I'm feeling a little left out. Everyone seems to have a tattoo and I don't have any ink. I'm not going to run out and get a tattoo because its not that I really want one, but I didn't realize how mainstream they have become. They aren't just for bad-ass bikers and sailors anymore. But I'm confused because studies done recently show that tattoo removal is actually on the rise because of the social stigma associated with tattoos. Interestingly enough, the word "stigma" actually means "tattoo" in other languages. But despite these studies, everywhere I look there seems to be a tattoo in plain view. Is there really still a stigma attached to tattoos or has that changed? And if there is a stigma, what is it? Maybe its not such a negative thing any longer to be a "bad-ass".
I was at Sesame Place with my kids at the beginning of the summer when I first started to notice the heavy prevalence of ink in our society. It seemed that everyone over the age of 18 had a tattoo in the park except for me. While we were waiting in line I had some time to study the tattoos of the group in front of us. The women all had matching "anklets" of jumping dolphins and various other hearts and flowers on their backs and shoulders. The man in the group had a showcase across his upper body. Did these tattoos influence my perception of this group of people I didn't know? Maybe. If nothing else, the tattoos gave me some information that this group didn't have about me. By the time it was our turn to get our photo with Cookie Monster, I at the very least knew all of their kids' names, their taste in music, and that someone had died because this was all incorporated into the man's "sleeves".
Maybe tattoos are just so common today that there can't be a stigma attached any longer. Maybe they can really just be seen as self-expression or art? But the term "tramp stamp" still pops into my head when I see a lower back tattoo (I can't help it, I've heard it too many times). And so I was a little shocked this summer when I showed up for the first time to swim at our Country Club. There was a lot of ink floating around the pool, including lower back tattoos. I was by no means offended, but I guess I just wasn't expecting them in such a "blue-blooded" crowd. I don't have a good reason why, but it just seems out of place. One lady in particular comes to the pool regularly fully "blinged" out in gold and diamonds. But she also has an ankle tat and another on her hip. Did my perception of her change when I saw her tattoos? Sure, I think so. There was suddenly more to her story for me; she became a little more edgy than just a pretty mom with some nice jewelry.
My kids think temporary tattoos are cool. Every kid loves temporary tattoos and my kids are sporting a new Transformer or Star Wars tattoo every couple of days. But my kids are also eerily drawn to Ed Hardy designs too, without even knowing that they are based on actual tattoo art. If my kids were picking out my clothes, I would be wearing my skull and broken heart Christian Audigier t-shirt every day. There are lots of tattoo inspired graphic t-shirts in stores now and my kids never fail to find them and insist that I add them to my wardrobe. Target even has a line of Ed Hardy designs back to school supplies and this is what my children run to - not the toys in the next isle. No, my kids would rather look at a mouse-pad with a "Death to Love" inscription across a broken heart. Designers and marketers have definitely decided that tattoos are mainstream.
Will I support my own children if they decide they want to get a tattoo someday? I'm still not sure I'm in. But, I'm not sure I have much of a case against it. There are a few moms in our crowd that have small ankle tattoos and I can hardly say that has any bearing on their character. My sister-in-law, who is also "tat-less" and I were discussing tattoos as she was applying a Henna tattoo on my ankle last week; a "girls' evening" activity chosen by my preteen niece. She likes the idea of tattoos as a form of self-expression, but she made a good point: she changes her mind too often to ever be happy with a design she might chose. Tattoos might be a little too permanent for me as well. I think my husband is very thankful that I talked him out of a Tasmanian Devil tattoo in high school and a fraternity inspired Rampant Lion in college. Stigma or not, these images just don't fit in with his image today. I'm going to stick with my Henna and avoid any permanence. And for now, my kids will have to be content with changing up their temporary tattoos as well. Maybe by the time they are old enough, I will have built a better case against getting engraved.