Why do we do it? The intentions for getting tattoos can be many, but they all have a communal connotation. A tattoo can mark a group identity like sailors, soldiers, inmates, gangs, motorcyclists and hipsters. It can memorialize a person or event. Sometimes they happen by pure peer pressure like a couple of twenty-somethings on Saturday night getting drunk, not knowing what to do until one of them blurts out, “Let’s get a tattoo bro!” But underneath this veil of meaning, is it always the same? Is it always a: “Look at me.”?
Or is it a love for this art form? The owner may think it’s pretty cool or trendy or might feel some sort of verification of membership. It may be done purely out of a love for this work of art, or a tribute, but a selfish demand accompanies each message, not because of what they say but where they say it. Tattoos go on a person’s skin, so they can’t be separated from the ego of that person. It’s always there as part of one’s being, and others must register it as much as they do one’s face and speech. A tattoo has form and colour and meaning, but it also solicits social recognition.
At least, I think that is the majority’s viewpoint. A tattoo seems to draw attention much easier than any other attribute someone may or may not have. Are tattoos narcissistic? Is narcissism forced? And if that attention we crave is not obtained, do we fall down a spiral of sulkiness and tantrums? Might this be the deep dark reason why we do it?
Perhaps this statement is a little narrow-minded. There is, also, a philosophical justification for a tattoo; although I fear that it won’t spread far beyond clever hipsters or academics. I read a while ago in one of those pop-up articles you get while scrolling down your Facebook feed. A professor of philosophy, or was it history? Said: “Oh, it’s very important that everyone does something to the body”. I think what he meant was that sometime in our lives we will need to change. We must change the bodies we are born with, we must. It could be a gym routine or a diet, a tattoo, a piercing, or plastic surgery, but one day, we will change our bodies.
Why you ask? Well, if you have ever sat through an episode of “Botched”, you will understand that while the body satisfies human desire, it also obstructs it. Women want to be thinner and their hips won’t conform. Men want to bulk up, but it takes too much work and a garage full of expensive supplements. Young women think their breasts are too small, and their boyfriends agree. People wish that their skin was lighter or darker, and their hair had more curl or less. Men feel trapped inside a woman’s body, women in a man’s.
The body, too, is a focus of judgment, whether we like it or not. It excites and repels.
So what has all this got to do with the reasons people get tattooed? Probably a lot? But I on the other hand need but half an idea and an open piece of skin, and that, I believe is the best reason of all…