Saturday, August 25, 2012

So Many Tattoos...

The public radio program "The Take Away" yesterday had a story entitled "America's Growing Love for Tattoos."  The Centers for Disease Control had released new data showing that the self-reported prevalence of tattoos among adults had risen from 16 perent in 2003 to 21 percent in the most recent data.  The program's speculation on why included the fact that there are more and more people who are visible to the public who have tattoos that are also visible to the public.  The had a tattoo artist who they interviewed--she provided some interesting insight although I think that my tatto artist, Emily Sloman (whose gallery is here), could have given a better interview.  They also spoke with someone who talked about people in Congress who have them.  I have not tried to figure out how many academics have them, but that might be an interesting idea to try to estimate.

One of my family members asked why would the CDC be interested?  Probably because tattoos were historically seen as a risk factor.  Perhaps a risk factor for infection--although if the tattoos are done right that risk is actually quite minimal.  Perhaps they were seen as associated with other behaviors--like things that "bikers" were historically associated with doing.  There may be some other reason.  I'm not sure what having a tattoo has ever been found to be associated with epidemiologically.  Earlier in my career I actually wrote a paper about tattoo removal (ironic given my relatively newly inked status now).

The discussion talked about how tattoos have become main stream.  Perhaps as our culture begins to see more than simple ear piercing and other forms of body changes as acceptable tattoos just come along with that.  I certainly have no problem with permanent body modification--which is what tattooing is after all.  And I won't be able to tell my kids, "Don't do that."

One of the hosts told a story about his tattoo.  He mentioned how he had thought of it as a silly thing for quite some time but that since the friend he got it with suffered an early death, it now serves as a permanent and daily reminder of his friend.  That is cool.  Every tattoo seems to have a story.

I am increasingly seeing mine as a permanent vision board.  I first heard about vision boards around a year and some ago when Metta Wellness had an afternoon to share vision boards.  I didn't participate but I considered it.  Vision boards are an interesting concept--taking a space and putting images of things that you love or that matter to you or that you aspire to.  Obviously, it's best if something fits in all three of those categories and then you can use it to pinpoint where you hope to go.  There are lots of things that a tattoo can be of.  My one (so far) tells a story of things that matter a lot.  If I ever get another I'll probably do the same.  I don't expect to use tattoos any other way, personally.

It makes me think of Pinterest.  Different people use the "pins" different amounts. I've simply used mine to organize a few things that are relevant to me.  Each person using each tool in life has their own way of using it and their own vision for it.

Probably if we asked 100 people with tattoos we'd get a wide variety of stories about why and what each meant.  It is just a form of self-expression.  It is a form that should be thought about seriously (as any form of self-expression) and should be considered thoughtfully before making a decision.  And it is one that is apparently becoming increasingly popular in the United States.  It will be interesting to see if that trend continues.

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