for this week.