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May 15, 2011


Steve Kemp

Here, here, Artie. These things will be with you for life or until you decide to get them removed (with additional cost and pain). If you ask me, they make a guy look a real degenerate and loser and, I'm afraid, that image has been "hip" for too long--hip, that is, until you are in a situation where you are really striving to leave a good first impression!

Catherine White

To tattoo, or not to tattoo; that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the body to suffer
The stings and needles of outrageous penmanship, ...

Erin S.

"When I need more weird, I wear a bow tie." Headstone epitaph?

Max RZ

I'm almost always excited and reaffirmed by your posts, but something about this one forms a small irritation in my mind I can't let go of.

First, I am an un-'painted' youth, who has contemplated getting a tattoo, but has avoided it for many of the reasons you mention here (don't have the money, don't need a tattoo to make me look different, I can always do it later, I want to be philosophically nimble). I don't disagree with you on any points outright. I'm more struck by your position.

You're main point seems to be that making an indelible mark is something that most people will regret later. Would you then recommend against posting your thoughts on the internet? I've already heard of this bringing down political campaigns.

And the descriptions of "mutilation" and "someone else's canvas" carry a negative connotation I don't see you supporting. Do you see no salient distinction between a tattoo and Female Genital Mutilation (a disfiguring practice done TO individuals for some cultural/aesthetic purpose?)

Lastly, are there not things which we might wish to mark where they will not be forgotten - things which we might be likely to forget. Perhaps a reminder of our own fragility; "that our gratitude, our admiration, and our delight should prevent us from reflecting on our own nothingness, or from thinking it will ever be recalled"

I guess it comes down to an existential question about whether you believe that there are things worth staking a fragile, finite human life to, or whether we should forever bask in the infinite possibility of blank canvas.

Emily Lloyd

Truman Capote wrote in THEN IT ALL CAME DOWN,
"It's odd about tattoos. I've talked to several hundred men convicted of homicide–multiple homicide, in most cases. The only common denominator I could find among them was tattoos. A good eighty percent of them were heavily tattooed. Richard Speck. York and Latham. Smith and Hickock."


Great article!

Whenever I see a tattoo, I like to picture what it might look like when that person is 60 or 70. The imagery is always terrifying enough that I have never had a desire to get a tattoo. I don't think I have ever seen a tattoo that I have liked to begin with anyhow.

Mike Patton

Hey, Artie:

You know how I can tell your argument is valid?

I have a tattoo, acquired many years ago, at an age when your logic on the matter might have gone in one ear, hit something hard, and come back out the same ear.

I intentionally got one of a size and in a location, however, that ensured it wouldn't intrude on my life unless I allowed it to do so. I doubt you've ever noticed it.

Its existence doesn't trouble me, and I don't regret it, to the extent it ever even occurs to me.

And, all that said, I can't (and don't feel a need) to counter a single point you've made here. Each could be weakly quibbled with; not one could be refuted.

And I find myself already looking forward to next year's essay on the matter.

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