Tattoos Are Flawed

(even though most people I admire have multiple tattoos)

I’m not going to preach to you about the immorality of drawing nice patterns on your arms, because children do it, and you don’t see scared parents shouting at their kids for expressing their creativity on something slightly different to a sheet of paper, and I’m not going to point out the health risks and pain of such practises; tattoos are not objectively wrong, and I’m not going to try to convince you that they are.

That being said, I do dislike them as they are illogical and temporal; you can get a tattoo if you want, it’s your life, but I’d like to tell you why I am subjectively opposed to them.

On an aesthetic level, tattoos make no sense. Consider an outfit, consisting of items of clothing; the outfit will only ‘work’ if all of the various pieces complement each other, because we humans place an unusually high value on the relationships between things (this is why History is such a respected subject, why marriage is one of the most interesting things on the planet, and why ‘progressive’ football tactics consist of passing and moving as a cohesive team).

However, tattoos rather scupper this plan, as they fulfil the aesthetic role of clothing, something placed over the skin to look good, without having any of the flexibility of clothes. To make an outfit ‘work’ with a tattooed arm, you have to build your wardrobe around that ink: if you have a flaming skull on your arm, you’ll probably be restricted to edgy, black and red outfits.

Tattoos are also flawed here in that they are rigid; if you feel particularly sad one day, instead of changing you attire to reflect this (as all teenagers do), you might have to stick at the bright, happy clothes because you have a My Little Pony tattoo on your hand. It’s ironic, therefore, that what it for many people the ultimate expression of individuality and choice, a tattoo, is so restrictive in terms of your appearance.

It could be said that such tattoos could be covered up in the interests of maintaining a homogenous outfit that is not necessarily based on a tattoo, but then the value of the tattoo as a permanent expression of identity or belief is undermined: if a tattoo is covered up, it loses its permanence, and becomes no more edgy or adult than scrawling a penis on your mate’s hand in year eight.

However, that earlier inflexibility can have much more meaningful consequences regarding tattoos that themselves have meaning: ones that carry political slogans, literary quotes or ideological symbolism; those whose purpose is to reflect one’s beliefs, not match their shirt.

Fundamentally, opinions change; while broad ideas such as being politically right or left are unlikely to be overhauled (but even that’s possible), these ideas are too broad to be usefully expressed in the, fundamentally individual, means of a tattoo: you’ll probably want your tattoo to reflect your total agreement with a particularly obscure sentence of the Communist Manifesto, not just carry a generic, ‘Capitalism Sucks’ message.

And it is these more specific and personal opinions that are likely to change over the course of your life; last year, I criticised YouTubers for not having proper careers, and argued that the specific genre of vlogging was less valid as a career choice than film-making or music on the Internet. However, my ideas have since changed, and now I do not prioritise the validity of online ad revenue-exploiting. See, my broad opinion about YouTube being a good platform for content creation has not change, but my more specific, personal hierarchy of types of content creation has; I’m not saying I’d get a tattoo about it, but it is these individual and precise beliefs that I feel we are more likely to express in ink, given their permanent natures.

As a result, you’re likely to end up with tattoos that you’re not proud of, not because you’ve ‘grown up’ and realised that those tribal symbols don’t look good on wrinkly skin, but because the beliefs on your arms simply don’t match the ones in your head.

What could be worse is that you end up with tattoos that are subtly different to your current opinions; instead of dismissing a bit of ink as youthful idealism and moving on with your life, you’ll have to explain to your friends and potential lovers that you had an incredibly specific change of heart, that renders your White Power tattoo not invalid, but at least a little irrelevant; to which they’ll laugh at you, because if you’re going to have a change of heart, go all the way with it.

Although I’m no expert on tattoos, I don’t agree with their aesthetic and perpetual natures; you might find that they work for you, and if so, go for it, but keep in mind that they could turn out to suck in the long run in more subtle ways that ‘Ow, that hurt my arm’.


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