Tattoo You

Most people don’t search for answers, only solutions, especially when they’re young and impressionable. Tattoos are the solutions for those that can’t achieve differentiation through creative, internal methods, but if you’re one of those looking for the answers to some of life’s greater problems, you’re probably not going to find them in tattoos.

This may seem like a foolish notion, for how many reasonable people look to a tattoo to complete them? A portion of the answer involves the question, how many people are unable to finesse the gifts of intelligence they’ve been given to have an effect on people, and how many people, especially young and impressionable people, are unable to cultivate their personality in a manner that wows people? In an attempt to answer some of these questions, some believe that a simple, short-term fix involves changing their wrapping.

Tom Leppard, 'the Leopard Man of Skye'When people get their first tattoo, they usually show it off with an expectant half-smile. That half smile suggests that the reason they got that tattoo was either to impress those that surround them, or tick them off. The thing that these people either don’t know, or forget, is that most people don’t care about them one way or another.

Nobody cares what you do to your body, and nobody cares about the rebellion that drove you to get your first tattoo. You may think people care. You might think that most people are looking at you with a screwed up and indignant look, and that may be part of the reason you got it in the first place. Some people will provide you this joy, but most of us won’t, because most of us don’t care. We don’t care that you don’t think the world is unfair, and we don’t care about the way you wear your hair, and if your driving force for getting a tattoo was to tick off those who really do care a great deal about you, you should know that you will probably, and eventually, accomplish that goal, and they won’t care about it either.

Tattoos make a statement, they provide an insecure, and reaching, individual an identity. It also provides one internal temerity. In that, those that won’t get a tattoo are said to be weak, because they fear needles. While this may account for a segment of those that are not tattooed, it does not represent all of them. The tattoo also gives the tattooed the ability –some of the times for the first time– for young people to believe that they are cool. This apparently allows them to stand in stark contrast to the relatively normal, somewhat nerdy, most likely insecure individuals that are unable to find a means through which to rebel against their parent’s societal standards.

Gaining this identity, apparently, is the selling point to getting a tattoo. “What prompted you to get a tattoo? I can see Duke Bradford getting one, but you Ned Backwater? I’m shocked!” Suddenly, everyone wants to talk to Ned. Everyone wants to ask him about that tattoo. He is the center of attention. Ned never did have the type of personality, the type of well-rounded intelligence, or the diversity of thought necessary to sustain such popularity, so once this headline began to fade, so did Ned. This depressed Ned, because once he finally found the limelight, through that tattoo, it was narcotic, and the only possible answer to this new dilemma was, of course, to get another one.

The idea that a second tattoo would achieve the degree of notoriety Ned received with the first one, isn’t likely. It’s more likely that once Ned achieved the role of tattooed individual, the shock and awe of a second tattoo will do little more for his standing in his community. Let’s say that it does, however,  let’s say that Ned’s new persona allows him to mock all of those that don’t have tattoos. Let’s say that a pretty, young thing approaches Ned and says, “Did it hurt when you got that tattoo right there?” “Nah!” says Ned with aplomb. “I got that one to illustrate the duality of man! It’s Cuneiform! The Sumerians rock dude!”

Let’s say it all goes according to plan, and Ned regains the center of attention, and he decides that more tattoos equals more attention, and more attention equals more definition of character, and more definition of character leads to a more meaningful life, and a more meaningful life means he can leave the Backwater traditions and standards in the dust with each tattoo. What does Ned do when he is standing in line at the bank, and a different beautiful young thing spots him and snickers at the fact that Ned’s obsession has progressed to the point where getting leopard spots tattooed all over his face seemed like a reasonable progression at the time?

I know what you’re saying, “I’m a normal dude, and no normal dude don’t get no tattoos in his face.” I know that there is a line in the sand in the tattoo community that suggests that getting a facial tattoo is a taboo, even in the tattooed community. Isn’t that the very reason that you got a tattoo in the first place? What kind of rebel picks and chooses the taboos he is going to violate? If one tattoo on your arm made you feel like a rebellious renegade, why wouldn’t you want to break all the rules, until you’re standing in line, at a bank, with leopard spots on your face? It seems to be a natural progression to those of us trying to understand.

I didn’t get a tattoo when I was younger, but the peer pressure to get one wasn’t what it is today. I did, however, engage in the many short-term fixes for happiness, and identity, offered in my era. I knew all the reasons to indulge in these short-term fixes, for their proponents littered my life, and the opponents never did give me a decent philosophical answer regarding why I shouldn’t.

The best possible answer I could give to such a question today, regarding tattoos, alcohol, or any other temporary fix to all that ails my interrogator is, most people don’t search for answers, only solutions. Answers can be difficult to find, complex once they’re found, and ever-progressing. It’s much easier, and more fun, to engage in short-term fixes.

‘Are you happy now?’ I would ask them. Depending on their age, most of them would probably say no. Most of them would not want to go into how confused they were about their irrational and chaotic lives, they would just say no. Most of them wouldn’t want to talk about how difficult it can be to cultivate a creative and interesting personality that others wanted to be around. Most of them wouldn’t confess how difficult the search for answers can be, and most of them probably wouldn’t recognize that they’re engaging in short-term fixes, so that they can, at the very least, ignore their problems for a little bit. Most of them would not appreciate our answers to their problem is time and experience. It wouldn’t be good enough for most of them to hear that you’ll learn things in life that will cultivate your personality and cause your inner core to grow, for they need answers now.

By choosing to indulge in the solution that you’ve selected, I would say, your ceding your search to something else. It’s admittedly tough to find happiness in your inner resources, being as immature as you are now, but your inside sources give you a freedom to decide what emotion you will have for the day and how much. The outside sources can provide short-term fun—in the case of alcohol and tattoos—and I would not try to diminish those aspects. I would probably lose that argument, but I would tell them that you run a circuitous route when you attempt to sprint past your problems with short-term fixes, and you usually end up with more questions and fewer answers than when you started. There will also come a point when that short-term fix doesn’t do the trick anymore. At that point, the only reasonable answer you will find, will be to double down on the short-term fix, for that was the only reasonable solution you could come up with in the first place.

Imagine eventually reaching a point where your happiness depended on the short-term fix only that outside source could provide. Imagine that you soon began to believe that the only way you could be happy is to have more of those outside sources. At some point, you would begin incrementally ceding your whole life to the short-term fixes that only outside sources can provide. Eventually, you would reach a point where you decided that this was no way to live. Eventually, you would decide that the best way to find happiness is to strengthen your inner resources. The final question I would ask is, is it better to try and strengthen those inside sources now or later, after you have gone through all the self-discovery it takes to rectify all the damage you’ve done to yourself with your short-term fixes?

At this point, many of you are saying I’ve left the world of tattoos and entered the world of dependency, and for the most part you’re right, but I would say tattoos are neither the answer nor the solution. Tattoos, like most short-term fixes, never resolve the questions that a Ned Backwater attempted to conceal when he started getting them in the first place.


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