“Have you heard from your sister lately?” I asked James last week. He smiled sheepishly. “You’re not going to like it,” he said.
Jail, was my first thought. His Europe-jaunting sister Katie is in jail. Midnight Express, Turkish prison. Or even midnight prison, Turkish express. Or maybe she got married. To a Turkish prison guard. At midnight.
“What?” I asked.
“She got a tattoo,” said my son, whose track record for ratting out his sister remains unblemished.
It turns out a day or so prior, Katie had sent James a Snapchat of herself acquiring said tattoo. The accompanying caption read, “Sorry, Mom and Dad.”
Of course she got a tattoo. What 21-year-old North American white girl touring Europe isn’t going to get a tattoo? After all, when in Rome, tattoo as the Romans tattoo. Or maybe it was in Spain. I hope it was in Spain, because Spanish hepatitis is so much more chic than Italian hepatitis.
Sarcasm aside, I’m fine with this, though I have yet to see the tattoo. When I texted Katie to say we heard about the tattoo (her reply: “Aww crap”) and asked her to send a photo, she wrote back that it “doesn’t look good in pictures.” She would show us when she got home, she said.
Uh-oh. More mysteries. What could it be? I just hope it’s nothing too European, like a tattoo of unreliable plumbing.
I’m really not surprised. It seems more and more people sport a little ink these days, and for some time I’ve noticed more tattoos on women than men, possibly because I notice more women than men. (“Don’t worry, honey, I’m just looking at her tattoos.”)
This general impression bears out statistically. According to a New York Times article from a year ago, 47 percent of U.S. women under 35 have tattoos, compared with 25 percent of men in the same age group. I couldn’t find figures for Canadian men and women, but I expect Canadians have just as many tattoos, only they apologize for them more.
Why the difference by gender? Men, I suspect, tend to opt for tattoos that represent toughness and strength, and a lot of men simply can’t pull that off… What? What are you looking at?
Women, on the other hand, have more options. Their tattoos can be tough and life-affirming or they can be a kitten. Women are also more likely to get tattoos to mark milestones: births of children, turning 30, trips to Europe, keeping down that fifth daiquiri.
As tattoos go from being taboo to mainstream fashion accessory, we’ll be seeing more and more people in the 40-and-older age group getting them – in other words, successfully ruining tattoos for young people. Hey, it worked with Facebook.
With so many people getting tattoos, of course, the risk is that they become cliché, not just the notion of tattoos but the choices. For something that’s supposed to declare your individuality, they sure start to look the same after a while. I mean, you’ve seen 116 flaming skulls, you’ve seen them all.
As I think about marking my own milestone of 50 later this year, naturally I play the game “If I Were To Get A Tattoo…” And it’s not just where would I get a tattoo (answer: Fresno) but what would I get for a tattoo. Hypothetically, I think my tattoo would have to be something original, something that speaks of my personality, something that wouldn’t get me fired. I’ve thought long and hard about this for 20 seconds and have come up with the following ideas:
- An owl representing the wisdom I have acquired over the years; it would be a tiny, tiny, tiny tattoo.
- A mysterious Latin phrase, such as Ocularia mea , vidistis ?
- A tattoo to celebrate my four children – a dollar bill with wings, perhaps.
- The Chinese symbol for “Chinese symbol.”
- I don’t think I could pull off the barbed wire around the bicep, so maybe chicken wire across the clavicle.
- An inspirational quote, such as, “Pain Makes You Stronger, But I’d Rather Be A Happy Weakling, Thanks.”
- A sandwich.
- All the body parts from the board game Operation, which, like me, turns 50 this year and is annoying and stupid.
Of course, I won’t get a tattoo, unless I decide I need something to commemorate unfortunate life choices. Who knows? Maybe my daughter feels the same way. Maybe her tattoo reads, “I Regret This Tattoo.”