Ink. Do you have it? Do you want it? Do you despise it? Do you accept it in moderation?
A pro-ink argument was recently presented by Drew Brodman, a nursing student in my communication class at Edison State Community College. Brodman asserts that often tattoos are a way of expressing creativity, the ability to “think outside the box” and that he would prefer such individuals on his sports team or in a business venture.
Brodman indicates his tattoos (he has one now and plans more) will not keep him from being the professional he sees in Dr. Thomas Martinez, his anatomy professor at Edison.
Martinez says his tattoos mostly concern baseball, which he played in high school and college, and coached at Edison. His favorite tattoo, however, is of a cross with baseball stitching and the number 9. He and his son, Chantz, got matching tattoos on Chantz’s 17th birthday, and the 9 was his son’s number on the team when he played for Edison.
Additionally, those familiar with Ray Bradbury’s work in his collection “The Illustrated Man” will remember his use of tattoos to tell a grisly tale. I’ve been using Bradbury’s stories to teach creativity in writing to the telecommunication employees whom I teach on line. We’ve discussed why so many Americans, especially younger ones, have tattoos. A study in 2017 showed that 42 percent have one or more; 19% are considering getting one; 39 percent don’t have and don’t plan to get one.
Reasons vary: to identify medical conditions; to respond to peer pressure; to rebel; to honor a loved one; to make a fashion statement; to demonstrate loyalty to a school, an athletic team, the military, a fraternity, a music group, etc.; to show affiliation to a gang, an organization; to cover scar tissue; to self-define; to carry art with them. I’m sure you can also add to this list.
I notice tattoos, and I find some very appealing and some, not so much. The forehead and upper neck seem not to be good places for tattoos, and the single tear tattooed below the eye seems a bit over the top to me, but perhaps not to those who have them, such as retired pro basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, whose tear symbolizes his mourning the death of his brother, Hazell, killed in a car accident.
Tattoos are not a recent phenomenon, and one of the oldest examples is a body with 61 tattoos, discovered in glacial ice in the Alps and which has been dated to 3250 B.C.E.
Meanings of tattoos differ: the shamrock can represent an affiliation with a white racist group, the Aryan Brotherhood, or the Holy Trinity, or a love for Ireland. Put me in the latter group, although I have no shamrock tattoo.
Some caution that a tattoo is forever, and the person whom you love today may be the very person from whom you want to create a great distance tomorrow. If that person’s name or visage is on your body, that may be a bit difficult unless you have the resources to have it removed or changed to an image you might find more acceptable.
States regulate tattoo parlors for cleanliness, ages of persons who can secure a tattoo, what body parts can be inked, and a long list of other concerns. What can’t be regulated is talent, and it’s always good to see the real work of the practitioner before you commit and not a photo which may or may not be legit.
My comfort level with tattoos has grown over time. When my young son Lance came home on leave following Army basic training, I was snooping through his papers while he was getting some much-needed sleep. Under “Defining Marks,” I saw the notation: “small dragon tattoo on right shoulder.” I ran to his bedroom, jerked off his covers, and sure enough, he had a dragon tattoo because, after all, he had played football for the Harlan High School Green Dragons. That was decades ago, and since then, he has gotten a much larger dragon tattoo. I like it. My son Quentin has opted for a portrait of Bob Marley and a rose. I like his choices, too.
The phoenix is a popular tattoo to indicate transformation, rebirth, growth, longevity. I like the Greek myth associated with the phoenix and know that options for that tattoo are highly stylized ones as well as elaborate, colorful ones. I prefer the elaborate ones, so who knows when I’ll bite the bullet and just do it?
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.