By Alex Berger
Tattoo: Of Polynesian origin. To mark or color the skin indelibly by pricking in coloring matter or by producing scars. — Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
The first time I saw a tattooed person was when I was 5. An elderly man, whose body was completely tattooed with pictures of nude women, walked past me. I was entranced. I ran to my mother to tell her about the colorful sight I saw.
Ask a toad what is beauty? … a female with two great round eyes coming out of her little head, a large mouth, a yellow belly and a brown back. — Voltaire
“I want to have the same pictures on my body when I grow up,” I said.
My mother’s face tightened. “Those pictures are tattoos. They were put on by painful needles injected into his body. I’m sure that man is sorry because tattoos cause permanent scarring and can never be removed. Your body is beautiful without scars and poisonous ink. No girl would marry you with a tattooed body. And, if you ever talk to me about tattooing again, I will wash your mouth with soap.”
I never spoke to my mother about it again.
But tattooing fascinated me. Today, I see more people — particularly sports heroes — tattooed on every part of their bodies: arms, hands, abs, backs, torsos, breasts, legs, feet, faces and certain bizarre places recognized only by a private partner of the deceased. A woman friend of a deceased person made a positive identification of her boyfriend by looking at a tattoo on the deceased’s private part. I kid you not.
A tattooer’s lament: My wife got rid of me because I clashed with the drapes.
Dr. Yong-Myun Rho, former deputy chief examiner of New York City in Queens, said tattooing is a form of psychological expression often made at age 18 and is commonly used to identify unknown individuals with no other forms of recognition. Tattooed figures, words and numbers have different shapes, sizes, colors and locations and each tattoo is unique.
A tattooed female was told she was beautiful on the inside. She said, “Leave it to me to be born inside-out.”
Across America, it is not surprising to see “I love you” tattooed in many languages, since most tattoos are sentimental or romantic. Others reflect memorabilia or expressions of certain feelings at the time of the tattooing. Religious symbols are also quite prevalent.
A thing of beauty is a tattoo. — many tattooed liars
I saw a sailor whose tattoos listed the names of all the ports his ship had visited, which covered the entire area between his shoulder, chest and elbow. He also should have listed the names of the number of girls he visited in each port.
A woman was unhappy she was starting to look like a little old lady. She underwent a full tattooing procedure and when she emerged she looked like a little old man.
Tattoos expressing affectionate feelings toward mothers are also in vogue, although sentiment does change from time to time. A young man had a tattoo which initially read “BORN TO LOVE,” but at the time of his death it had been changed to “BORN TO LOSE.” The appearance of a tattoo may also give a tell-tale account of a person’s lifestyle, from a beautifully tattooed figure of a cross overshadowed at his death by needle tracks of heroin abuse.
One tattooer is so timid he signs his work in pencil.
The locations of tattoos are helpful when a person’s identification is necessary. The serial numbers written on the forearms of Jewish Holocaust victims and former prisoners from Cuba who have tattoos on the inner part of their upper lips can be quite telling. Others have tattoos on other bizarre places, such as the inner part and sole of the foot and the tongue.
The economy is so bad tattooed females are still wearing last year’s tattoos.
The British Medical Association has asked doctors to discourage young people from having tattoos because once their patients pass the prevalent age for tattooing at 18, they usually do not want any more tattoos for the rest of their lives.
It is known that many tattooed individuals regret tattoos as they age — and many try removing them.
Whew! Am I happy I listened to my mother. But I confess that as a child I applied “cockamamies,” pictures of comic book heroes, to my face, chest and abs, too. But I was able to wash them all off.
The question remains: Are tattoos eye candy or eyesores? The answer, my friend, lies in the eye of the beholder.
Contact Alex Berger at email@example.com.