Elie Kerrigan is right to question the widespread and melancholy practice of tattooing. Formerly relegated to downscale and male derma, the once dying art has rebounded with an inclusive vengeance. One more sign of cultural devolution.
Ugly images, and messages considerably less than universal or uplifting, are popping up everywhere. Even the ladies (women, persons, Mz., choose your designation) are getting into the act. How humbling it must it be to a contemporary lothario who finally gets where he has been longing to be (the final frontier, so to speak) only to find that the tattoo artiste has beaten him there.
This loathsome and only painfully reversible practice in the past was concentrated in certain trades, many of them maritime. Dock wallopers and sailors have long helped keep the tattoo parlors open. My Navy shipmates of long ago were not immune to the temptations of this tribal practice. Often after several bottles of false courage taken in some down-at-heels Mediterranean saloon, they would seek out the local artiste to have their girlfriend’s name permanently inscribed on their bicep. The sad part was seeing these poor sods after they had received the Dear John letter. The tattoo may be for life, but Laverne is now walking out with a gunner’s mate in San Diego.
Most of today’s decorated young people will not be receiving a Dear John letter. But their sad assignment will be explaining to their own children why Mom or Dad has a really rude message on his/her forearm.