I have one tattoo located on my right shoulder. Initially it was a red maple leaf that I got with my roommate when I was 19-years-old. Soon I began to regret my decision, it didn’t seem to represent me the way I had hoped it would, so I began the process of replacing it with something new.
At the time my friend Steve apprenticed as a tattoo artist in Guelph, Ontario and he designed a sort of tribal thingy that I didn’t love, but didn’t hate either. I thought to myself, well, might as well try this out. After four hours I had a new tattoo that replaced my maple leaf. It’s kept its colour quite well, though it’s tangible, some of the lines have bubbled, which I learned later was a mistake applied by Steve, the novice tattoo artist.
The reason I chose to have a tattoo on my right shoulder was because it was easy to hide. It still is, except when I wear tank tops. I often forget that I even have it, until someone brings it to my attention. Over the years I’ve thought about removing it, but that’s a costly painful procedure, and when it’s done you can still see the tattoo. It’s simply faded.
To be honest, I regret getting a tattoo. I was too young, too stupid when I made the decision to have one. Perhaps I was even swayed by some of my friends who thought it was cool to get pierced on every part of their body and who had tattoos on every limb. In retrospect I think it was braver to buck the trend, not to fall prey to a subculture’s definition of cool.
It was during that time where everyone was getting marked with Japanese or Chinese symbols, remember those? The ones that supposedly said ‘spirit’ or ‘serenity’ but when translated actually meant ‘whore’ and ‘stupid.’ This is not a joke it actually happened. It’s rather insulting of a white person to think that Chinese culture represents some spiritual awakening when so many Chinese citizens are victims of their government’s human rights abuses.
That was a period when getting a tattoo meant you were a rebel, alternative, cool, and blah blah blah. But now that everyone has a tattoo it’s sort of lost its originality. A lot of people tried to convince me of the artistic merits of a tattoo, but I never bought that justification. I’m the type of person who likes to frame his art not wear it around with me wherever I go.
Saying that many indigenous cultures around the world, especially tribes in Africa practice body art, but again, their’s is a rich history that goes back hundreds of years.
Nowadays star tattoos and spiritual quotes are all the rave, especially in the gay community. Often these are individuals who exhibit the most vacuous characteristics, and I just want to say to them, “Bitch, please.”
Every now and again I meet someone who has a sleeve tattoo that is particularly well done. I’ll think to myself, ‘wow, that’s cool,’ and flirt with the idea of doing something similar with my arm. But then I snap out of it.
It might not be right, but having so many tattoos sort of limits your choices in life. It doesn’t make travelling to developing countries very easy. Even in Canada, many employers frown on tattoos and there’s still a stigma that those who have them are lower class, or make poor judgments, but of course those are sweeping generalizations.
For better or worse I’m stuck with my tattoo until the day that I die. Might as well learn to love it I guess. Or tolerate it. To be honest, I enjoy looking at it, because it reminds me of how young and impressionable I was.
Sometimes when we’re young we think we’re making decisions based on what we believe that we want, but in fact, we’re really doing something that other people want. We’re too naive, to innocent, too simple to understand any better.