Inking.

thumb_COLOURBOX5661662 - CopyHow’s this for a First World dilemma? Do I or do I not get a tattoo? The head is starting to err on the whimsical side of the heart on this one.

There was a time when I considered getting a Liver Bird on my chest, where my pectoral muscles should bulge if it wasn’t for years of physical neglect. This would of course have been an ode to my beloved football club, Liverpool FC; alas, head ruled over heart on that occasion, back in my student days. It was more of a vague imagining rather than graduating to a seriously weighted ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ argument in my head. Either side of that brief dalliance, I’ve been strictly opposed to going under the needle. Chiefly, I didn’t like the idea of having something pretty permanent done to my body that I would later regret, that people would see displayed on me later as a wrinkly old man, ink faded on a sagging limb.

Lately, I’ve been feeling more along the lines of ‘sod it’, be impulsive. Living in denial of impulse (albeit within certain law-abiding limits) is unhealthy and constitutes suppression of creative instincts for the sake of concerns we might never have for a whole host of impossible-to-foresee reasons. I’m not thinking of an all-singing, all-dancing tattoo of a fearsome, fire-breathing dragon with winding tail twisted from shoulder to palm; nothing fantastical, graphic or all-dominating like that – that isn’t me. I have words in mind. A saying, a phrase that is meaningful to me on a level that inspires me and gives me strength.

Cheesy, you’re thinking. But we all take inspiration from words; from poetic arrangements of the literary form that encapsulate a soulful message that strikes at your very core, whether it’s a lyric from a song, or a line in a novel, poem or historic utterance from a treasured book of quotes, a saying posted on a Pinterest board (like my collection here) or something someone you hold dear says that you never grow tired of hearing. To me, there’s nothing cheesy about finding the right words to have inked onto your body.

There are matters of taste of course, regardless of what ink you opt for. If I do take the plunge, and no, I’m not telling you what I have in mind, it won’t be in foreign transcript – for one thing, I certainly wouldn’t want to end up making this kind of mistake – and the font won’t be over-elaborate. For me, a tattoo has to be personal and not a fashion statement or attention seeking. I’m drawn to the idea of a phrase that I can glance at and that will lift my spirits when that’s what I need.

What I certainly do recognise is that a tattoo that means something to me, won’t necessarily translate with the same resonance to others and that’s something you just have to be prepared for. Take for example ‘Tetley’. This is a chap who is so besotted with Tetley tea he has two of the brand’s tea-men cartoon characters tattooed on his arm. His friends call him Tetley and when his choice of ink made the headlines in his local paper a couple years or so ago, he was preparing to have another Tetley teafolk tattoo, featuring all seven of the characters, on his back. Take a look.

I don’t understand frivolous or ‘hilarious’ tattoos. I don’t understand example no.16 in this this gallery. Dude, seriously? You got a tattoo of your bicep… on your bicep? And I call your actual ‘bicep’ said muscle with some degree of sarcasm (and irony given this blogger’s office arms). Where’s the meaning in that? It’s hardly like looking into your soul – or perhaps, unfortunately, it is. No. 23 is just plain weird – what kind of person decides, of all the possible artwork available, to go: ‘Oh, I got it, I got it! I want a tat of a woman wearing a bobble hat puking into a pram!’ Erm. 

Another mystery to me is full face tattoos. Why do people do it? I’d love to hear a rational explanation. Is it because they think they’re ugly? Well damn, do they really think the ink will be more endearing? Would I feel like saying hello to this guy in a lift? Probably not. I would be too confused quite frankly. Don’t people with face tattoos get sick of being stared at? It’s impossible not to let your glance linger.

I see everyone’s favourite manufactured boyband One Direction courted controversy for encouraging their fans to respond to them on Twitter with pictures of their tattoos. Aren’t their fans all nine-year-old girls? Anyway, their tweet provoked a very silly debate on This Morning (surely not?) in which Katie Hopkins, the notorious rent-a-mou… I mean respected social commentator, wrote off the entire tattooed populace as damaged  ne’er′-do-well-ers with no chance of landing a job. Phillip Schofield’s expression at 5 mins 17 secs sums up what I make of her comments.

This next one made me cringe, and the guy’s commentary is hilarious – he’s clearly outraged, but then the girl in question did go for a face tattoo in tribute to her boyfriend within 24 hours of them hooking up. Remember what I said about denying impulses earlier? Maybe I take that back!

Amid all the tattoo debate, there are some really powerful reasons for some people to get a tattoo, so in Russell Howard’s Good News style I’ll sign off for now with a link to this short clip about a woman who has found getting inked helped her to move on from breast cancer.

Surely even Katie Hopkins would empathise.

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