Ink to Make You Think

April 15, 2012
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“I believe tattoos are a lifestyle not a fashion trend." Richard Colson Baker-American musician.

“I love your tattoo,” I said to the adorable pixie cut-bearing young women ringing up my scarf, “it’s incredible.”
“Oh thanks,” she smiled and looked at her arm, which was half covered in water colored insects holding different books. A green praying mantis grasped a book between its claws and rested comfortably on her skin, above it another insect was perched, also immersed in literature, “yeah, I’m not finished yet.”
“Not finished?” She handed me the bag, “what else are you having done?”
“It’s going to be a sleeve,” her anticipated smile widened, “of different insects reading philosophy books.”
And that was it. The moment it hit me, standing in that Forever 21 with a complete stranger holding a new scarf I’d probably never wear, the moment I realized that tattoos are comparable to every painting that Van Gogh had ever painted, every word that John Steinbeck had ever printed. Because when someone can take such a unique idea, a concept of insects reading philosophy, such an original and novel concept and can have this creativity set on their skin; one must realize how important tattoos are.
Tattoos give anyone the chance to be the artist they’ve always wanted to be. Tattoos are emotion through ink, tattoos are every individual’s individuality boldly laid out upon the most precious trinket there is; the body.
The problem, then, arises when past generations misunderstand what ink on skin means. One must not generalize, for it is not every member of generations past, but most, that do not comprehend what it is now that tattoos represent; and that is the issue.
Because tattoos no longer represent gangs, criminals, and miscreants; tattoos represent stories, lives, memories, people. Tattoos can often represent what cannot be spoken, tattoos can provide a glimpse into a person that one might not have ever known.
Tattoos are the words that make up the extraordinary human novel.
The problem is getting people to look past the cover. As trite the adage is, it is so often forgotten when a tattooed individual walks by on the street, or when one individual misrepresents the powerful meaning behind them.
Because tattoos, contrary to popular belief, are not some newfangled conundrum that the youth have brought to rebel against conservative parents. The first tattoos date back to 3300 BC and have been historically documented to have been used even in the highest of religious and ceremonial occasions. It is just easily forgotten when the American history of tattoos is so often remembered as the only one.

“Yeah, a good tattoo artist will never ink from the neck up or the calves down,” a stringy old man nodded to me as I waited for my clothes to finish washing and collected my quarters to feed to the dryer, “the skin’s too thin. Ink’ll bleed right into your blood. But back in the 70’s isn’t no one worried about ‘good’, everyone worried about getting’ their ink on their skin before the next gang could.”
“Why?” I asked, looking down his at his emaciated calf and the perfect sheath of ink covering every inch of it.
“California in the 70’s was about been’ tough,” he nodded, “and a skinny guy like me, I got to look tough, right?” He smiled an almost toothless smile, “so I wasn’t too concerned with what was safe for my blood.”
A strong case could be made that the most interesting individuals and the memorable conversations I’ve had have been with tattooed people or about tattoos. Because tattoos have deeper meaning than almost anything humans can buy, tattoos cannot be sold or stolen, bought or given away; tattoos are love expressed through ink, needles, and skin. Because diamonds can be lost or stolen, tattoos are on the skin forever.
So it now a call on those who view tattoos as a stigma to modern day society, I speak directly to you; consider now that tattoos have been seen throughout history as signs of nobility and as signs of something worth dying for. Consider now that tattoos are today’s way to tell the stories that will be remember by tomorrow and far past that.

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musicluvr3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm
Thanks for sharing your opinion on this! I've never really thought about it that way! It really "made me think" ;) I love the title, and the article is so well written!
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