I want a tattoo. I am old enough to hang reading glasses around my neck and I want a tattoo.
The question I keep asking myself is, why? After a lifetime ignoring my skin, why now would I want to turn some weatherworn patch of scratches and scars it into an album cover? This is not an easy thing to answer. It delves deep within the psyche and brings up issues of expression, self perception, values, and even, the meaning of life.
Thankfully, I am a lot more superficial than that. I just want to look cool like everybody else.
Unfortunately, there are lots of good arguments against getting a tattoo. So in making my decision, it is vitally important that I ignore all of them.
First, tattoos are permanent. So I have to think, what is it I would want on my body forever? Fingers and toes come to mind first, but then I realize that I already live with permanent markings on my body that I don’t like and never wanted in the first place. Like back hair.
I also have a few freckles on my forearm. God, the ultimate tattoo artist, designed them. They don’t particularly hold a lot of meaning, but they have aged pretty well. I could just connect them with ink and what would be the difference?
“Oh wow, interesting tat, is that a bear?”
“It’s Ursa Major,” I explain, “I was born under sign of the Big Dipper.”
The problem, I am told, is that once you get your first tattoo you want more. Which means in a few years I could have the entire Milky Way galaxy inked on my back. I am not sure I am ready for that.
I also have to wrestle with the “Go Big or Go Home” tattoo dilemma. Tattoo artists advise against going too small. Over time, the markings get lost, they say, and the wearer is disappointed. They suggest boldness on the first tattoo.
This is a potential problem for me because I have a lot of blank canvas. Believe me, I am not bragging when I say I could support a reproduction of the Last Supper on my belly, which would probably have to be renamed the Last Supper of Many.
While this might be good motivation to go on a diet, later, when the apostles disappear within the wrinkles of belly fat robes, it would become necessary to eat again just to keep up appearances.
Also, there is a danger that my stomach could be sued for copyright infringement.
The real problem for me is that there are just too many artistic decisions to make. What design? What colors? What font? No one uses 12pt Arial Bold anymore.
Some people ink meaningful, sentimental portraits on their bodies. My niece has a tattoo of her late father on her shoulder artfully reproduced from a well-loved photograph. Even on skin, the distinct image brings tears to the eyes of whoever knew him.
But everyone else wants to know why she has El Chapo on her arm. There is a slight resemblance.
Another person I know proudly boasts an eggplant flower tattoo common to the aboriginal tribes of Borneo on each of his shoulders. He got them after his 23andMe results showed that he was 3% broadly South East Asian.
My son thinks I should get a QR code tattooed on my chest. That way people could scan it with their smartphones and be sent to a web page where I could have an image of anything I want. Like maybe a reproduction of the Last Supper or a photograph of El Chapo. Or maybe a 404 Page Not Found error.
I should probably be a little more practical. Assuming I could come up with a font, it would certainly be useful to have a list of online passwords inked on my forearm.
There are also some tattoo mistakes I must take care to avoid. And they are not new. Not all that long ago archaeologists discovered the mummified remains of a young man. His skin was remarkably well-preserved and showed the faded markings of an intricate tattoo on his left shoulder, under which was inked in 12pt Sans Serif Old World Sanskrit, the name Nevertiti.
This astonishing discovery lead archaeologists to wonder whether the man was a jilted lover of Queen Nefertiti or just bad at spelling.
And then there is choosing a good artist. I probably don’t want one whose gallery showings are at a Marriott on weekends. Or one who has dirty fingernails and looks like Edward Scissorhands.
I don’t know. Getting a tattoo is a big decision. Maybe I should just sport a beard. Men my age are doing that too.
Do they have salt and pepper ink?